A hot topic on many homeschool support websites is often, “Who has used online classes?… What are they like?… Are they worth the money?” Classes online range from free to very expensive, and just about every price point in between. This year my kids are taking 3 classes online through Landry Academy. This is a review (or really, a part of a review!) of our experience with the school and classes. These are my opinions. I wasn’t endorsed or paid or compensated in any way for this review.
What is it? How’s it work?
Landry Academy is an online “school” that offers classes for grades 4 through 12th. Each class meets for a 90 minute live session per week, with the video available for later viewing if your student with miss the live time. After the live session the students have assignments, chats, and other things that need to be completed throughout the week. I have no idea how make up work will be handled, since we’re only in Week 2, but I’ll share that later.
For registration, I bought a Black Friday special package last year. Landry Academy offers online classes, live intensive classes (2 day lab experiences and other hands on classes like blacksmithing, welding, art, etc.), mission trips, summer camps, family camps and more and has frequent, SUPER AWESOME online sales. Last year I bought a package with 2 intensives and 4 generic (name your class later) semesters for around $600. It was a huge savings and it made the classes an EXCELLENT value. So far I’ve found the Landry Academy interface – paying, registering, finding classes, etc to be super easy to work with and very intuitive. I registered for the classes by turning in 3 generics around the middle of July (I think). Classes fill up fast so if you want to register – do so early.
As an aside, I’ve also registered Big for an intensive lab in the spring, but I think I am going to see if they’ll let me change it to something totally different. (My great plans of a lab intensive were foiled by a lab loving 14 year old… I’m hoping the kids can take a blacksmithing instead!) I’ll let you know how it goes. Every time I’ve had to contact someone for log on help, or a question, they’ve been awesome, so I assume a switch will be easy-peasy.
Before the Class Started:
As I mentioned in other posts about our school year, I have Big taking one Landry Academy class, and Little is taking two. Before the classes started I received great information on books, requirements, supplies, start times, etc. The general communication has been great from each teacher. Links were provided for books, as well as information on buying used from other Landry parents. I did not feel the least but lost for information on how the classes would start.
With that, I want to share that the student interface for Landry Academy is excellent. It has taken some time to get used to it, and each teacher can personalize their class site, so we’ve had a lot to learn. Learning curve notwithstanding, the system is EXCELLENT.
Now, this is a review of Week 1. I am writing this so new guys aren’t surprised and know what to expect. I am certain my opinions will change as we go through the semester! Please, take this as the views of a very new guy!
With the kids in 3 classes I have gotten to see the online advice I’ve read “the class depends on the teacher” play out pretty clearly.
With one teacher, the information has been more… fluid. The grading matrix changed the first week. No big deal. The requirements for an assignment changed mid week. OK, kid emails teacher and lets them know he finished early and can’t go back and recreate the process to photograph. No big deal (assuming the teacher is reasonable and accepts the work), but nerve racking for a online class newbie kid. The assignment requirement baffled the entire class – so the assignments were extended and everything clarified. Annoying. No big deal. We’ll chalk it up to the learning curve. Some of the requirements for the students really should have been in an appropriate doc and sent to students, but students are expected to recreate a couple fairly large pdfs in word – an hour or more of work if you’re good at formatting. Again, annoying, and in the end will be no big deal. Suffice it to say this class has had a VERY frustrating start for Little. With the changes, he spent about 4 hours Monday working through “new” (I would say “old, but poorly communicated”) expectations for the assignments he spent more than 4 hours on last week. It was overwhelming for him and the due date (since it was “last week’s work”) was really short so he had to battle through. This week seems to be better and we’re both getting our legs under us for this class.
The other two classes have started out much, much smoother. One was a little rocky in trying to decipher the assignments, but we searched every crevice of the online class portal and found out the system and the needed information. It was easy to apply what we found, and Little is really enjoying the class.
Big’s class has been super smooth from Day 1 (but is academic and Little’s are electives, so that may be a part of it).
Lessons Learned So Far:
Since this is out first “live” online class (we’ve done Veritas Press self paced and BJU streaming for years) we’ve had a fairly steep learning curve. While I kind of wish we’d started with one class per kid, I think that might have been fatal for our Landry Academy experience. Little’s two classes are balancing each other out in terms of workload, learning curve, and frustration. If he only had the harder one – he might have a really sour taste in his mouth (as would I!). But, with the other class he’s seeing that pushing through the hard parts is worth it and he’s enjoying his class. Big’s academic class is really smooth and she’s enjoying it. I wish the writing load were higher, but I’ll make up for it in the spring if it doesn’t pick up. 😉
These classes take a week or more to get used to the process. I think each class will get easier and easier to assimilate into the semester. The kids will know the format and the system (we’d never used dropbox before — we’re learning here!). I think with a lot of colleges moving in the direction of online classes, and teachers expecting more things to be turned in online that learning how online classes work and managing the interfaces is a great life tool.
Another HUGE plus I’m seeing with Landry Academy is the kids learning to manage their own deadlines. There are A LOT of out of class assignments and deadlines. A lot. Chats and online discussions need to be attended. Work needs to be turned in. Right now I’m fairly involved in making sure stuff gets turned in, but I can see my role in that lessening even this week. I expect by the end of the semester the kids will manage it themselves (or at least Big will… Little might need more time since he’s younger). Landry has great Google calendar links, etc. so it’s fairly easy to manage. I can see how multiple classes on multiple days can get confusing!
And, though it’s a painful lesson, I am glad that Little’s class has been frustrating for him. He needs to learn that not all teachers are reasonable (not that his has been unreasonable – not at all!! – but he’s seeing that it CAN happen), dates change without warning, expectations shift, and things you thought might be easy can be frustrating and hard. My kids have not had to deal with that at all (this is their first outside teacher)- and this is a great, safe place for him to learn these lessons. He’s learning to be cheerful when it’s hard, and to redo work – a few times if need be – even when you don’t think you need to. He may get a failing grade in the class – but if he learns some really important life lessons – then I think the class will be money well spent. I hope some skinned knees here might be a valuable lesson for the future!
Where we stand:
We’re in Week 2. Big has had two classes, Little has had one class twice and one class meets tomorrow. I am overall VERY pleased with our first week. Te frustration of the learning curve is starting to wear off, we’re getting our bearings, and I’m very pleased with the classes and Landry Academy. If the classes progress like I expect, then I am TOTALLY saving up some jack for more online generic semesters when they go on sale again!!