Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: Time4Writing

I've heard a lot about, but never really took the time to investigate.  Then I had the chance to review one of their programs.

Time4Writing offers 8 week writing courses for elementary ages (3rd to 6th grades), middle school (6th to 8th grade), and high school (9th to 12th grades).  Any of my boys would be eligible, but I chose to have Connor (going into 10th grade) take a course.

Within each of the grade ranges, Time4Writing offers a number of courses, from basic grammar through advanced.  I found the process of choosing where to start a little confusing.  Connor really wanted to start with the High School Essay course, though, so we went with that.

He was convinced he was ready for it.  I thought he should take the paragraphs course, but deferred to his preference.

When we first had access to the course, we immediately pulled up some of the available information, such as a 4 week or 8 week suggested schedule.  We figured the 8 week pace was probably best for what looked to be a challenging course, so we printed that one, and Connor dove in.

Connor did not want my input, as he preferred to do this course on his own.  That meant he submitted his work without paying attention to little details like the word "sentence" in the assignment.  I received an email from his instructor, suggesting that Connor really was not ready for the Essay level.  She was polite and professional, listing specific reasons and examples from Connor's work.  Her suggestion was to go back and do the first high school level course, Grammar Usage and Mechanics (GUM).

Connor and I read over the email, talked about it, and made the switch.  The Time4Writing tech people were very prompt about getting everything changed, and we were again ready to dig in by looking over the suggested schedules and other materials.

I was relieved to find that when you switch levels, the 8-week clock starts over.  You have the first two weeks of the course in which to make a change, but I was concerned that we were going to have to really rush once we did switch.

Because Connor had such an erratic schedule this summer, we ended up deciding to go with the 4 week schedule, but we were doing it when he could.  If we use other Time4Writing courses in the future, I would try to time them so that they wouldn't overlap so many camps, vacations, or just unavailable times.

As Connor worked through the course, he would see a screen like this:

This shows the assignments for Unit 6 - Comma Commotion, which he completed just this week.  The different little icons represent different types of assignments.  Some (6.1) are sections for the student to watch and/or read.  Some (6.3) are quizzes that are graded immediately by the computer.  And some (6.6) are submitted to the teacher for her to grade.  Those are graded within 24 hours (weekdays) and the student cannot move on to the next section until that is done.

When the teacher has looked over the assignment, an email is sent, and there is information available at the website.  There is also a wonderful summary of the entire course at the "grades" link:

I loved, loved, loved how Ms. Leslie kept politely pointing out to Connor that using the spell check was a good idea, and how vital it is to proofread.  Connor does really struggle with spelling, and also with making stupid little errors.  Having someone besides his mother point that out to him is priceless!

Connor is nearly through this course at this point, and he has enjoyed it.  This is something that he would consider doing again, and he really liked his teacher and enjoyed the way information was presented.  He feels that he did learn quite a bit in some of the units (like commas), and that he needed some reinforcement in other units.

I think he would have been better off in the paragraph course, actually.  However, this has been something that is good for him.  He is sitting with a 99 point something average for the course, which tells me it was too easy.  He, however, feels that it should tell me that he didn't know it all before he started, but he has learned quite a bit.

This is something we will consider again.  I am particularly interested in the course on research papers, but clearly Connor is not ready for that just yet.

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about the various Time4Writing courses, click the banner here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I did receive products as mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

If you are interested, here are more of my Schoolhouse Crew Reviews.


Kate said...

This is a really informative review and I liked the details you shared. Thanks, Debra, for this!


Jennifer said...

Has he completed the course yet?

Debra said...

Almost, Jen. He'll finish it up in the next day or two.

This has been really good for him, I tell you. He thinks he knows this stuff, so having someone besides me pointing out his errors is worth a lot. :)

Joez said...

Time4writing is totally waist of money and time.

My kid complained the course is very boring.

The schedule is very tight. The student need to finish 40 assignments in 8 weeks, and need to wait 24 hours for teacher's grading(teacher doesn't grade on weekend)

When we ask for more extension, the customer representative simply ask us to buy more extensions.