Educational Technology & Society 2(1) 1999
ISSN 1436-4522

E-Tutor Connected Learning for K-12

(Website review)

Reviewer: Andries du Plessis
Department of History, Vista University, Mamelodi Campus
Pretoria, South Africa, Private Bag X1311, Silverton, 0127.
Email: dpls-as@marlin.vista.ac.za

1. Site URL:
  http://www.e-tutor.com

2. Site title:
  E-Tutor Connected Learning for K-12

3. Objective of the site:
  E-tutor was developed by Strategic Studies (Park Ridge, Illinois). The original programming for this initiative was completed in November 1997. In many ways E-Tutor's site can be regarded as a showcase for web-based schools. E-Tutor covers five curricular areas, namely Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and Integrated Studies. Two curricular areas are currently offered, namely Language Arts and Mathematics. Lessons are closely aligned with the national goals and objectives applicable in the USA. Primary, intermediate, middle school/junior high, as well as high school levels are covered.

4. Expected audience:
  E-tutor is a multi-functional electronic platform and are being used in a variety of setting, including:
  • Home schooling
  • Additional exercises for enrichment purposes
  • Programs for gifted pupils
  • Remedial teaching and for those students who might be intellectually challenged
  • School libraries and school information centres
  • For use in ordinary classrooms where teachers interact in a face-to-face situation with their students.
5. Main topics covered:
  Presently approximately 100 lessons are available. These lessons range from kindergarten stories about the Three Bears to algebra for high school pupils.

6. Comments on usefulness and richness of each topic:
  Lessons follow a set structure and are divided into 9 different sub-headings. Sub-headings include the grade, a lesson's goals, the vocabulary, Internet resources, and so forth.

Lessons are integrated with everyday situations and life skills. The lesson about the Three Bears, for example, is linked to problem-solving skills and folktales. The lesson about earthquakes for the Intermediate level links students to another web site that reviews "the earthquake of the day". Seemingly there is an earthquake every day somewhere on our planet. In the lesson entitled "Algebra: Negative and Positive Numbers Adding and Absolute Values", students are confronted with mathematical problems related to everyday matters, such as keeping scores for sporting events or buying hamburgers. Appropriate graphics are included to enhance lessons.

7. Extent, appropriateness and quality of external links:
  E-Tutor employs the capabilities of the World Wide Web (WWW) by linking other www-sites to its lessons. These are found under the sub-heading "Resources". These multiple links are not only for interest sake. Students are required to use these resources in order to complete a lesson.

However, E-Tutor states that they "were unable to find any meaningful structure to assist students in maneuvering through the vast resources on the World Wide Web". E-Tutor is not alone in this regard. One of the challenges facing teachers is to guide students in a meaningful way through the maze of information on the WWW. Nevertheless, this particular problem is not limited to web sites only, but also when students are referred to books, articles, and other sources. The difference is that web sites, unlike books, are not static. Changes are being made on a continuous basis to the contents and/or sites' URL's.

Managing these continuous changes is a daunting task. Users of E-Tutor might thus come across sites that would seem somewhat irrelevant or File Error 404's. In reviewing E-Tutor, some links did return a File Error 404. However, E-Tutor includes a helpful e-mail notification feature in order for students to report broken links.

An exceptionally useful link on E-Tutor's lessons is a link to WWWebster. This site gives meaning(s) and the pronunciation of those words and concepts in question for a particular lesson. This link could be accessed under the sub-heading "Vocabulary". A useful feature that could perhaps be considered is a sound clip so that English second language speakers could listen to the proper pronunciation of a particular word.

8. Special remarks
  Apart from learning material, a number of other features make E-Tutor stands apart from other on-line schools. E-Tutor's lessons are devised by educationalists and packaged with the appropriate technology to enable students immediate feedback on their exercises. After a student has completed an exercise, an explanation for each question is provided.

However, E-Tutor took things a step further. Programs are customized to continuously adapt to a student's progress. Another useful feature is the opportunity for parents to have input in their children's progress. Parents could, for example, cancel a child's mark if they are not satisfied with their child's performance. In this regard E-Tutor has taken care to ensure that students learn, but are not left on their own. Parents are thus included in the learning process.

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