Whether your high school student is head-over-heels in love with all things science or has struggled to remain interested in science classes, almost any student can benefit from educational science software. Many are designed as a review or a supplement to your child's school classes. Others could be used as complete, stand-alone science courses. Either way, such programs allow students to master subject matter that can be difficult while letting them learn at their own pace and through a variety of different ways.
For the purposes of this review site, we looked at applications geared toward high school science students. If you are looking for programs aimed at different younger children, see our reviews of elementary science software. Also check out other articles about educational science software. At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don't Have To.™
Good educational science software (indeed, good instruction of any kind) recognizes that people learn in a variety of different ways. Because catering to different learning styles is so important, we've placed Teaching Tools as our first category of evaluation. We also looked at the topics covered (the depth or breadth) in an application, the ease of use, and the available help/documentation.
Some students learn best by hearing a concept explained aloud; others grasp a new idea better when they read about it. Most students will benefit from video demonstrations or animated illustrations. For example, a graph showing the relationship between distance and gravitational force of objects can be greatly enhanced by a simple animation showing the objects moving closer together while the relationship at various distances is highlighted on the graph. Additionally, charts and diagrams help students visualize ideas and relationships that may not be obvious or concrete.
Most educational applications geared to high school students will have some sort of evaluation available—whether it's end-of-chapter questions, quizzes or timed tests. Tests are especially valuable in applications that are designed to help prepare a student for AP or college entrance tests.
Additional features, like access to reference materials, calculators, web resources, etc., are also available with some titles. The best software titles also offer a searchable glossary or index for finding definitions or information quickly.
The applications we've reviewed vary in their purposes. Some are in-depth, complete science courses. Others are broad reviews of the major concepts in several subjects. This evaluation category measures how well each application accomplished its set goal. Did the titles designed for breadth successfully hit the highlights of a variety of subjects? Did the titles designed for depth afford students detailed instruction in one chosen course of study?
Ease of Use
Unfortunately, this category does not refer to how easy the scientific material is to learn. Regardless of the application you use, mastering the nuances of genetics or general relativity will not be simple. However, while your brain is wrestling with these concepts, it shouldn’t have to also wrestle with an uncooperative computer program. The best applications should be simple to install and intuitive to use. You should be able to easily navigate through the topics and sections available. Some will also help you keep track of your progress by marking sections you've already studied.
Even with the best applications, sometimes things go wrong. It is important that the publishers offer a way to contact them with requests for technical support. Some publishers also post FAQs to help troubleshoot any problem you may have or provide written documentation that comes with the application.
Our top picks included High School Success Deluxe, High School Advantage and General Physics (Non-Calculus). Applications like those we've reviewed on this site can benefit almost any high school science student. Whether they're studying for AP tests or college entrance exams, looking for additional science instruction or wanting to take a whole course at their own pace, students (and their parents and teachers) can find educational science software that will help them meet their science goals.