GOA: The “Gold Standard” of Online Learning

The history of education is filled with examples of the “next big thing.” We all probably remember hearing about, or perhaps even engaging with correspondence courses, radio lectures, educational television, “teaching machines”, MOOCs (massively open online courses)… But – so far at least – no one has managed to provide students a more powerful learning experience than the “gold standard”: a classroom such as we have at SAS with 10-20 students and a passionate, committed teacher meeting in person several times per week to consider, discuss, and engage in hands-on ways with compelling material.

Starting this fall, SAS Pudong High School is delighted to offer our students the closest thing yet found to that gold standard: access to the Global Online Academy (GOA). GOA is a consortium-based online high school course provider which differs from other online programs in significant ways. GOA members include some of the best international and US independent schools in the world. GOA courses are taught only by faculty at GOA member schools, and only member school students may take classes. GOA classes are not intended to replace core or required classes, allowing GOA to provide opportunities for faculty and kids to explore passions through courses and topics not typically offered in high schools.

Its wide-ranging course catalog allows GOA to offer something for almost everyone. This year, SAS Pudong high school will have students working on advanced topics in Mathematics, Computer Science, and the social sciences. Among the classes our students are taking include:

  • Comparative Politics
  • Game Design and Development
  • Gender Studies
  • Genocide and Human Rights
  • iOS App Design
  • Linear Algebra
  • Medical Problem Solving
  • Multivariable Calculus
  • Number Theory
  • Social Psychology
  • 9/11 in a Global Context

While few, if any, of GOA’s member schools could offer this specialized of a course on their own campuses, by pooling together, all member schools gain access to these and other unique high school opportunities.

To facilitate the formation of true learning cohorts with classmates from all around the world, GOA courses are purposely kept small: sections are capped at 20 students, and all classes must have a mix of member schools represented in their student rosters. Unlike many online course providers, GOA requires collaboration among classmates, as well as both synchronous and asynchronous activities. Over the course of their lives, many of today’s high school students will need to excel in this type of on-line collaborative environment, and GOA prepares kids for this important part of their future.

Teachers of GOA courses are required to complete at least two GOA courses themselves before applying to offer a GOA course. SAS Pudong High School teachers Amanda Young and James Young (no relation) both engaged with GOA Professional Development last summer and reported outstanding experiences. Ms. Young, who teaches IB Biology and AP Environmental Science, notes that the online course she took “was a great opportunity to learn and share with varied colleagues from many schools across the US and internationally.” Mr. Young – Chemistry, AP Chemistry, and IB Environmental Systems and Societies – traveled to Seattle in July for the GOA Summer Learning Design Summit. “As a neophyte to the Global Online Academy I was assigned a curriculum coach who guided me through the design of a course using research-based learning and instructional strategies to maximize student learning. It was truly one of the most informative and inspiring events I have ever attended.”

GOA provides interesting and high-quality classes, taught by great teachers. The high school students on our Pudong campus now have access to peers and courses from other member schools as well as outstanding trainings for SAS faculty and opportunities to develop and teach GOA courses in the future. Proud to join the GOA consortium, SAS is gaining access to a network of outstanding, like-minded educators around the world.

About the Author

Dr. Benjamin Lee,
High School Principal of Shanghai American School,
Pudong Campus.

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