Evaluating Educational Resources on the Web

There are many options available when looking for additional educational help online for your child. An awareness of the costs, services, advantages and disadvantages is crucial. Read on to learn how you can best evaluate educational resources on the Internet.

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More students than ever can conduct research into subjects new and old, right from their own home, using the Internet. But parents need to be discriminating, not all websites are created equal. And the fact that a site charges money for its services doesn't mean it's worth the fee, or that it's better than a site that gives you access for free. Examine each website carefully and determine whether or not it is a suitable resource for your child.

Free Sites

Be careful of offers that start out free and end up costing money. If you can't get a feel for what a site has to offer before it requires you to pay, don't bother with the site. Sometimes the 'free' part of a Web site is just the bait for services that cost you.

But there are lots of educational resources that really are completely free. And that's part of the problem. Everyone from libraries and schools to private individuals and publicly held corporations have websites that offer help and educational materials for kids. The quality and reliability of many free sites can be suspect.

When making your choice, start with a recommendation from a professional educator, counselor or tutor, but always make the final decision yourself. Sites associated with schools, libraries or the government also make good starting points. The U.S. Department of Education, www.ed.gov, provides valuable tips for both parents and children.

At the very least be sure any Web site you choose offers plenty of references for the information it provides. Once you find a reliable site, follow the links connected to it. A reputable organization with quality resources will usually have extended information and endorsements you can trust. Feel free to contact the people who run the site. Make use of the 'About Us' links often posted along the top or bottom of the page. If there is no contact or background information for a Web site, it may not be worth your time.

Fee-Based Sites

Paid educational Web sites often include tutoring or other professional educational assistance. While tutoring services do cost money, they are often less expensive than conventional tutoring centers and produce the same measurable results. Many even feature state-certified teachers. Be sure that any program you consider is accredited, which means that a professional organization has researched it and verified its methods. Do not bother spending your money on a tutoring resource that does not disclose its methods, credentials, or success rates. Take advantage of free tours and trial periods to get a real feel for the features the Web site has to offer.

Do Your Research!

Many Web sites, both free and fee-based, provide services that must be evaluated carefully. While access to professionally composed essays and term papers can be useful, it can also encourage your child to rely on someone else's work. This defeats the purpose of a research project. Some homework help-sites offer the solutions to difficult math problems, eliminating the need for the problem solving skills that arrive at those solutions. Other sites offer synopses of assigned books that are so detailed your child will be able to avoid reading the book itself.

Help Web sites of this sort can be outstanding resources, but excessive or misguided reliance on them can contribute to educational deficits and hinder the development of crucial learning skills. Be aware of these sites and monitor your child's use of them closely. While you may be able to buy your child an A, doing so will not afford them a quality education.

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