Posted in CLEP, Resources, Self-Paced Learning

Modern States for CLEP & AP

Modern States is a new, totally free, mini-curriculum that is aligned specifically to CLEPwindow exams.   Their AP catalog is really just a collection of MOOCs that they’ve assembled in one place.  Still, a great resource.  I want to tell you how much I love them, but instead, I’ll tell you that I like them, but I have problems with their deceptive marketing.

Modern States Official Website

When you visit their site, you’ll notice their tagline “Freshman Year for Free.”  Before we go forward, I want to help you understand what Modern States is, and what it isn’t – as much as I want to promote this new opportunity for parents and teens, I can’t understand why they aren’t more transparent – the nuances of college credit aren’t easy to grasp, so to be less than clear does everyone a disservice.

Their website:

“Take tuition-free, high quality courses online from top institutions for college credit.”

In my opinion, this statement is really misleading because you’re not taking courses from a top institution for college credit.  You’re taking courses developed by Modern States for you to learn independently.  In the case of the AP courses, you’re simply taking an open courseware course.

Make no mistake, you are not an enrolled student at a college when you take courses through Modern States.  Further, the courses themselves do not award college credit in any way.  There is no direct ACE credit (as is the case with Saylor, Straighterline, or Studycom) and you must also pass a CLEP exam that is accepted by your receiving college in order to earn college credit.  In short?  It’s CLEP prep.

As a CLEP-prep resource?  It’s great!  These mini-courses are meant to fit into your busy (homeschool) schedule.  Estimated completion at 6 hours per week is 4 weeks.  A big benefit to parents is that they can either offer this as an accelerated course, or there is enough time in the school year to use this as a “final quarter” course that follows a traditional homeschool curriculum.  It really depends on the subject, and how important it is to you that your teen get a full-robust experience.  Doing Modern States alone will not provide enough contact hours, homework, writing, research, etc. to merit counting as a full course for most parents.  On the other hand, not every subject needs depth, so in that case, you would be fine.

You have to dig- but once you get into the site and visit their FAQ page, allllll the way down at the bottom you’ll get the real truth.  There is nothing to be ashamed of, I’m not sure why this isn’t on the front page?

“How does it work?

Modern States offers free, high-quality online courses taught by college professors that prepare you for virtually all of the major AP and CLEP exams, which are well-established and widely-accepted. Solid performance on the exams (each participating college decides what scores you need for credit) can earn you college credits and enable you to save tuition dollars. You can take one course or many; if you do well on eight exams, you can potentially earn Freshman Year for Free.”

Did I mention the cost?

It’s free.  As in, totally no cost at all. You will, however, have to pay for your CLEP exam, any proctoring fees, and any transfer fees to your college if applicable.

But wait….there’s more.

Modern States is currently running a voucher program.  In short, if you complete the entire Modern States course as outlined in their instructions, you can receive a voucher to pay for your CLEP exam!  The program was initially open to the first 500 people, but they’ve extended time and time again.  My contact with them recently suggested there was “no indication of ending the voucher program anytime soon.”  So, there is plenty of time for you to sign up.   Modern States Voucher Program


 

Their catalog as of today:

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CLEP

American Government

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CLEP

American Literature

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CLEP

Analyzing and Interpreting Literature

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CLEP

Biology

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CLEP

Calculus

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CLEP

Chemistry

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CLEP

College Algebra

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CLEP

College Composition

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CLEP

College Mathematics

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CLEP

English Literature

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CLEP

Financial Accounting

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CLEP

French Language

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CLEP

History of the United States I

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CLEP

History of the United States II

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CLEP

Introduction to Educational Psychology

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CLEP

Human Growth and Development

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CLEP

Humanities

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CLEP

Information Systems

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CLEP

Introductory Business Law

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CLEP

Introductory Psychology

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CLEP

Introductory Sociology

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CLEP

Natural Sciences

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Passing the CLEP and Learning with Modern States

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CLEP

Precalculus

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CLEP

Principles of Macroeconomics

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CLEP

Principles of Management

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CLEP

Principles of Marketing

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CLEP

Principles of Microeconomics

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CLEP

Social Sciences and History

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CLEP

Spanish Language

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CLEP

Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648

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CLEP

Western Civilization II: 1648 to the Present

AP Courses

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AP

AP Biology – Part 1: The Cell

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AP

AP Biology – Part 2: Genetics

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AP

AP Biology – Part 3: Evolution and Diversity

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AP

AP Biology – Part 4: Ecology

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AP

AP Biology – Part 5: Review and Exam Preparation

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AP

Calculus 1A: Differentiation

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AP

Calculus 1B: Integration

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AP

Calculus 1C: Coordinate Systems & Infinite Series

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AP

AP Calculus BC

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AP

AP Computer Science A: Java Programming

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AP

AP Computer Science A: Java Programming Classes and Objects

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AP

AP Computer Science A: Java Programming Data Structures and Loops

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AP

AP Computer Science A: Java Programming Polymorphism and Advanced Data Structures

