How does the ADA system work?
Parents find the combination of our Catholic curriculum and grading system comforting because the material is solid and fully in the line of the timeless teachings of the Catholic Church, and convenient because our grading system frees them to concentrate on teaching, answering questions, and keeping order.
The most obvious difference which our families will very much enjoy is that we grade everything, rather than the usual small sample submitted once per quarter to other homeschooling services. The benefits of this system to both parent and student are tremendous.
Overview video coming soon!
This video will show the typical routine of the student completing the coursework, scanning and emailing it to us, with a quick return of the graded coursework and academic progress reports.
The “Big Picture”
The student follows the free, customized lessons plans you created, completing the exercises as he reads the materials. Some exercises are short-answers (handwritten), and others are computer-gradable. The exercises are completed either by paper and pencil or online (coming soon).
Either the parent or the student regularly submits the completed exercises to us for grading (preferably once per week, at least). We grade and quickly return the coursework to you (and the student) by email.
We also regularly email you (and the student) academic progress reports, which include easy-to-read charts showing the student’s current calculated grade, as well as his progress according to your family’s custom academic schedule.
How do I submit the coursework?
It’s easy! Please read the short notes below. We’d like to say up-front that after you get used to it, the process of scanning and submitting the schoolwork is quick and easy. It should take just a few minutes. One other thing: if, for some reason, the scanning is not an option for you, feel free to simply mail the schoolwork to us in the U.S. mail system. It is all the same to us.
SUGGESTION: Teach the student to scan and submit his own coursework. Some students actually enjoy submitting their own work and feeling in control of the process. On the other hand, having the student submit his own coursework involves the dangers of children being on the internet, if even to send an email.
Step 1: Scan the pages
With our system, you can use just about any scanner manufactured in the last ten years or so to scan the schoolwork. It seems that most people these days have “all-in-one printers” which can print / copy / scan / fax. We recommend scanners which have a feeder tray . This allows a whole stack of papers to be pulled in and scanned. We also highly recommend a scanner which can scan double-sided, as our exercises manuals are printed double-sided.
NOTE: Unless you will be using the U.S. mail to send us the coursework (which would be fine!), an actual scanner machine is necessary to use our system. Smartphone apps such as “Camscanner” will unfortunately, not work.
- Always scan the pages two-sided, in full color, and in high resolution (we recommend setting the scanner to 300 dpi “dots per inch”, which is a fairly standard setting for most scanners).
- Please scan and submit ALL pages of the lesson, even blank pages or pages without exercises.
- Please ensure that your scanner plate is clean. Scanners with debris or dirty glass plates can cause misreads by our grading system. Please follow your scanner manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning.
- If your scanner does not have a paper feeder (and you just have a glass plate):
- Always remove the completed pages from the black binder bar which we ship with the exercises manual. The pages will not scan properly if the pages are left in the binder and “folded over” while on the glass.
- Always close the cover of the scanner when scanning.
- Please consider purchasing a scanner with an auto-feeder. You can scan a whole stack of pages with one button. They are very affordable these days.
When finished with the scan, most scanners allow you to save the images in a variety of file formats. Please choose one of the following three:
- A single PDF file containing all the scanned pages. This is by far the best choice. Almost all scanners offer the option to save all the pages as a single PDF file.
- Individual image files. This option is not as convenient at the PDF format, because you will have many files to deal with, rather than one. Just about any image file your scanner supports should work, but JPG is probably the best (produces the smallest file size).
- A zip file. Some scanners can take the multiple image files and join them into one zip file. You can also do this yourself with the multiple image files and just email the single file. On Windows computers, simply select all the image filenames, right-click, and choose “Send To->Compressed (zip) folder”. Mac probably supports something equivalent.
Step 2: Submit the file(s)
There are two ways to submit the file(s) your scanner produced:
Option 1: Email them to email@example.com
- Some printers/scanners are network enabled and can directly email scanned pages. If yours can, great! You can send them right to us without first saving the files to your computer.
- If not, save the pdf (or separate image files) to your computer. In a perfect world, we recommend you both name the completed files with something helpful (e.g. “Joseph’s biology lesson 14.pdf”) and then store these files in a special folder (e.g. “Joseph’s biology scans”). This makes it much easier to find if we ask you to resubmit (see Step 3 below).
Compose a new email message to firstname.lastname@example.org and attach the file(s). Please do not “drag-drop” the files into your email, as many services (such as Gmail) will greatly reduce the resolution and size of the image!) Instead, please actually attach the image (often, email programs use a little paper-clip icon).
NOTE: Most email providers have a file size attachment limit. Gmail’s limit for example, is 25 megabytes. It would take many scanned page images to exceed this limit, but it could happen. If you do run into such limitations, try scanning a smaller stack of pages, or use Option 2 below.
Option 2: Login to your ADA account and upload them via the parent / student portal.
Step 3: Carefully store the already-submitted printed pages
IMPORTANT: After you have submitted the coursework, please do not throw away the papers. Problems such as the following can and sometimes do happen, in which we might ask you to resubmit certain pages:
- We cannot read the student’s handwriting;
- Something went wrong in the scanning process (occasionally pages get pulled in wrong by the scanner, etc.; or perhaps you forgot to scan it at 300 dpi and full color, etc.);
- We show no record of having received the pages.
We recommend each student have his own filing area, where his submitted pages are stored and organized by course. This makes it very easy to find completed coursework should we request a resend. You might just store them in a simple folder or box. The important thing is that they are kept available until the course is complete.
Step 4: Relax and wait for the graded coursework to be emailed back to you!
Shortly after sending them to us, you should receive an auto-response by email that we have received the coursework, and that the grading process has begun. Those lessons which contain handwritten exercises will be graded by a human; thus there could be a delay of a few days on these, although we strive for one-day turnaround. Those lessons which contain only computer-gradable exercises will be immediately graded, and you will probably receive them the same day.
What do the graded coursework and academic progress reports look like?
Please see this page which shows and explains these. Note that the student will also be emailed the graded coursework if, when enrolling, you provided us an email address for the student. If you did not, you can add an email address anytime. (These features are customizable through the parent portal.)
Our free, customized lesson plans are also a computer reminder system
When you enroll in our system, we offer you the choice to generate free, customized lesson plans for the student. (Show me a sample, customized lesson plans document – this links to a pdf document, which will either open in your browser or download.) If you do not generate these plans at the time of enrollment, no worries: it is never too late – you can generate (or regenerate) them anytime on our parent portal.
These plans can easily be tailored to your family’s unique school year schedule accounting not only for your Christmas and Easter breaks, but also for other holydays, holidays, celebrations, etc. With your assistance, the student should follow the schedule on these lesson plans. But, we wish to stress that besides being a useful guide for you and the student to reference, these lesson plans also “have teeth”. That is, the same software that created the plans can also help “enforce” the schedule. This is done by automated texts / emails we occasionally send you (and the student) as the school year progresses. These messages let you know whether the student is “on schedule”, falling behind, or, thanks be to God – ahead of schedule! (We can determine if the student is on schedule by consulting which lessons have been submitted to us for grading.)
These reminders can be very useful for keeping the parent ‘in the loop” and keeping the student honest. You may find yourself no longer asking, “Thomas, are you keeping up with your schoolwork?”. You will already have a fairly accurate idea of how he is doing academically and if he is keeping up with the schedule.
Please note that these status messages are meant to help, not stress you out. The ADA staff understands that “life happens”, and students fall behind. We will never pressure you or the student. Many parents find these messages helpful, but you can disable them anytime on the parent portal.