The Parents' Guide:
How help your student survive an online science course
Note: AP Course expectations changed in 2019, and based on the direction the College Board is taking the AP program with more complete control of course content and student data, I have decided to no longer seek AP certification for my courses, even though they will cover substantially the same data. Please see the FAQs page for further information.
Many common concerns are also addressed on the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page for this course, so be sure to read it also!
Scholars Online courses are a cooperative effort between the teachers, the students, and their parents. Like the proverbial three-legged stool, if one leg is broken or missing, the stool will topple over. You are a necessary and important part of this course, and even a mature student will need your support and guidance to apply the study skills and self-discipline needed to survive the class.
There are three websites for this course; however, most pages in all three sites will be organized by links in the Moodle to course homework pages, and links from the homework assignment pages to all other website pages required for a given assignment.
Core Courses: While a Core course is not an AP course, it is an honors course, which means the textbook we use, our approach, and our expectations of performance are college-level expectations. Students can still pass the course with less-than-honors level performance; their transcript will reflect whether lab credit or honors credit.
AP Option: The AP Option adds significant amount of work to the course. Students must complete extra homework assignmens in preparation for the AP Exam. They must perform more labs, and these labs are often more detailed and require much more data analysis than those for the core course. Parents should be prepared to help their AP students manage time and schedule family activities to support the extra effort required.
Please do not equate exam percentages with the standard 70% = C, 80% = B, 90% = A performance ratings used by many high schools; in particular, exams are only one part of the student work I use to assess overall performance. Exam performance is, however, something of an indicator for successful college-level performance in the physical sciences.
Evaluations sent to students at midyear and at the end of the course contain the raw scores for each area used to determine overall performance (homework, reports, quizzes, class participation, and examinations). These scores are weighted — exams may count for up to 60% of the grade, individually-assigned posting problems, mastery exercises, and quizzes count 35% of the grade, and class participation counts for at least 5% of the grade. In those courses (biology and astronomoy) where students prepare semester reports, the report grade is considered part of the semester exam grade. Scores are adjusted for the student's grade level to determine a final numerical score that allows the student's performance to be fairly compared to students taking the course in a normal sequence in other institutions. A letter grade is assigned on the basis of this final numerical score.
Assignments: To get to the assignment for a given day,
Please note that not all materials will be posted prior to the start of the course in September, since I am currently revising many of them, based on experiences over the last two years with our new format. Links for each set of assignments will generally be active at least one week in advance.
Chats: To get to the chat for the day, use the Scholars Online chat login (available from any page at www.scholarsonline.org).
The Procedures page and the Student Guide have specific guidelines suggesting how students might schedule completing all the tasks for each week's work. You should go over these suggestions and modify them to suit your student's learning style and outside commitments. Most astronomy and biology students are at least sophomores with some self-discipline and good study habits, and physics and chemistry students are frequently juniors or seniors, and have achieved considerable self-discipline, but they still need help setting their goals and disciplining themselves to get work done in a timely fashion. You will have to decide how much help your student needs, but at the very least, ou should meet with him once a week to go over the homework page and make sure that he is completing the assigned reading, mastery exercises, chat preparation posting, and quizzes on time. You can also utilize your Moodle Mentor block to see what work has been completed, along with scores or teacher feedback.
The Moodle gives the text assignments, mastery exercises, chat preparation posting, web lectures, and lab topics for each chat session. Weblectures may refer students to other websites with interactive demonstrations. These take time but allow the student to experience and experiment with different concepts in a way no text medium can provide. Encourage the student to spend the extra time at these exercises, especially during the beginning of the course.
Students often run into problems with posting their individually-assigned problems, although most of these are based on an example in the Moodle mastery exercises. Ecourage your student to complete as many of the exercise examples as possible, especially during the early units, which establish basic applications of mathematics to physical situations, and to seek help for any problems they can't resolve in class.
Help your student identify the particular areas where he has difficulties. Does he have problems with identifying which formula represents relations between the quantities in a problem? Then review of the chapter formulae with an emphasics on comprehension is in order: have your student work through the examples given in the text and explain them to you. This will force him to focus on the concepts and their applications. Much of the study of any physical science involves manipulating mathematical descriptions of physical situations, and even some aspects of life science studies, especially lab work, involves mathematical applications. Students need go beyond imagining abstract mathematical problem and see the physical reality the mathematics are describing..