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AP

AP English Literature & Composition – Part 1: Stories

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AP

AP English Literature & Composition – Part 2: Poems

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AP

AP English Literature & Composition – Part 3: Plays

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AP

AP Environmental Science – Part 1: The Living World

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AP

AP Environmental Science – Part 2: Populations

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AP

AP Environmental Science – Part 3: Pollution and Resources

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AP

AP Environmental Science – Part 4: Exam Review

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AP

Introduction to AP Human Geography

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AP

Introductory AP Microeconomics

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AP

AP Italian Language and Culture

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AP

AP Macroeconomics

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AP

AP Physics 1 – Part 1: Linear Motion

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AP

AP Physics 1 – Part 2: Rotational Motion

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AP

AP Physics 1 – Part 3: Electricity & Waves

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AP

AP Physics 1 – Part 4: Exam Prep

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AP

AP Physics 2 – Part 1: Fluids and Thermodynamics

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AP

AP Physics 2 – Part 2: Electricity and Magnetism

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AP

AP Physics 2 – Part 3: Optics and Modern Physics

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AP

AP Physics 2 – Part 4: AP Review and Exam Preparation

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AP

AP Psychology – Course 1: What is Psychology?

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AP

AP Psychology – Course 2: How the Brain Works

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AP

AP Psychology – Course 3: How the Mind Works

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AP

AP Psychology – Course 4: How Behavior Works

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AP

AP Psychology – Course 5: Health and Behavior

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AP

AP Psychology – Course 6: Exam Preparation & Review

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AP

AP Spanish Language and Culture

 

Posted in Credit by Exam, DSST, Self-Paced Learning

DSST: the “other” CLEP test

DSST isn’t a CLEP test, but it is a competing brand with CLEP – and similar in almost every way.  Since CLEP is more widely accepted than DSST (2,900 institutions accept CLEP vs only 1,900 accept DSST), is there any reason to take a DSST?  For some of you, yes!  In this post, we’ll cover the basics of DSST as well as the pros and cons of this exam.

DSST Official Website

DSST is a registered trademark of Prometric, a test development company.  In contrast, CLEP is a registered trademark of The College Board, also a test development company, but in this case, you’ve probably heard of The College Board’s other brands- SAT and AP. Most high school students take one or the other at some point, and resourceful high school students take CLEP.  But Prometric is less known for their tests and more known for their testing centers.  There are about 8,000 Prometric testing centers in 160 countries, making it the largest testing company you’ve probably never heard of.

A quick back-story:  DSST is formerly known as Defense Activity for Non-traditional Education Support (DANTES) so some of you with military knowledge may be familiar with this exam. For a number of years, only our military could take a DANTES exam, but in 2004, Prometric took over the exam process and opened up testing to everyone.  So, while our military can still take DANTES / DSST exams (for free) so can anyone else.  This is a great opportunity to those seeking credit by exam because the DSST catalog contains 36 exams covering topics that CLEP doesn’t cover (with one exception).  In other words, between DSST and CLEP, you have almost 70 different college subjects that can be completed by exam.

Tip:  when asking a college about DSST exams, you may want to refer to them as DSST/DANTES since some schools are more familiar with the DANTES name.

What’s The Test Like?

Like CLEP, the test is a multiple choice format.  In a CLEP exam, the student selects the best answer out of 5 possible choices, but DSST only lists 4 choices.  Technically, the probability of getting a correct answer is better with DSST (25%) than CLEP (20%).


What Subjects are There?

1. A History of the Vietnam War boy
2. Art of the Western World
3. Astronomy
4. Business Ethics & Society
5. Business Mathematics
6. Criminal Justice
7. Computing & Information Technology
8. Environmental Science
9. Ethics in America
10. Foundations of Education
11. Fundamentals of College Algebra
12. Fundamentals of Counseling
13. Fundamentals of Cybersecurity
14. General Anthropology
15. Health & Human Development
16. Human Cultural Geography
17. Human Resources Management
18. History of the Soviet Union
19. Introduction to Business
20. Introduction to Law Enforcement
21. Introduction to World Religions
22. Lifespan Developmental Psychology
23. Management Information Systems
24. Math for Liberal Arts
25. Money & Banking
26. Organizational Behavior
27. Personal Finance
28. Principles of Advanced English Composition
29. Principles of Finance
30. Principles of Physical Science
31. Principles of Public Speaking
32. Principles of Statistics
33. Principles of Supervision
34. Substance Abuse
35. Technical Writing
36. The Civil War and Reconstruction


Scores

Like CLEP, the exams are pass/fail.  Also like CLEP, a school may choose to impose a higher cut score than is recommended by ACE.  The following table shows the cut scores for “B” grades as well as “C” grades.  For most schools, the “C” grade score is sufficient.

Table of B and C scores


Upper-Level Credit

When college credit is earned, it’s generally grouped into “lower level” or “upper level” categories.  The lower level credits consist of 100 and 200 level courses, also often called “General Education” courses by most colleges.  There are exceptions, but most 100/200 level courses will meet the requirements of an associate degree or the first two years of a 4-year degree.

