Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Vantage Learning MY Access! Home Edition Product Review
Today I am reviewing a product called "MY Access! Edition" - a product geared at improving the student's critical thinking skills in all subjects through increased writing skills. The product I received to review (free of charge - as always with items I review as a part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew) do not contain any "physical" items; the home edition I have been using is available online at VantageLearning.com.
There are multiple options available for purchase at the website, including the At School, International, Corporate, and At Home online versions; in the Vantage Online Store they offer resources to improve usage of the English language, graduate courses, assessment and training tools, police and fire practice exams, Excelsior college exams, and much more.
My children's use of the "At Home" edition has been as a supplement to our language arts curriculum; this program is not meant to stand alone, but works best when coupled with a more complete language arts scope. While it isn't best used on it's own, it will easily and adequately complement any curriculum a homeschool family might currently be using. The website describes the product as having "time-saving technologies, valuable self-guided instruction, and motivating feedback" - and I'm glad to say this description is 100% true! One of the great benefits of this program to me as a busy homeschooling mother of 5 is the fact that what it does, it does well and without much help from me :)
If your child has used Microsoft Word, picking up the use of MY Access! will be a breeze. The actual writing portion of the program is similar to Word, but has a few "tweaks" that are to it's benefit. The thesaurus was a real favorite among my kids - having available as a tool while they are writing was much quicker than opening another window and pulling up a separate website in order to access a thesaurus (although my 10th grade student prefers an online thesaurus which brings up dozens of word options - this program offers 3 or 4 optional words). And another positive element MY Access! offers is a wide variety of topics to write about, which can be assigned by the parent/teacher and separated by age level if desired. As a mom, I very much appreciate the progress reports - they are sent to my inbox on a schedule of my choosing & they keep me in the loop regarding my children's progress. Since grading is one of the things I least enjoy about homeschooling, it's a plus to have much of the grading "leg work" done for me.
On the other hand, my children and I found it a little confusing to navigate the website. There is an extensive tutorial, which is helpful, but even after multiple uses we still were stumbling around the site. I'm on the world wide web quite often, and don't usually have too much trouble navigating - but after more than a month of using the product, I still have trouble finding my way around. I would have to describe the home page as "busy" - there is a lot going on and it can seem a little confusing until you know which products you have access to and which ones you do not. Even after logging in, it was hard for me to access each of my children's accounts and to locate their assignments. I think a little improvement in this arena would go a long way toward securing MY Access! as a standard in our homeschool.
To wrap up my review, let me say that Vantage Learning has created a product that is of great use in the homeschool community, especially for students who are "new" writers. I would recommend MY Access! primarily for 4th through 8th grade students, easily adaptable for younger and older students. If your child has been writing for long, they may not enjoy the confines of the program, but they could still learn quite a lot (such as how to take direction regarding their writing - something they will need to do to succeed in college). For most homeschool families I know, the $99.95 cost of the program would yield positive results - many of us spend well over $25 per student each school year for consumable writing workbooks. Vantage Learning's MY Access! Home Edition offers much more value than the average workbook based program. We will continue to use this product throughout the rest of our school year and I'm sure to be pleased with the end results!
Check out their website for more information & feel free to leave a comment for me if you have any questions about this product.
Day 38 done :)
Jan L. Burt