With that being said, this review will not focus on their online system as a whole, but rather on an exciting new addition. The Odysseyware team has recently added a great collection of virtual science labs that are designed to fit within their curriculum before their actual science labs take place. However, these lab could also be used on their own within the classroom, as a preview to actual labs, as a supplement to labs, or as a replacement in classrooms where supplies or time are not available. They have some excellent options, so, let's check it out!
But again, for this review, we're just checking out their new virtual labs. For this school year, the Odysseyware team has launched 20 new virtual labs, and these cover a great variety of topics. Here are some examples:
- Biomes (forests, tundra, desert, etc.)
- Circular motion
- Newton’s Law
- Simple Machines
- Frog Dissection
- Doppler Effect
I had the chance to walk through the frog dissection with the team, and it was definitely better than expected! Having been a biology teacher and taking students through many a crazy frog dissection, I've also tried out the virtual dissections, especially for those students who chose to not participate in the actual dissection. This dissection was not only well structured, but also about as realistic as you can get for a virtual dissection.
What I really like about Odysseyware's approach to the dissection is that they do a great job of combining a realistic dissection with relevant information. For example, as you're proceeding through the dissection, you can also view information on the organs, muscles, and so on. This makes the dissection process a little more practical than a teacher having to run around to all the different tables and help students figure out exactly what it is they're looking at.
And again, it functions as a great precursor to a real dissection as well, because students can get the techniques and basic anatomy down, before the real life scenario.
On top of that, the Odysseyware system has built in assessment that can track student performance and understanding throughout the dissection. This can be a great way to determine if your students are ready for the actual dissection, if you're using this virtual lab as a precursor.
So, with all that being said, I have only one complaint. The labs themselves are excellent tools; however, it is impossible to access them without enrolling a teacher (for access to one dissection) or an entire class (for access to multiple dissections) in the Odysseyware system. If they offered these as a stand alone product, that could supplement an already existing curriculum, that would be amazingly beneficial.
But, the fact that these labs only come bundled within the Odysseyware system can be incredibly prohibitive, especially to those classrooms/districts on limited budgets. I think many schools would have a hard time justifying enrolling students in a virtual class, when they already have a teacher who is teaching the rest of the curriculum, just so the students can access the virtual labs. And I realize that more and more teachers are using virtual materials, and flipping the classroom, but there are numerous free resources available to that end as well.
In the end, the labs are great, but I wish they were available as a stand alone product. However, if you're working in a virtual school, working with homebound students, or if you've got the money in your budget, I definitely recommend checking out Odysseyware. At the very least, you might consider a teacher subscription, just to have access to the virtual labs which could then be shown through a projector and shared with your class. For more information on pricing, training, and course offerings, you can email the Odysseyware team.
The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
I was not compensated for writing this review.