Feb 25, 2010

Review - Big Universe

I was contacted by a representative from Big Universe to do a review of their site and at first I was very excited at the prospect! Here is a description of their site -

BigUniverse.com is an award-winning education website for grades K-8. This engaging web community uses beautiful picture books to instill the love of reading, writing and learning, while providing an anywhere-anytime, standards-based, education resource that connects teachers, students and parents.

Our products and features include:

  • Big Universe Reader™ - Read hundreds of fiction and nonfiction children's books from today's best publishers and take optional quizzes to assess comprehension.
  • Big Universe Author™ - Create, print & publish animated e-books using an easy-to-use writing tool and 7000+ images.
  • Big Universe Community™ - Safely share your bookshelf, recommendations and published books with your peers only or thousands of other members.

Sounds fantastic doesn't it! The concept of the site is a really appealing one and the site is easy to maneuver and get around for the most part. Some of the icons are a bit confusing, but you can get to understand them quick enough. I checked out quite a few books on different levels and there are some aspects that I liked, but some that I really didn't. I liked having the books instantly available. I also liked the create and share features area. My daughter had a good time making little skits and using the clip art to create comic strips. There were however some serious flaws in the Read section.

In my opinion here are the biggest problems -
  • The site is listed as having materials for K-8 - there is one title listed for 7th & 8th graders. That's it one! I can understand that if they are hoping the future to have more content available for the 7th & 8th graders, but really the site should be promoted as K-6 with more grades to come, or something along those lines. This one book is not secular in content, has no quiz or assessment for it and is listed in the 6th grade level as well.
  • Irrelevant questions on the quizzes - I tried out a quiz on a book that was at a 1.3 level, the topic of the book was weather and I was astounded when one of the quiz questions asked like - "How many kids are on the float on page 3?" and "The animal on the rain coat on page 5 is a ______ . " Why on earth would you ask these questions. MAYBE, I could understand if you had the book in front of you and you wanted to see how perceptive the child was being, but you can't even look back at the book while taking the quiz. It is like they are asking for the kids to get frustrated with it!
  • Content of User Created Books - While they do distinguish between the user created books an publisher books, if the kids are looking to find information it could be very easy for them to get confused. After looking at some of the user created books that are listed as non-fiction, I would not feel comfortable allowing any child to use this area for research or educational purposes.
It is my opinion that this site should be revamped as two different sites. One for budding authors to be able to create and share their work and one for your published books to be accessed and used for educational purposes. I was hopeful that this site was new, but it has been around for a few years ~and from what I have seen ~ without much changes, so at this time I would save the $9.95 month for anything but this!

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