An edge that DSST has over CLEP, is that all CLEP exams are 100/200 level, while 7 DSST exams are classified as “upper level.”  It is always harder to find economical credit alternatives in the upper-level category, so it’s worth pointing out that this small list is the least expensive upper-level credit currently available.

A History of the Vietnam War

History of the Soviet Union (formerly The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union)

Introduction to Law Enforcement

Substance Abuse (formerly Drug and Alcohol Abuse)

The Civil War and Reconstruction

Fundamentals of Cybersecurity

Money and Banking


Test Preparation

Like CLEP, the best way to prepare for a DSST exam is to have your teen complete a full semester of study using a curriculum, and then follow up with dedicated exam prep.  Good resources for curriculum and test prep can be found in my The 10 BEST Resources tab.  Since companies that assemble online curriculum are always adding resources, I encourage you to always check edX for classes being offered in these subjects.  EdX courses are always free!

In addition, for those who enjoy the Great Courses (amazing, but expensive) their streaming service (think: Netflix for education), there are a TON of courses you’ll find that align really well to the DSST exams.  The Great Courses Plus

Unlike CLEP, my favorite prep company (REA) doesn’t have DSST prep books.  You can find prep books on Amazon, but you may want to check the customer feedback to assure you’re getting a book that actually aligns with the DSST exam.  DSST exams are refreshed on 3-year cycles, so it’s best to look for current publications or use the prep material distributed by DSST.  

Finally, my favorite online practice test company (Peterson’s) does have the full catalog of practice exams, so if you want to check your teen’s readiness, you can purchase a set of 3 online timed practice exams for $20.  They are considered by most to be a bit harder than the real thing, so solid scores on the Peterson’s tests (60%+) are a really good indicator of readiness.  The Free CLEP Prep site offers one free exam for several DSST exams, so it’s worth a visit too.

 

Posted in ACE, Free Tuition, Self-Paced Learning, Sophia, Transfer Credit

Sources of Free College Credits

This fantastic list was put together by a couple members of the InstantCert forum community.  I encourage you to visit the forum if you’re considering distance learning boy1colleges for your teen- it’s the single best resource on the web.

As a homeschooler of high school students, here’s what you should know before you read on:

ALL (but one) of these freebies awards ACE credit.  As such, their transfer is very limited.  If your teen is several years away from high school graduation and selecting a target college, you may want to use these just for fun, and if he gets credit later- that’s a bonus.  You can bundle these together into high school electives too.  But, if you’re getting close to enrollment or you’ve already selected a target college, you’ll want to confirm that they accept ACE credit before investing too much time in these.

See my previous posts on colleges that accept ACE courses for college credit and setting up your teen’s ACE account.


The Institutes (2 college credits)

The American Institute For Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (commonly referred to as “The Institutes”) offer a free ethics course that is ACE recommended for 2 credits.

  • 312N-H Ethics and the CPCU Code of Professional Conduct (2 credits) – an upper-level ethics/philosophy course that meets TESU‘s General Education “ethics” requirement. (it meets 2 of the 3 credit requirement – you might have to ask for an exception to be made for the last credit, but typically this is automatically granted. The 3rd credit can be made up as a general ed elective).

To signup, use the following link: http://www.theinstitutes.org/comet/learning_modules/cpcu_ethics.htm

Select the FREE option. You should not do the $5 option. The paid option is for “Continuing Education credit,” which is different than college credit. The free version is ACE approved for college credit.


National Fire Academy (1 college credit)

The National Emergency Training Center/National Fire Academy (NFA) offers two one free course that is ACE-recommended for 1 credit.

  • Q0118 Self-Study Course for Community Safety Educators  (1 credit) expired
  • Q0318 Fire Service Supervision: Self Study (1 credit)

To signup, use the following link and find these two course codes in the list: Q0118, Q0318: http://apps.usfa.fema.gov/nfacourses/catalog/search?&&forget=true&courseCode=Q

After you are enrolled, use this login URL to take the classes: https://nfa.plateau.com/learning/user/login.jsp


Sophia – Developing Effective Teams (1 credit)

Sophia offers a number of paid ACE-approved courses that are fairly expensive. team2However, they do offer a free 1 credit course:

  • SOPH-0021 – Developing Effective Teams (1 credit)

You can sign up for the course at https://www.sophia.org/online-courses/developing-effective-teams


TEEX Cybersecurity (6 college credits)

Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) offers three ACE-approved courses recommended for 2 credits each. These are DHS/FEMA funded and therefore free for the general public to take.

