Online courses are changing traditional education and the way we learn. This PBS article really caught my attention.
Watch the accompanying video below.
Watch the accompanying video below.
I’m not a huge fan of paying for “how to videos” especially when I can find just about any topic I’m questioning on Youtube, but MindBites.com might have more to offer than the typical homemade flick. MindBites is a publishing and sales platform where individual video authors can sell their content on demand online and through mobile applications.
Like most other educational sites, users can sign up for different subscriptions in order to watch certain instructional videos. The Education category has lessons, instructions, homework help, and video tutorials for many subjects, including Calculus, Chemistry, Biology, Basic Math, Algebra, and Grammar. MindBites also features less-academic video lessons that range from surviving a knife attack to learning baby sign language to making bath products. However, the website’s audience seems to be video authors, rather than students. Their pitch is that you can share your knowledge and talent with others while also looking for lessons that interest you.
Some of their clients include:
– Thinkwell, a popular digital textbook publisher.
– Brent Mayne, a former Major League Baseball catcher, who uses the MindBites platform to power his video on demand store about how to be a skillful catcher.
– Urban Fitness TV uses the site to power and sell fitness videos.
MindBites describes itself as a “place on the web to learn directly from other real people and share what you know with the world. A self-publishing platform and social marketplace for instructional content, MindBites enables people to share their unique knowledge, skills and passions through audio and video lessons, earning money for themselves or for charity. The result is a unique community of discovery with content that simply can’t be found anywhere else. By enabling people to learn, connect and share as never before, MindBites promises to revolutionize the way the world shares knowledge. MindBites – What do you know?”
Is MindBites revolutionizing education? Here’s what I think…
– For those who want to sell their videos, they can quickly create custom branded video on demand stores that can be easily integrated into another site or offered on a standalone basis. You don’t even need any technical experience. Those custom VOD stores also fully function as iPhone VOD stores. In addition, content owner/publisher can set their own subscription and bundled pricing models.
– Sales reporting and statistics are delivered on demand so you can see exactly how well your product is doing.
– I found the videos to be high quality and played well on the embeddable media player. The site also offers one click purchase which is built in.
– MindBites.com has an attractive interface. The site is easy to navigate with all of its content categories listed at the bottom of the page. The site is also an ad free environment, which is always great.
– The community is interactive with lots of people posting feedback and comments. Users and authors interact through ratings, reviews, Q & A.
– For each person who purchases a lesson you receive $1. You can decide to keep your earnings or give them to a charity.
– You can browse through the site and see what lessons interest you, but in order to purchase a lesson or post your own video lessons you must be a member. The membership process was a little confusing at first.
– MindBites.com states that you must earn a minimum of $25 to get paid. If you make less than $25 dollars, even if its $24.99 you cannot claim your money through Paypal.
– Since MindBites.com suggests that authors can give their earnings to charity, it would be nice if people could feature their favorite charities on the site. How will users know where their money is going?
– Site is not available in other languages even though some of the subscribers ask questions in Spanish and are clearly Spanish speaking people.
– Sixty second, previews and trailers are not enough.
– Dr. Drew
There has been some buzz going around on my campus about an educational website called Educator.com. Supposedly, a lot of students are using it to help them prepare for exams, especially in the math and science departments. After overhearing two students talk to each other about how helpful the videos had been for them last semester, I decided to check it out for myself.
Educator.com claims to be #1 in providing trusted online educational courses to high school, college, and professional students. There are a lot of companies that make the same claim, but when the website’s homepage came up and I looked at all the classes offered, I immediately saw why they might be right. Educator.com works with top teachers to provide in-depth video lectures, detailed lecture notes, thorough explanations of problems, and answer students’ questions in class forums at the bottom of the page.
Last year, I paid for private tutoring for my daughter when she was having trouble in her chemistry class. You never really know what you’re going to get with tutoring services, you have to wait around for someone to come to your home, and the rates can be very expensive. I would have much rather had her sit down at her computer with a private one-on-one teacher, who is also one of the nation’s top professors. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
As I mentioned in a previous review, a few months ago I signed my daughter Abigail up for Brightstorm’s SAT prep videos. Things were going well for a while, she watched a few of them, but I don’t think either one of us were all that impressed. I especially thought I could get a better deal elsewhere. I have since canceled that subscription and am considering signing her up for Educator.com. Here’s why:
– There are choices when it comes to subscriptions. Not every family is the same and we need options. I love that I can choose between a 12 month, 6 month, and 1 month plan. Since Abigail has half the school year left, I decided to go with the 6 month plan at only 25 dollars a month. You pay upfront and then you get unlimited use of the service. Great deal, especially since she’ll get complete complete access to all the other videos on the site in addition to the SAT prep. Educator.com even provides their service for free to school districts who want to use it in their curriculum.