Mastery exercises will have explanations for each question, so the student will get feedback on every exercise. Check periodically to make sure that the work is being done in time for class and verify that work assigned for posting is posted prior to the start of each class session. After class, these postings (and any annotations mycroft makes, in case the student gets the problem wrong) will provide completely-worked answers for these problems, so you can go over the work with your student.
Encourage your student to make notes while reading or attempting homework of any issues or conceptual "fuzziness" that arises, particular when working through diagrams or experimental data presented in the text. He should bring these issues to chat so we can help figure out where he runs into difficulty. Some students have trouble with verbal descriptions, others with interpreting graphs, and others with seeing trends in numerical data. Have him ask questions! we can use different approaches to demonstrating the concepts once we understand each student's background and learning styles better.
There is no SAT II Astronomy examination. However, the basic skills we learn in the class for approaching math-based analysis of astronomical events and situations will help prepare your student to continue scientific education in the physical sciences, especially chemistry and physics. Monitoring your student's ability to complete the homework is essential! If your student has problems applying concepts to real situations, then he should be asking more questions in class and looking at the exercise and essay questions that present experimental methods or data and require their evaluation. You should check the logs occasionally (these will also be posted at the website) to monitor how much your student is contributing to class.
My experience has been that students regularly complete all the mastery exercises and take the online Moodle quizzes have little to fear from the ACT or SAT II subject examinations and do very well. Those who work the AP examples we cover in class also do very well on the AP exams.
I often post optional website readings; I may request students to view other web resources as well. While I check the sites to determine their suitability for Scholars Online students prior to posting my web pages, I do not follow all the links from every outside site, nor can I guarantee that such a site will remain unchanged between the time I select it and the time that you view it. If you have questions about the suitability of these sites, I encourage you to check them before letting your student view them, and to let me know if you have concerns about specific sites.
Most work is uploaded or entered into the Moodle. Please note when uploading assignments to the Moodle:
Our class sessions are discussion sessions. I try to present all lecture material ahead of time on my web pages, so that we can use the chat periods for student input and homework review. As a result, chats can seem somewhat chaotic, and "start and stop" as students try to type in their questions, answers, and comments. To make chats as useful as possible, students should follow these guidelines:
In order for you to keep track of whether your student is completing the work, you might want to set up your own checklist:
Each chat session has an accompanying Moodle forum or bulletin board link on the Moodle course homepage. Students are expected to post a complete solution for an individually-assigned problem that shows not only all of the mathematical calculations, but also explains the assumptions and solution method. When all students meet their posting responsibilities, the Moodle pages contain a complete solution set of critical concepts for student review.
Mastery exercises in each week's Moodle section are linked to each reading assignment, and students should do the assigned portions prior to chat to identify areas where they are unable to apply the text materials, so that we can go over these in class. Students must complete the mastery exercise for each chapter prior to taking a quiz on the chapter material.
Moodle quizzes are open during the week following completion of the unit they cover. Quizzes may be reopened during a grace period prior to an exam for students who have missed a quiz, and for review.
You should refer to this guide, to the FAQs page, and to the Procedures page frequently. These pages contain material that was developed in answer to questions other parents have asked me, so many of your questions may be answered already in one of these pages.
E-mail: You should feel free to e-mail me with specific questions at any time, and especially with corrections to the web materials (misspellings, missing links, possible quiz key errors).
It should go without saying that you also have set the appropriate spam filter designations set so that your student can receive email directly from your teachers and the scholarsonline.org domain, which the Moodle uses for public and class messages, but every year we have frustrated parents who don't get our answers to their questions, although we have responded, often multiple times, because our emails wind up in junk mail buckets.
Here are a couple of other guidelines for e-mail:
© 2005 - 2021 This course is offered through Scholars Online, a non-profit organization supporting classical Christian education through online courses. Permission to copy course content (lessons and labs) for personal study is granted to students currently or formerly enrolled in the course through Scholars Online. Reproduction for any other purpose, without the express written consent of the author, is prohibited.