  • Cyber 101 – Cybersecurity for Everyone (2 credits)
  • Cyber 201 – Cybersecurity for IT Professionals (2 credits)
  • Cyber 301 – Cybersecurity for Business Professionals (2 credits)

To signup, use the following link and make sure you sign up for all classes under these three headings, there are multiple courses per heading: Cyber 101, 201, 301: https://teex.org/Pages/Program.aspx?catID=607

After you are enrolled, use this login URL to take the classes: https://my.teex.org


 

FEMA Independent Study (over 40 college credits)

  • NOTE: FEMA is NOT ACE evaluated for credit.  As such, FEMA IS courses are only acceptable as transfer credit at Charter Oak State College and two other small 2-year colleges.  IF you’re planning to attend COSC, you can fill the ENTIRE lower level elective requirement for an Associate’s of Science (30 cr) an Associate’s of Arts (15 cr) or bachelor’s degrees (30+) using only FEMA.  Cost:  $0 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency operates an online Independent Study program offering approximately 197 courses online for free. Only certain ones are acceptable as transfer credit at Charter Oak State College.

The current list of  FEMA courses worth college credit can be found here.

 

Posted in Curriculum, Dual Enrollment, High School, Self-Paced Learning, Straighterline

Straighterline and my 10th Grader’s Spring Semester

Almost as an afterthought, when my 12th grader started using Straighterline this past semester, I decided to enroll my 10th grader- for just one month.  My goal was for them to share the textbook I’d just purchased for my older son.  Efficiency is always an important part of our budget.  They’d share the text, learn lessons together (mostly) and we’d assess after the first class.  (NOTE:  In our second month, Straighterline’s policy for books changed, and a free edition of an eBook was included with each course’s tuition, so we ended up not spending anything on books after the first month!)

You can read about the basics of using Straighterline in your homeschool, or how to choose your courses in my previous posts.  For this post, I just want to provide a brief overview of what my son did, what we spent, and his outcome.  As you’ll see, the first month was so successful (earning 9 college credits) that I decided to continue for the duration of the semester (Dec-May).  You should know that he dedicated about 1-2 hours per day to his Straighterline course Monday-Friday as part of his regular school schedule.  He was able to complete his other homeschool courses (Chemistry with Lab, Consumer Math, and Building Thinking Skills) during another 1-2 hours each day.

As you read the schedule, I list each course and credit earned in the month that I purchased it, not the month he completed it.  Some courses were completed in a week, others in a month, and others took longer still.  As an example, Nutrition and American Government, courses he’d already taken in homeschool, took him only 1 week each, but writing-intensive courses like English Composition I & II took him about 7 weeks each.

As I write this, he enters his final month of school with Straighterline and me. We take a summer vacation, so I’m ready to wrap things up with our kids by Memorial Day.  He has completed everything except Chemistry and English II.  He has 3 more papers to write for English II and hasn’t started their chemistry course.  Since he’s been doing Chemistry with Lab all school year with me, I expect Straighterline’s General Chemistry I to go smoothly and take about 2 weeks.  Writing, for him, is a long and arduous process.  I expect he’ll struggle through until the very end.

Grades:  His grades have been fine.  Straighterline requires a minimum passing score of 70% for their courses, and he’s finished most of his courses in the mid-80’s.  His best course grade was English Composition I (93%) and his lowest course grade was Introduction to Psychology (79%).  Final course grades issued by Straighterline are based only on quizzes and exams (except composition and lab courses) so testing acumen is important if you want to score well.  Since these credits will only appear as “credit” on his college transcript, the final grades aren’t important to his GPA.  While I used his Straighterline courses to inform the grade I awarded him on his high school transcript, in most cases, the grades I gave him differed slightly.  (NOTE:  Since Straighterline is not a college, you never have to disclose any grades or credits earned/not earned through them.  Dual enrollment, on the other hand, requires full disclosure on college applications)


Breakdown of Costs & Credit

Month Class Cost Discounts Applied Credits Earned
December Membership

Introduction to Religion

Microbiology

Business Ethics

$99

$49

$25

$69

-$20 coupon

-$20 coupon

9
January Membership

Cultural Anthropology

Medical Terminology

Introduction to Nutrition

$99

$49

$49

$49

9
February Membership

English Composition I

English Composition II

$99

$69

$69

6
March Membership

Environmental Science

American Government

Introduction to Psychology

$99

$59

$59

$59

-$49 coupon 9
April Membership

Chemistry I

Introduction to Business

$99

$59

$59

-$50 coupon 6
May Membership $99
IMG_3442 $1376

-$139 coupons

$1237

39

The total we spent over 6 months was: $1237

Total credits earned:  39 

Breakdown average per month:  $206/month

The average price per credit:  $32/credit

What I liked best about his semester:

  • I obviously liked that he earned college credit since he’s isn’t eligible to use dual enrollment in our state until next school year.  This gave him a great head-start.
  • I liked that the course rubric (point break down) is spelled out clearly, so, at any given time, he (I) knew exactly how many points he needed to pass the class.  This eliminated a LOT of testing anxiety because in most cases, he’d already earned enough points to pass
    the course before ever taking the proctored final exam.  While the exam is required, passing is not, so his testing anxiety wasn’t nearly as high as when he attempted (and failed) his first CLEP exam last year.
  • I like that they added free eBooks in the tuition of each course.  This helped me make sure I had the book on day 1 of each class without waiting for books to arrive.
  • I liked that I can pay for my son’s classes with Paypal.  This allowed me to use sales from books I’d sold through the College Credit Marketplace Swap Facebook group.
  • I liked Straighterline’s video lesson format.  Since a couple of their courses didn’t have the video lesson format (Microbiology and Statistics) this can also be classified as what I didn’t like!
  • I liked that my son could do all of his courses without my help (after the first one!)