– There are over 60 courses. Each professor provides a full curriculum of an entire course, which is very similar to what you would get at a college. These courses are comprised of video lectures along with interactive notes and slides. Abigail will probably get the most use out of are in the extensive AP section, SAT section, math section, and the QuickNotes at the end of each video.
– The environment for learning on the site is very professional. The video quality is great, there are no distractions, and I could tell after watching only one or two free videos that they are professionally produced. I’ve seen other sites where it is very clear that the teacher simply set up a tripod and a camera in her homemade studio. Presentation is everything and Educator.com definitely gets points in this area. My daughter and I both found the artistic black and white format and crystal clear sound pleasing to watch and listen to.
Here’s some video footage to give you an idea!
– The professors on the site are also very articulate and knowledgeable about their subject. Many are a bit older, but that probably means they have advanced degrees, publications, and many years of teaching in their field. There’s also younger instructors that are definitely more upbeat (SAT especially). And maybe other people don’t care about this, but they are all wearing suits and/or formal attire while delivering their introduction lectures. They then wear a uniform polo in other lessons. I always show up for a class I’m teaching dressed professionally or in a suit because I believe it sets the tone for the lecture and creates an environment suitable for effective learning.
– Another great feature is the fact that you can search for literally any aspect of course. The video will instantly skip to the section. Let’s say you’re a software programmer and you’re watching a video on Ruby coding and you only really need to study Class Instance Variables. You can click or type in what you need to study and the lecture will skip right to it. I found the navigational tools on the videos very easy to use and the site very user friendly.
– I also wrote an email to their customer service center because I wanted more information about the subscription packages and they responded within 24hours. Hi Tiffany!
– There are many things I like about the site, but more than anything I like the types of subjects offered. There is a Language Arts and Music section, as well as, all the sciences. Professionals and college students who are studying very specific topics such as Adobe Photoshop, ProTools, or HTML can look through the software training and computer science to find a wide variety of courses that are very difficult to find elsewhere.
– Although the colors are vibrant, I did feel like the homepage was very cluttered and overwhelming. There is a lot going on in such a small space. For someone older, like me, it may be challenging to read the small font.
– The ‘Start Learning” button could be larger because it look me a while to figure out how to sign up and where to go to find the prices. I had to call Abigail over and ask her to locate it for me!
– I would say the drop down menus on the homepage that show a list of the instructors and their courses is probably my least favorite part of the website. When you scroll over it, it instantly starts coming down in a weird accordion style that hurts my eyes and gives me a headache.
– Also, although many of the professors are highly educated, not all of them are watchable for long periods of time. And according to my daughter, some of the videos are boring (but I think she just hates learning no matter who’s teaching.)
– I just want to remind any future users that Educator.com is a reoccurring service. I had some questions at first, which I put in an email to their customer service center. The FAQ and Terms and Conditions page makes the billing parameters very clear. Since I wanted the 6-month, I quickly realized it was an up-front payment and not really $25/month.
– If you’re like my wife and prefer using an Ipad to watch things on the Internet, then you’ll have to go to the FAQ page and download the app in order to watch the lecture videos on Educator.com. Unfortunately, there is no IOS support on the site yet.
Overall, Educator.com is a great learning tool for any student or adult professional who is serious about learning and wants to get the most bang for their buck. There are certainly some very engaging professors on the site, but depending on your stimulation needs, you may not be highly entertained. If nothing else, you’ll definitely learn the facts (as well as some figures) from the nation’s brightest minds. I think Abigail will benefit from at least 6 months of use and I feel confident knowing that by subscribing to Educator.com, I’ll be subscribing her to success. Eductaor.com is essentially college level courses online. When you think about how much it costs to attend and succeed at a four year university, paying for a year’s subscription on Educator.com is well worth the money.
