King’s Academy, September 28, 2016 - Khaled Abdulaziz ’18 is the reigning champion of Global Online Academy (GOA) at King’s Academy. He has five GOA courses under his belt so far, and plans to take at least two to three more courses before he graduates.
“They are really awesome,” said Abdulaziz of the GOA courses he has taken, namely Big History, Fiction Writing, Bio Ethics and Game Theory. He is currently enrolled in Practical Astronomy, and plans on taking Linear Algebra next term. “After I took the first course I really liked it, so I thought I would take more.”
Since its establishment in 2011, the Global Online Academy – founded by King’s Academy and nine leading independent schools across America - has been growing in leaps and bounds. More and more students, like Abdulaziz, are enrolling in more than one class. GOA started with 120 enrollments in 10 classes in 2011. By 2016, the GOA network had increased to 64 schools and more than 1,300 enrollments in 45 courses.
According to GOA Director of Teaching and Learning Eric Hudson, GOA offers a high quality learning experience, while letting students learn in different ways about topics they care about. It gives students and teachers the opportunity to connect with people from many different schools in many different locations and the courses are just as interactive, rigorous and interesting as on-campus offerings.
Abdulaziz has always enjoyed learning. When he was younger, he would often buy books that were too difficult for him to fully understand, but that he nevertheless enjoyed reading and that gave him a glimpse into possible areas of study and career paths for the future.
“I really love to study. What interests me is knowing about things around me and how the world functions,” he said. “GOA courses allow you to have a broader view of the world. If you take a course you’ll have a really global perspective, because literally people all around the world are with you in the same class. In my current class now there are students from Singapore, Japan and the United States.”
His favorite course was the first one he took, Big History, which replaced freshman history. “It was a really fun class. Three schools in three different countries collaborated on delivering the same course, sharing material with each other, and giving the same tests.”
One of the major differences between GOA and regular classrooms is that the students and teacher do not meet face-to-face, instead communicating online and through Skype. GOA is designed to offer classes most campuses can't offer, in an online environment that everyone needs to know how to navigate these days. Despite their physical distance from each other, students are still assigned group projects, and must collaborate with their classmates, contending with challenges such as working together in different time zones.
“It can be hard to find a time for all of us to meet. Someone has to stay up late or wake up early,” said Abdulaziz of his course-long assignment for Practical Astronomy. “Our project is to keep observing the stars and measure how altitudes change as the earth rotates around the sun. I get permission to go and measure the stars during study hall!”
Three assignments are also due at the end of each week, so Abdulaziz spends about half an hour a day on coursework, spreading the work out over the week. He says that King’s provides the right atmosphere for students who want to take GOA classes, as students learn to manage their time and can therefore easily fit GOA classes into their schedules.
“It’s a heavy course load, but it will help you to adjust to an even greater course load when the time comes to go to university.”
Abdulaziz, who plans to study physics at university, believes that GOA course material he is taking now will stand him in good stead. Next year he will sign up for GOA’s class on Multi-Variable Calculus, to help him prepare for the math he expects to learn at university.
Abdulaziz encourages all students to take at least one GOA class, and wants them to know that they can replace some of their school requirements with GOA classes.
“It’s not as hard as it sounds, its actually easier than you would expect it to be. Content-wise they are just as difficult as regular classes, but the work load is a little easier,” he explained. “I am actually done with everything I have to take, all I need to do to graduate is take math, English and Arabic. I’m just taking classes now because I’m interested in them.”
In GOA courses, trust between teachers and students remains one of the most crucial factors for success. GOA teachers must trust students not to cheat on assignments or tests, and students must honor that trust, which comes with its own rewards.
“Last year another student at King’s and I took the same GOA class. I liked how the teacher actually trusted us not to talk to each other even though we were given the same test,” Abdulaziz said.
Khaled Abdulaziz is not alone in appreciating the opportunities for learning that GOA has to offer. According to Eric Hudson, King’s Academy has the second highest number of enrollments in the GOA consortium, numbering 51 in 2016-2017.
“Over the years, King's has always enrolled many students, but more important to us, the feedback from students has been consistently some of the most positive,” said Hudson. “King's students love the opportunity to take a different kind of class, and they embrace the challenge and opportunities of online learning. We have found King's students’ open-mindedness and intellectual curiosity make them very well-suited for our courses.”