What I liked least about this semester:

  • I didn’t like finding a totally different format (reading only!) in the Microbiology course.  This was a huge disappointment.  There’s a reason that course is only $25.
  • Some courses had WAY TOO MANY quizzes, or the quizzes were WAY TOO LONG.  I can think of several instances where the quizzes were over 50 questions and covered 4 or more chapters in the text.  Both my sons hated these.  Obviously, since the quizzes are open book (I make them look up every answer on every question on every open book quiz- that’s low hanging fruit people!) these took a long time.
  • This seems to contradict what I just said, but other quizzes were too short.  Nutrition, for instance, was full of 10-question quizzes.  As you can imagine, missing a few questions really makes a difference between an A and a C!  The “sweet spot” according to my teens is the 20 question quiz.  I tend to agree.
  • Written assignments are not graded by teachers, they are graded by “graders.” Graders are anonymous people who you’ll never meet, and can never have
    a conversation with.  While they attempt to give good feedback, the loop is broken because the student can’t communicate with the grader!  In one instance during English I, my son turned in a paper that was kicked back for being off-topic.  It was clearly on-topic, so we had to submit a support ticket, which escalated to a course administrator, and finally resulted in his paper being accepted and graded.  The process is clunky and frustrating when compared with the other courses that don’t have graders (tests are automatically graded instantly).
  •  My son worked fast- and you have to because you’re being
    billed $99 per month.  So, there is a constant sense of playing “beat the clock” in a course. Since we were aware of the structure ahead of time, I adjusted his homeschool schedule and was prepared to pull back on his other work if necessary, but for me, the feeling was a little inconsistent with my normal approach to courses- allowing plenty of time for marinating.  When I asked my son, he said he liked finishing courses quickly instead of spending all semester studying something……so mark this up to personal preference.
  • ProctorU.  I really, really, really don’t love ProctorU.  ProctorU is the third party webcam proctoring service that is part of each final exam.  Your teen logs in, the webcam clicks on, ProctorU opens your final and then testing begins.  Initially, I didn’t like the feeling of the webcam experience, but my kids thought this wasn’t an issue at all.  But, the issue that we had at least 3 times (between about 24 courses with 2 teens) was technical issues getting logged in.  If there is any log in trouble, they route you to tech support, but if you don’t start your exam within the 15-minute window, you have to reschedule it and pay $5.  So, as you can imagine, this is really really frustrating because you have to reschedule your test!  Finals must be scheduled 72 hours in advance (or pay a rush fee).  2 of the 3 times Straighterline covered the $5 reschedule fee for us (I didn’t ask the first time because I didn’t think to) but it’s really inconvenient when you’ve planned your homeschool schedule around taking a proctored exam.  The room has to be private, quiet, and free of things that could be used for cheating.  In our home, the room that meets these criteria is our dining room, so keep that in mind too.  One final ProctorU comment, you’ll need identification for each test.  If you don’t have a driver’s license, they’ll ask for 2 forms of ID.  My son used his passport and driver’s permit.

    EDIT TO ADD ONE MORE THING!!  I can’t believe I forgot to share this earlier when I posted, but English 1 and Psychology are considered actual AP courses – so his high school transcript will list both “AP English Composition” and “AP General Psychology!”   But no, he won’t bother with the official “AP exams” because he doesn’t need them.

Posted in College Admission, High School, Self-Paced Learning

Trending: Non-College Learning

Old-School, MOOCs, Coding Bootcamps, and now MissionU

Depending on the age of your teens, your techno-savviness, and how closely you follow educational trends, some of this may already be old news…. but, hold onto your chalk, the landscape of higher education is changing, and it’s happening FAST!

Higher Education in the USA hadn’t changed much for centuries.  That’s no exaggeration.  First, we had Harvard (1636), and then about a hundred years later we had a few public universities, and then almost two hundred years later we got our first community college (Joliet Jr. College in Illinois was founded in 1901).  If you were a young person growing up at that time, the line between a college educated man and one who wasn’t was clear and thick.  If you were “smart enough” and “had means” you applied to college.  Remember that during the early 1900’s it wasn’t even expected that you’d graduate high school, so college was an exceptionally high aspiration for that time in history; college was an enormous privilege.  

In fact, it wasn’t until late 1960’s that we hit a national high school graduation rate of 50%!

Even at the turn of the new millennium, fewer than 25% of adults held a bachelor’s degree…. but, close to 80% held a high school diploma with some amount of college.  Wow! What a huge spike!   Since I’m not an academic researcher, I won’t pretend to know all of the influences that contributed to that spike, however, if you’re near my age, you were raised by baby boomers and undoubtedly heard the same message I did:

“Go to college so you’ll get a good job.”

