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The Ultimate Global Experience: GOA Puts King's at the Forefront of 21st Century Learning

GOA puts King’s at the forefront of 21st century learning

In 2011, King’s Academy joined a consortium of leading independent schools across America as the founding members of the Global Online Academy (GOA). Of the 10 institutions to launch the GOA, King’s was the only international member. Back then, the GOA served 120 students in 10 inaugural classes.

As of spring 2014, the GOA includes students and teachers from four continents, eight countries, 21 statesand 12 time zones. Over 900 students have taken GOA courses and in 2014-2015, over 1,000 students are registered in 57 classes! The number of GOA member schools has shot up to 50.

This past winter, GOA director Michael Nachbar visited King’s Academy to give a special presentation about online education. Before heading back to GOA headquarters in Seattle, Nachbar spoke to the Department of Communications and Publications about 21st century learning and what it means to have a truly “global” education.

How did you know there was a need for online learning?

During a conference in San Francisco, [award-winning author and educator] Michael Horn discussed the role of online education and its impact on schools. It was clear just by listening to him that this was going to have an impact not just on public schools but on independent schools as well. The promise of it was great and there was an opportunity for it to impact the way teachers taught and how students learned, and how to prepare them for college and beyond.

How are schools selected to join GOA?

We look for schools that have strong academic programs and are forward-thinking – ones that recognize the importance and necessity of engaging our kids in this space…ones that are committed to teacher professional development and are looking to improve their programs.

Can schools apply on their own or do you look for them yourselves?

We do a mix of both. We reach out to schools, especially internationally, and we also get contacted by different places but we have certain standards. The school has to be accredited and English-speaking. It has to have a commitment to diversity and have a strong academic program as well as a strong professional development program for its faculty.

How do you control the quality and standards of teaching in the various courses?

GOA builds the infrastructure that provides teacher training and support to make sure the quality of the classes is commensurate with the quality of classes at our member schools. We train [teachers] in a rigorous professional development program of over 70 hours before they teach their class. This year [the online professional development course] is going to be six weeks long in addition to a week-long in-person workshop of building coursework and sharing ideas. We also meet with the teachers on an on-going basis and provide constant feedback in a very supportive way.

On what basis do you determine the success of a class?

We get feedback from students three times a semester, gather that information and pull it apart to give it to teachers so they can talk about their needs – what works well and what they’d like to change. There are also “active research” faculty meetings where teachers are encouraged to think of questions and gather data from their courses to make observations and changes. It’s an amazing process compared to what happens in a regular classroom.

How has GOA managed to dispel any misconceptions about online learning and turn it around so that it’s actually perceived as prestigious to participate?

One way is by coming to schools and presenting to faculty. The only way to convey that this is different is by showing people. We try to reframe it; we aren’t a company or a course provider. We are our schools, which are the best schools in the world, and they are us. We ask teachers what they would want to retain in an online course they were teaching – the same values and ideals, the emphasis on knowing their students and building relationships, challenging and inspiring kids. We help teachers think about how to do that in an online environment because it’s completely possible.

The normal advantages of traditional learning (human interaction, idea exchange, etc.) are often missing in online learning. How do you overcome this?

It’s important to acknowledge that there are advantages to both methods. It isn’t one versus the other; they complement one another. There are things you can do in a classroom that you can’t do online and vice versa. But online you have 100 percent participation in discussions. You have the ability for students to process what they’re learning over a long period of time and you can be more thoughtful about how they’re engaging in a topic. Each environment offers kids the chance to develop skills they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. GOA recognizes that we need to be doing both for our kids.

Where do you see GOA going in the next five to 10 years?

We want to add more schools and we want more kids from different places. There are great schools with great student bodies and amazing teaching faculty, and we want to work with those schools. We also want to engage the current membership more deeply and add more students from our current schools.

To learn more about GOA, visit www.globalonlineacademy.org.