The nice thing about Betterexplained.com is that it teaches for understanding. The website was developed to give struggling math students a safe haven to learn and finally have that “aha” moment. Essentially the e-book, available for purchase on the site, offers students a better explanation of difficult math concepts. And as an educator myself, I believe in the teaching learning process. Math isn’t just about knowing how to solve for x. It’s also about knowing why we are even wasting our time doing it, and whether it’s a waste of time at all. There are too many young people, and older people, out there who are math zombies. And by math zombies I mean individuals who just “plug and chug,” as people call it, simply putting in numbers without really thinking about the reasoning behind their choices.
– Kalid Azad, the founder of Better Explained and a Princeton alum, writes on the about page that complex topics are easily understood when you put them on a more basic level. Everything was hard to do the first time, but it gets easier. I really liked reading his philosophy on learning.
“Math is no more about equations than poetry is about spelling. Equations and spelling exist to convey an idea. Understand that idea.”
– The article section is very helpful to look through when looking for more information on various math topics (as well as writing, business, and technology topics).
– Azad writes for human beings and the readability of his product is great. His e-book is clear, concise, and based on teaching research.
– Why not take better to the best? If this was all free instead of $19 dollars, that would be fantastic! But at least you don’t pay a monthly fee. Just a onetime payment for the e-book.
– The slides, interview, and videos that accompany the e-book are an additional $59 dollars.
– The website has a lot of information on each page and you have to scroll down endlessly forever.
– There are no real pictures on the front page, and the look of the site is pretty boring.
Overall Better Explained has a lot to offer to those who still want to learn from a book. Granted, it’s an e-book, but a book none the less. Students who want the problems worked out before their eyes must purchase a more expensive package.
– Dr. Drew
I’ve come across a lot of teaching and e-learning websites in my day, but Thattutorguy.com is one of those sites that seems like it could be really good and then kind of lets you down. Chris, the owner of the site, films himself tutoring on a variety of math topics and then stock piles them onto a website. His approach strays away from the traditional lecture because he shows students exactly how to do the problems. At first glance, the site is both comprehensive and engaging— Chris certainly is a character —however, something is lacking. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe after you read the pros and the cons below you’ll be able to help me figure it out.
– Chris’ personality is fun and I can see students really being able to relate to him. There are two students in my daughter’s class whose families have purchased the service and they both “enjoy his straight-to-the-point lessons.” He is relatively young, energetic, and has attitude. He tells it like it is and gets right to the point in his lessons. That’s highly refreshing and works great when catering to young audiences.
– There are a lot of math subjects to explore such as Pre-Algebra, College Algebra, Calculus, and Trig. He has archived a wide array of topics, which makes it super easy for subscribers to find exactly what they are looking for. The search tool is quick and effortless, and he also allows users to vote on which classes he should put up next.
– Chris has ten years of professional tutoring experience, however parents may want to see an outline of his resume or know more about his professional training/schooling.
– The website works on phones and tablets, which is excellent for busy students on the go.
– I also thought his “Flipping the Classroom” idea was great. This model works for a lot of people. Chris claims that it is better to use online videos to expose students to new material before class. Therefore, instead of seeing the material for the first time in a fast-moving lecture, students can get acquainted with the information by watching a pre-taped lecture on their own time.
– Chris says he isn’t a teacher, but in a later video on his philosophy page he explains his “teaching style.” Is he contradicting himself here?
– No free trial or coupons, instead subscribers can get 7 days for seven bucks.*
– Very casual vibe to the entire website. At first I thought this might be a good thing, but the more I read the more mistakes I found. For example, the poor writing: “The videos on this site are aimed exclusively at teaching students what they need to know, now how to prove or derive what they need to know.” I know Chris is a math tutor, but typos take away from a site’s credibility.
– Chris says you don’t have to watch the videos in order, but then he says that the information in the lessons builds on previous lessons. Isn’t that another contradiction? Wouldn’t it help to watch them in order? He explains in his welcome video that the chapters are designed to be self-contained, so if you just need help on one topic, you could probably just watch that chapter. Then he says that once you figure out which chapter you want to watch, it’s best to start at the beginning of that chapter because everything builds.