The message was loud and clear, so much so, that people in my generation headed to college in very large numbers.  If you’re in my generation and didn’t go to college (so you’ll get a good job) you’ve still probably told your own children zillion times that they must go to college (so they’ll get a good job) and it should be pursued at all costs.  It’s deeply ingrained!  But is it still the right advice?


The reason for the quick history lesson is to demonstrate the growth pace of higher education from 1600’s to 1700’s (like a turtle) and then to the 1800’s (same turtle) and then to the 1900’s (same old tired turtle).  From 1900 to 2000 our turtle gets spunky, but from 2000 to 2017?  He’s pretty much got a jet engine strapped to his back.

When old-fashioned correspondence courses were replaced by computer-based distance learning around 2000, everything changed.   Within only 5 years- the industry computermanaged to get a handle on delivering legitimate and accredited courses through roughly 98% of all public colleges and universities, and by the end of the first decade, you could even attend public K-12 online.   For our children, the “go to college” message is very strong, but our children are more resourceful and capable of attaining an education than we could have ever imagined.  With access to information only a click away, our teens expect education to be free, streaming, and shareable.  They expect technologically capabilities that remove inefficiencies – and there are more than a few inefficiencies in the “traditional” college experience.

Some estimate that just under half of all college students will take at least one online course during the completion of their degree, but millions will take courses that are both free and do not offer college credit.  MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have tapped into the deep desire for education without the inefficiencies of going to a building somewhere to learn.  Coursera, a large provider of MOOCs, had educated over 5 million students by 2013.  Wrapped into the MOOCs providers are all of the “brand name” university partners you could ever dream of:  Stanford, MIT, Harvard, etc.  Students have access, the courses are free, the courses are streamable, and the courses are shareable.  If the course is poor, the student simply drops and chooses something else.  If the course fills a need for the student, they can dive in and “binge-watch” an entire semester in a weekend!

Students who’ve grown up in the world of non-traditional education (homeschool), with instant access to free content, and a solid awareness of how to access ANYTHING they want to learn, technology is part of their world in a way that hadn’t existed before Placeholder Imagethis millennium.  Is it so impossible to accept that this generation of teens has a different understanding of what education means?  When my children & teens want to know something, they usually Google it.  (YES!  I still taught them how to use an encyclopedia.)  When they’re stuck on an algebra problem, it’s Khan Academy that patiently explains and demonstrates with perfect clarity who to solve the equation.  It’s Professor Martyn Poliakoff at The University of Nottingham who taught my teens about elements of the Periodic Table.  Frankly, our students can access experts in every field through their computer, something unimaginable even 20 years ago.

It’s no surprise that non-college-based learning has developed at an astounding rate.  It’s also no surprise, that there are wrinkles in the cloth.  While a few bad apples spoil the bunch, a uniquely new trend is the “coding boot camp.”  These programs are not affiliated with colleges, eliminate liberal arts and other “college” courses, and get right to the training.  In short, it’s a fast program meant to train coders and get them working asap.  Coding boot camps are almost never longer than 6 months, and graduates of good programs find (high paying) jobs quickly.  It’s hard to argue “go to college, get a good job” confused.jpgwhen colleges graduates are leaving college after 4-6 years with $35,000-$200,000 in student loans and a staggering unemployment rate.  Less than 20% will graduate in 4 years, and about 50% will leave with the debt but not a degree.  The average cost of a coding boot camp lasts about 4 months, costs about $15,000 and graduates can expect to walk into jobs paying around $80,000.  To recap, by the time my high school senior leaves for college in the fall, his classmate may have already finished boot camp and moved to Silicon Valley.

“Go to college so you’ll get a good job.”

Did I mention things are changing at lightning speed?  In an article by CNN Money earlier this week, a new “university” that isn’t really a university at all, just entered the playing field and may be a game-changer.  MissionU has merged the concept of coding boot camp (fast-relevant teaching) with significant industry input  (Spotify, Uber, Caper, Lyft, Facebook, Chegg founders built the curriculum) and the debt-free mentality into a new program that launches later this year.  MissionU is a “learn now, pay later” concept that takes a percentage of your salary once you graduate, but only if you earn more than $50,000 per year.  Students who graduate but do not meet that threshold will never have to pay anything.  The concept, in my humble opinion, is brilliant, because it forces educators to put their money where their mouth is.  This is a significant shift towards a model of shared responsibility.  The school is sharing the responsibility of the student, in essence, they promise to deliver a product “or your money back.”

The traditional college experience is filled with snake pits and makes little to no effort to help students and parents navigate the system.  In fact, colleges offer dozens of majors that lead to high debt and unemployment- it’s on you not to choose one.   I’ll stop short of speaking too harshly because students and parents should take more responsibility before dropping a quarter of a million dollars on their education, but I’ll just finish by saying that colleges are not financially motivated to help your student avoid those mistakes, and it is very hard to get good advice that holds your teen’s best interests at heart.

