Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review: Virtual Nerd

If you've ever hired a tutor, you know how costly they can be.  Tutors in our area run anywhere from $25-50, depending on the subject and expertise of the tutor.  As much as it hurts the budget, sometimes a little extra help is necessary in getting over an academic hump.  The one-on-one attention, with the ability to stop and ask questions during an explanation, is needed when a student is having difficulty with a concept.  Sometimes searching the internet and sites like YouTube for tutorials just doesn't cut it, you know? But private tutoring isn't affordable at all to some, and certainly not regularly for most.  It would be nice if there were something in between private tutors and random internet searches when academic roadblocks are met.

Meet Virtual Nerd, an online service that offers video tutorials in math and science, including Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Physics.  When I first heard about Virtual Nerd, I was a little underwhelmed at the concept.  I mean, there are plenty of online math and science tutorials available with a few clicks and a good search engine.  In addition, there seems to be an overabundance of math help websites, for a fee or free.  What makes this one any different?

First of all, let's cover the information presented. Content of these subjects isn't skimpy.  For example, there are 450 algebra tutorials that cover a total of 18 hours.  In addition, the site has plans for adding more subjects and new features in the very near future. One feature I thought unique as far as content is the textbook search topics.  The textbook search gives a student the option of finding tutorials and example problems that correlate to a particular text.  Right now this feature only covers Algebra texts from Prentice Hall, Holt, Glencoe, and McDougal Littell.  However, if you are working from one of the available texts, it is a pretty neat feature.

Probably the most useful feature of Virtual Nerd is the Dynamic Whiteboard.  As the video tutorial is playing, a student can view all of the steps on a small whiteboard just to the right of the video.  Within the whiteboard, students can advance the video to specific steps or find in-context links to pre-requisite videos on that concept. Also, once the video tutorial is completed, related tutorials are recommended.
Area #1 is the video presentation. Area #2 presents the problem as a digital whiteboard format.  Area #3 gives the student the ability to interact by jumping to individual steps, read definitions of terms, or get links on related content.
In addition to the above, the instruction in each tutorial is clear. I appreciate that the tutorial presenters are young, enthusiastic, and include both males and females.  The website is also very easy to navigate and has a  pleasing and professional look, without a lot of unnecessary information.

I was able to use Virtual Nerd with both my 6th grader and my 8th grader.  My 6th grader was able to use it for some of the pre-algebra concepts found in your typical early middle school curriculum.  My 8th grader, currently in Algebra, was able to find plenty of tutorials for whatever concept she was studying. Neither had any trouble with the explanations, nor navigating the site. Often times I would just add to their daily schedule a search word or phrase that covered a topic they needed some refreshing or explanation on, and have them go independently from there.  I would have loved to see some chemistry tutorials, and soon found that was planned for the near future (August 11), along with other math and science subjects.

Overall, I think Virtual Nerd is a well-done website that provides a more affordable alternative to a private tutor and is more focused than some of the other sites out there.  I felt the regular monthly fee was a bit steep for casual use, but the value increases considerably if one is able to make use of more than one subject and/or uses it as a regular tool for homeschool learning. Other memberships are available if the monthly fee is out of your budget.

A free 2-hour trial is available if you would like to try before you buy, always something I recommend when available. Other options include a $5 day pass, $19 weekly pass, $49 monthly fee, or a $129 3-month subscription.  This appears to be an evolving website with many changes and additional services in store, including new subjects and features, such as quizzes. It is definitely a site to keep an eye on. Visit the Virtual Nerd website for more information or to sign up for a membership.

To read what others had to say about Virtual Nerd, please visit the official TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation.

I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.


Debra said...

Great job on this... between you and Heather I feel like I should just take my review down. Yikes... you explained this so much better than I did.

Jill Stanish said...

Excellent review! Hopped over from the crew~

Virtual Nerd said...

We thought you would like to know that because Virtual Nerd ( has received such positive feedback and significant interest following your review of their online tutoring service, we are offering a special discount to homeschool parents. Homeschool parents can receive 50% off the 1 and 3 month subscription plans. Just enter the discount code: homeschooldeal when you sign up for service. That is a huge discount, and hurry - the offer is valid until March 31, 2011!