– Lastly, I found him to be a little rude. One his Frequently Asked Questions page he writes, “If you wanted to watch a math genius derive every equation in your book… you’re already getting that every day in math class! While those sites may sound great in theory, once you start trying to use them you find that they are so egg-head and lecture-driven.” Professors who have dedicated their lives to helping students learn are not egg-headed.
I think the overall issue I have with this website as a whole is not the content, Chris is an extremely intelligent and gifted tutor, but it feels too homemade. It’s lacking the professional tone and quality of its competition. this doesn’t matter, but I also find all those t’s in the web address to be highly distracting. The actual videos are clear and well-made, but the rest of the site could use some work. You can only watch a few videos for free, which may also be a problem for some potential clients. Paying customers, want more samples. It’s nice to know what you’re signing up for before you pay for the service. There are many similar sites to Thattutorguy.com (such as Mathworld.com or Educator.com) and I think Chris might have a hard time differentiating himself from the lot…especially when those other sites are free or very inexpensive.
*Prices have changed.
– Dr. Drew
Why are kids so opposed to learning? I must have been a very unusual child because I was always begging my parents to take me to the museum, science center, or library. Of course, that was all we had back then. Technology was hardly a thought when it came to education, heck the Internet hadn’t even been invented yet. Nowadays it seems like young people only want to play video games or watch television, I know my kids do. If only there was a way to make even the most boring subjects fun and interactive. Luckily there is.
I recently came across a website called BrainPop.com, an educational site that teaches important concepts in core curriculum subject areas through short on-line movies, quizzes, and other activities. Although the main site has more advanced topics that are geared toward grades 3 and up, there are branch-off sites that include BrainPop Jr, BrainPop Español, and BrainPop ESL. I believe the site effectively uses animation and web technology, but there are some pitfalls.
– Cartoons will always be appealing to youngsters. The site is crammed, almost to the point of a migraine, with brightly colored, graphic images designed to engage kids. I’m not sure if the high school kids will relate to it as much, but overall animation is very cool and eye catching for kids and teens. I also like the consistency of the characters Moby the Robot and Tim.
– Monthly access is pretty cheap at only $9.95 a month and there are many free videos.
– BrainPop boasts to be an award-winning educational resource.
– The site includes animated movies, interactive quizzes, and activities. Students can explore hundreds of topics within the subjects of Science, Math, Social Studies, English Language Arts, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Music, and Health. Everything is organized according to subject area. There are also subjects about teen issues such as bullying and drug awareness. I also found that the search tools and easy-to-read buttons made it simple to navigate through the site.
– BrainPOP is accessible directly from Google Apps.
– Teachers who subscribe to the site can automatically track student progress on BrainPOP quizzes and integration with Google Spreadsheets instantly pulls quiz results into a teacher spreadsheet. Pretty awesome. Another plus for educators is the State Standards search tool.
– All the products are fully compatible with interactive whiteboards, learner response systems, projectors, Macs, and PCs. Not need to download, install, or purchase special hardware. Nice.
– I’ve said this before, but free is always king. All options require a monthly or annual subscription. The annual price is $100 dollars, which can be a little steep for families who aren’t certain they’ll be able to make their child sit down and watch the videos.
– There is just one quiz at the end of the video. It would be better to have multiple quizzes for students to choose from. It also seems like the quiz is more of a suggestion, rather than the interactive part of the video it was probably intended to be.
– BrainPop and BrainPop Jr only have a five day free trial. Whatever happened to the 1 month free incentive?
– There are 600 brief animated movies, but some of them are incredibly too brief and do not go into enough detail about the subject.
– I’m not 100% sure this site works for older or advanced students who may require more of a challenge. BrainPop claims it serves K-12, but from my experience 12th graders aren’t that interested in cartoon robots anymore (especially those who don’t blow anything up and only say “beep.”)
– There are also some pretty strange sections of the website like “How to with Gary and Gary” where students can take advice from a father and his son on “How to change a diaper.” The Infancy lesson will even teach kids how to take care of a baby. Of course there are older siblings who need to take care of younger brothers or sisters, but in my opinion, too many high school students drop out of school because of unwanted pregnancies. I think students in grades K-12 shouldn’t worry so much about the needs of infants.
– Then there is Bob the Ex-lab Rat… which is disturbing in and of itself. First off, I disagree with animal testing and wouldn’t want my child watching a video hosted by a bandaged and neurologically impaired sewer rat.