In closing, the purpose of today’s post is to warn parents in my generation, that what we “know” and “trust” to be true about the “best” and “most direct” path to a rewarding career looks different than when we were pondering our own path.  Our trust and confidence are based on a foundation that is shaky and being redesigned before our eyes.  To say that the education industry has been disrupted is an understatement- it’s completely being revolutionized.  In fact, I can’t even begin to imagine where we’ll be in 6 years when my youngest sets out on this journey for himself.  I’d like to leave you with 3 tips to help you navigate this process:

  1. Work backward.  Start with a target career, and then build a plan to achieve the skills and credentials to practice that career.  The most common mistake is choosing a college before a career plan is devised.  Until you know the exact pathway required (including licenses, certifications, degrees, etc.) to practice the career, you may be wasting valuable time and money.
  2. Constant retraining is expected.  Years ago, one trained for a career and their value as an employee came from their years of experience.  In today’s market, constant retraining is expected.  As such, it doesn’t make sense to invest “everything” in an undergraduate degree that serves to “check the box” while more education, certifications, and credentials will all be expected to remain current and competitive.
  3. Be open minded.  As we’ve seen in the past 17 years, the educational landscape has changed significantly, and the only thing we can be sure of is that more change is coming!

students

Posted in Breaking News, Dual Enrollment, Free Tuition, Science, Self-Paced Learning, Straighterline

*FREE Straighterline Labs, AP, and $3/credit classes through 6/3/17*

If you currently have an active Straighterline account – I want to share an unexpectedly great deal I just discovered today!

As you may know, there is a current Straighterline code through June 3rd for $50 off (enter code Homeschool50 at checkout.)  I used it for #2 son, but not #3, because #3 won’t have time to complete another class before summer break and I hate wasting time just as much as wasting money.

On a whim, I called Straighterline and asked what would happen to a class that I purchased now but we didn’t get to use.  They told me it would sit in our account FOREVER.  I wasn’t sure she understood my question, so I clearly explained that we were closing our account for summer vacation.  She assured me that purchased courses are in our a=jumpccount forever, will never expire, and will never disappear when we close our account.  So, in the fall, if I reactivate his account, it would be ready and be waiting for him to pick up where he left off!

What that means:  Active members (those currently paying the $99/month fee) should purchase one of the following courses using the HOMESCHOOL50 code before June 3rd or before your account membership expires- whichever happens first.   This short list contains the least expensive SL courses, that when the code is applied, brings the cost down to $0 – $9 each!!  That price is not per credit, it’s for the ENTIRE course PLUS the required e-book/textbook. The code can only be used one time per account.


Free Straighterline Labs

The student must purchase the lab kit on their own!

  • Anatomy & Physiology I Lab (1 credit) $0
  • Anatomy & Physiology II Lab (1 credit) $0
  • General Chemistry Lab (1 credit) $0
  • General Physics Lab (1 credit) $0
  • Biology Lab (1 credit) $0

AP Classes

Straigherline is an approved provider of 4 Advanced Placement classes.  Completion of one of these courses allows you to list the course on your homeschool transcript as Advanced Placement.  Taking an AP exam is optional and the responsibility of the student.

  • Macroeconomics (Counts as an official AP High School Course) (3 credits) $9
  • Microeconomics (Counts as an official AP High School Course)  (3 credits) $9
  • Intro. to Psychology (Counts as an official AP High School Course) (3 credits) $9

College Classes for $3 per Credit or Less!

  • Introduction to Statistics (3 credits) $0
  • Accounting I  (3 credits) $9
  • Accounting II (3 credits) $9
  • Business Ethics (3 credits) $9
  • Business Law (3 credits) $9
  • Business Statistics (3 credits) $9
  • Financial Accounting (3 credits) $9
  • Macroeconomics (3 credits) $9
  • Managerial Accounting (3 credits) $9
  • Microeconomics (3 credits) $9
  • Organizational Behavior (3 credits) $9
  • Personal Finance (3 credits) $9
  • Principles of Management (3 credits) $9
  • Anatomy & Physiology I (3 credits) $9
  • Anatomy & Physiology II (3 credits) $9
  • Medical Terminology (3 credits) $9
  • Microbiology Lab (1 credit) $0
  • Pharmacology I (3 credits) $9
  • Pharmacology II (3 credits) $9
  • American Government (3 credits) $9
  • Cultural Anthropology (3 credits) $9
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice (3 credits) $9
  • Introduction to Philosophy (3 credits) $9
  • Introduction to Religion (3 credits) $9
  • US History I (3 credits) $9
  • US History II (3 credits) $9
  • Western Civ I (3 credits) $9
  • Western Civ II (3 credits) $9
  • College Algebra (3 credits) $9
  • PreCalculus (3 credits) $9
  • General Chemistry (3 credits) $9
  • Environmental Science (3 credits) $9
  • Introduction to Nutrition (3 credits) $9
  • Intro. to Psychology  (3 credits) $9
  • Introduction to Sociology (3 credits) $9

If you want help picking a class my post  Straighterline Dissected: What to Take should help a great deal!

