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★★★ Open House ★★★
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Adventure Academy
© 2019 Age of Learning, Inc.

CTR Review
Ease of Use
Design Features
Reviewed using the Standard Rubric
All Evaluations
Child Paced
Supportive of Inter-Personal Interactions
Well Crafted
For ages 8-13
For grades 3, 4, 5, 6
$10/month or $120 year, iPad, Android, iPhone, Windows, Mac OSX
Teaches: reading skills, comprehension, math, science, social studies
Imagine an MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) like Club Penguin on a school campus, and you get the idea behind Adventure Academy. After you enter your credit card information (required, even for the one week "free" preview) you create an account and up to three avatars, for up to three children who can be at different challenge levels. You can then freely explore; chatting via short typed messages with the other real-time avatars. The social part is very fun. Our evening testing session was full of real kids walking around, eager to chat, or be friends.

There are challenges to complete, coins to earn and stuff to purchase in school store. The challenges include meeting the professors for science, math, social studies and reading, and playing the "games" which are really mostly some form of multiple-choice quiz. You can also earn coins by watching a lot of short videos and flipping through narrated, non-interactive ebooks. The music videos were excellent, but the ebook library varied in quality -- most having limited features and no interactivity other than the page flips. Some of the games leveled poorly. Others are poorly designed, confusing children for the wrong reasons. All content is derived directly from a generic school curriculum, which makes some of the time in this academy feel like busy work (e.g., you can quickly flip through a book just to earn credit, or start a video and get up to leave). But you have to finish the book or video to earn the coins even if you already know the answers. As you level up, you earn coins and purchase more clothing, swag and dance moves; following a tried-and-true formula. Other weaknesses include a lack of sound in parts of the iOS version, some clunky transitions (the screen goes black when entering a new area), and the avatars overlap when they collide. The iOS version that we reviewed suffered from clumsy navigation (see the video for the specifics). Note that a solid internet connection is required, because new content to move around between each area because the content is loaded as you play. In other words, Adventure Academy can't be played offline.

Features include the ability to save progress for up to three children automatically. At one point during our testing we lost our Internet connection and had to start over -- but no work was lost. We reviewed Adventure Academy on the first day of public use. Currently content covers 3rd through 6th grades. New content for older children is planned. At this point, middle schoolers may find that the animated theme feels a bit young. We'll hope for gradual improvement as this ambitious project matures.

Ethics: We rated Adventure Academy with the Fred Rogers Ethics Rubric, which helped us spot some issues:

* The full price is confusing and not provided at the start of the purchase process.

* Once in the world, brands are mixed with educational content (e.g., Adventure Academy branded T-shirts are sold in the shop).

• The free trial is combined with an auto-renewal mechanism that requires reading fine print to understand. You have to be able to find the parent section in order to cancel.
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