– I also found that the few videos hosted by female characters were about puberty and menstruation. Why can’t BrainPop feature girls (or girl robots) in more of their videos.
– Technical requirements for running BrainPOP are an Internet connection and the Macromedia Flash Plug-in. That can be a drawback for those living out in the middle of nowhere where speedy internet service isn’t always available, but you can view some of the videos on an Iphone.
All in all, I watched maybe two or three free videos and felt like I learned a little something. My last thoughts on BrainPop are simple. If the moving icons and bright colors on the homepage don’t pop your brain, the thousands of things you can potentially learn about probably will.
– Dr. Drew
I have two children, one in high school and one in middle school, and both are struggling students. They are creative, funny, fantastic athletes, and great at abstract thinking. However when it comes to standardized tests or math homework, they are pretty average. I’m always on the lookout for helpful educational tools that will give them a boost. Abigail, my oldest, is preparing for college soon and I’ve been looking for ways to help her study for the SAT and ACT at home, at her own pace. I started researching Brightstorm.com a few months ago and am writing this review to share the pros and cons of the service with other families.
After clicking on a subject, the first thing Abigail noticed was the textbooks. She immediately spotted one of her chemistry books and was very excited about the variety. Brightstorm users can click on and see where Brainstorm videos fit into that textbook. You can even search by page number. She also commented on how young and friendly the teachers seemed to be. I, on the other hand, initially noticed the amount of test prep material. The lessons are pretty comprehensive, well-taught, and Brightstorm has the major high school tests. There are even flashcards to practice SAT vocabulary and a diagnostic test that shows the topics your child needs to work on. Along with the flashcards, many of the videos are supplemented with interactive challenges, pop-up quizzes, and other bonus material. Abigail also really got a kick out of the instant math application (all talk more about this later), which basically does any math problem for you and then shows you the steps, as well as, the video that goes with it. However, you can only view the steps and video with a subscription.
Speaking of subscriptions, after the free trail, there is a monthly fee of about 30 dollars. There are over 2,000 free math videos however, in order to take advantage of the in-demand test prep videos users have to pay 100 dollars. I found the subscription information and billing process very confusing. Major drawback! I initially thought the price was only 30 like all the other videos. I found 100 dollars for only about 6 hours of video time to be a little steep, especially since they weren’t going to mail her a book to go with the lessons. I felt like everything should have been the same price. Most sites offer at least one month of free usage, but Brightstorm only offers 3 days! After doing some more investigation, and being told I had to subscribe in order to finish watching a video, I found out that you can get all of the math videos on their YouTube for free. Don’t let them interrupt your viewing with a subscription ad, you can easily go on Youtube and see all the math videos there.
In addition, after I started entering my credit card information for the test-prep videos, I noticed that there wasn’t anything that vouched for the website’s security measures. I should have been paying better attention, but then it is the website’s responsibility to make that information very clear. It would have been nice to see something about how my information was going to be protected. For now, I’m only going to invest in the SAT videos.
Some More Dislikes
I would say one of the biggest drawbacks of this site (aside from the prices) is the handwriting on the board. What’s the point of having teachers use a whiteboard if their writing is tiny and illegible? Another con would have to be the navigational tools on the site. Abigail might be quicker at figuring it out, but for less computer savvy people like me, it was a bit more confusing and time consuming. It is hard to jump ahead, go back, or pin-point exactly where you want to go in the video. It is also nice that they have a literature section that hits the big high school texts, such as The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mocking Bird, but it could have more titles in it. As I mentioned previously, my daughter thoughts the instant math tab was pretty cool. However, what she didn’t know is that anyone can use that exact same feature on other websites such as Basic-mathematics.com. Nothing new going on there… but don’t take my word for it, check out and compare these photos below:
All in all, Brightstorm is helpful and even though she has said that “some of the intro videos are pretty cheesy,” I believe Abigail has learned a lot from watching the lessons. She is taking the SAT for the first time in a few months and, although using Brightstorm doesn’t guarantee anything, I feel pretty confident that she will get a high score.
As for my other child, he says there’s no way he’s going to waste the afternoon inside watching educational videos online. We’ll see about that!
– Dr. Drew
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