Peter’s Corner: Out with the Old and In with the New

It has been a few months since our last newsletter, so I wanted to update you on some of the work we've been up to! As Mike announced a few weeks ago, our aged website is being completely overhauled and this is not just about looks. The new website will give you information on our programs and services faster and online ordering of books will be easier. You can submit and read reviews on the books/programs in our storefront to help you decide what's best for your homeschool. All newsletter articles will be posted on a blog page that will allow for comments as well. We want to give you the opportunity to weigh in on some of the things we write about here. This is about encouragement, learning, and community. There's a few more features with the new website as you might expect, but those are some of the basics. As Mike said, it's still a work in progress, so if you notice any glitches, please let us know by email.

Some of you know we have started using a new online environment for some of our courses. It's called NEO. This began as a trial run for our 5-week book discussions and online Great Ideas...and it's going great! This September 2016, we will use NEO for our entire evaluation service. Don't worry, we will talk about this more in the coming months to ensure an easy transition. Here are some benefits to parents and students:

- one log-in account per student - parent accounts also available to track a student's progress.
- all course materials, instructions, and files in one place - find what you need easily.
- submitted assignments, grades, and feedback are permanently stored in NEO so you can easily track progress in a course.
- assignments for grading are sent directly to the evaluator - nothing gets lost and no need to name files.
- online tests - no more issues with pdf forms and saving files.
- some quizzes are automated for instant feedback.
- email notification when assignments are marked.
- final grades and documentation are available quicker.
- system allows for personal audio feedback on assignments.
- NEO also has a downloadable App for iOS and Android.
(and there's more!)

One development to highlight is that I will be completely revamping the Great Ideas online program to involve live (synchronous) online discussion classes in addition to the text-based student interaction, written assignments, and tutor support. These will also be recorded for students to watch later if they are unable to attend the class at the time it is held. I believe the time is ripe to allow for this kind of interaction and technology in these classes. This updating will begin with Level I of Great Ideas - God and Man in Sept. 2016.

Finally, we are also looking forward to the upcoming spring conference season this year...a time when we get the opportunity to see many of you in person again. For us, the next couple of months is preparation time...when we give final consideration to any revisions to our programs and services, as well as book offerings. Please remember that your feedback and suggestions as "teacher parents" is always welcome - nay, essential - as we aim to improve our courses and services. Let us know what you think by sending an email.