Review by Jason Shiroff, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2016

Big Universe Learning

An extensive e-library at your fingertips, but no adaptive features

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Teachers say (2 Reviews)
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1-4 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: A searchable online library with thousands of titles can help spark students' love of reading.

Cons: Adaptive learning features, updated writing tools, and more social interaction could make the site more appealing.

Bottom Line: Such a large library is great, but an updated set of learning tools -- from adaptivity to writing and social features -- would be a nice addition.

Big Universe Learning is best used to get books into the hands of students who don't have access to printed materials. With a subscription to the website, teachers have an instant library to share, recommend, and assign to students -- a wonderful feature. Teachers can help engage reluctant readers by assigning specific books and modeling the site's search options. The dashboard can help teachers track students' reading habits.

The quizzes can give teachers a broad look at reading comprehension. Often, online writing tools can help motivate and inspire reluctant writers. While they are a bit dated, writing tools can make writing fun for some young writers. Kids' ability to share stories with the class might be just the right incentive to get them producing higher-quality works.

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Big Universe Learning is a literacy and e-reading website that offers three main functions: an online library of leveled books, a writing tool, and a social network. The online library is the most notable feature, with thousands of texts available to students. Kids can search the library by grade level, age, topic, and genre. Teachers can assign books, and the accompanying quizzes, with just a few clicks. The online book reader is simple to use but somewhat limited; there aren't any annotation tools. The included quizzes assess a limited range of comprehension strategies, and there aren't any adaptive learning technologies built into the site.

A Flash-based writing tool is the second main area of the website. While appealing to younger students, the clip art and dated layout may turn off older kids. Big Universe Learning also includes some limited social networking features for teachers and students -- in terms of privacy and safety, some teachers might prefer this. However, students used to the web's plethora of robust social networking sites are likely to crave more interaction.

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Big Universe Learning is a solid platform for reading books, but it doesn't offers teachers and students the right support for developing stronger reading skills. The lack of adaptive features limits the potential of the site to target and promote literacy at just the right level. Nevertheless, the site is great for basic online reading. Books are visually engaging to young readers and often invite further exploration of the library.

While the quizzes are functional, they aren't as engaging or adaptive as they could be, mainly providing deep insight into reading skills as encouraged by the Common Core standards. The site's writing section can encourage digital creation, but a more robust tool would engage students more. While the social networking component is a nice idea, it's limited and it pales in comparison to sharing tools that students might already be using elsewhere within their school. Overall, Big Universe Learning's huge library is great, but the site comes up short due to its lack of adaptive learning tools and the dated writing platform.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The library is fun and easy to explore, with many ways to search. The full-color picture books are inviting to read. While the writing tools may appeal to younger students, the interface is dated and overly complicated.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Teachers can match students with interesting and "just right" texts quickly and easily. Basic multiple choice comprehension tests are included with many titles. However, adaptive/interactive features would be a big improvement.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The library is easy to navigate and intuitive to use. However, students and teachers only get limited access to data that only provides a broad stroke of student progress. Users don't get any literacy strategies or specific skills help.

Common Sense Reviewer
Jason Shiroff Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
Jacquelyn W. , Other
Subscription site for elementary students to read and write books

Big Universe is an online subscription service with online books. It also offers a simple book creation tool. I like that you can assign specific books to students and customize their bookshelf. Though the book creation tool has an outdated interface it is easy enough for even your youngest students to use. The service could be improved by offering more and higher quality books.

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