 

 

 

 

 

Note:  Non-subscribers or inactive members can do everything in this post, but you’ll have to pay to restart your subscription fee ($99) so this is NOT a good deal unless you were already planning to enroll your student at this time. In addition, you should know about the pros and cons of using SL in your homeschool.  See this post to get started:  Straighterline Basics and explore manyStraighterline posts by clicking the Straighterline tab.   

Posted in AP Advanced Placement, CLEP, Curriculum, Distance Learning, DSST, High School, Self-Paced Learning

The Great Courses

In 2008, I was struggling through a college Anatomy & Physiology course when I turned to youtube for some help.  I stumbled upon a video by Dr. Anthony A. Goodman – it blew me away.  Not only did he help me understand the information, but I dug until I found the rest of his lectures- they were that good.  As it turned out, they were eventually pulled from Youtube for copyright violation (oops) but I found the source: The Great Courses

Here’s the short of it:  The Great Courses are usually (not always) college-level learning taught by well respected and highly regarded professors.  These are not worth college credit when taken alone, rather they are used in your homeschool as a high school curriculum.  You could then marry the program with other test prep material if you desire to finish your teen’s program with AP, CLEP, or other exam credit.

Format:  Individual Great Courses are available on DVD, CD, Audio, or you can stream their whole Plus catalog on demand through their new Great Courses Plus program (monthly subscription).   While I am not a Plus subscriber, the Plus program looks amazing!  It will appeal greatly to those of you who use technology in your classroom or are already comfortable with products like Amazon Prime, Apple TV, mobile device based streaming, for entertainment.  This product fits into that category perfectly.   Plus program subscribers also have the option of purchasing hard copies at a deep discount (70% off).  

This promotional link gives you 1 month free:

The Great Courses Plus – One Month Free


CLEP & AP Friendly?  I asked our membership if they thought the Great Courses alone were “enough” to prepare their teen for an AP exam or CLEP exam, or if it served as the main curriculum and they followed up with CLEP/AP prep.  This is what they had to say:

Jude Barrier Dickson writes…” I don’t think any TGC {The Great Courses} is enough for an AP or CLEP exam. This is NOT to say they are not valuable, and be sure to know we use them extensively, but I find the best practice for exams are flash cards of info, presented as they would be in an AP or CLEP test.”

Wendy G.  writes… “Lots of CLEP and AP here and I also don’t think TGC would alone be enough, we just use them as supplemental.”

Selecting TGC for Your Homeschool

Since no single course stands alone as your curriculum and test prep, this small selection is representative of the types of courses I believe would enhance your homeschooling for college credit program.  I’ve deliberately selected courses from the Plus list since they are all also available for DVD purchase if you choose.  (Not all DVDs are available to stream)

SCIENCE: The Great Courses Plus

AP or CLEP Biology Program:  Biology The Science of Life, The Joy of Science, Understanding Genetics, and What Science Knows About Cancer.

New course:  Plant Science: an Introduction to Botany

AP or CLEP Psychology Program:  Mysteries of Human Behavior, Biology, and Human Behavior, Understanding the Brain, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

AP or CLEP Chemistry Program:  Chemistry our Universe, Chemistry 2nd Edition, Nature of Matter, and Organic Chemistry.

HISTORY: The Great Courses

AP or CLEP American History Program:  History of the United States 2nd Edition, Experiencing America, World War II, and Decisive Battles of History.

New course:  American’s Founding Fathers

DSST Civil War Program: American Civil War, History of the United States 2nd Edition, and The Life of Abraham Lincoln

ECONOMICS: The Great Courses

AP or CLEP Economics Program:  An Economic History of the World, The Economics of Uncertainty, and New Global Economy.

New Course:  The Art of Investing

OTHER: The Great Courses to Consider

DSST Cultural Anthropology Program:  Customs of the World and Cultures of the World.

Coming Fall 2017:  Anthropology and the Study of Humanity

DSST Astronomy Program:  The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy

AP or CLEP Western Civilization Program:  Foundations of Western Civilization (coming Fall 2017)

AP or DSST Environmental Science (Human Cultural Geography): Understanding Cultural and Human Geography, The Science of Energy, and Fundamentals of Sustainable Living.

AP or DSST Statistics and Probability Program:  Big Data How Analytics are Changing the World, Probability Made Clear, Mathematics of Games and Puzzles, and Game Theory.

AP Music Theory Program:  Music and History, Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, Mozart’s Chamber Music, Greatest Orchestral Works, and Great Solo Piano Works.

CLEP Humanities Program:  Understanding Opera, History of European Art, Masterpieces of the Ancient World, How to Look at and Understand Great Art, The World’s Greatest Churches, The Louvre, and Understand Great Music.


If your family has used The Great Courses in your homeschool, let me know your favorites, and I’ll add them to this page!  Contact Jennifer