Online classes offer students more options

This story was originally printed in the Oct. 28, 2014 issue. When it was printed, it stated that the Board of Trustees was considering adding Global Online Academy to the curriculum. This story has since been corrected. 

When Tucker Foehl, assistant head for strategic programs, joined Country Day staff this year, he suggested that perhaps Country Day could become a part of Global Online Academy.

“I’ve been aware of the academy since it was founded,” Foehl said. “I reached out to the executive director of the school to let him know that I was here and that Country Day might be a school that could potentially be interested in the program.”

A number of the top boarding and independent schools make up the GOA consortium.

Faculty teachers from the consortium schools are the ones teaching the classes, which are high level, Foehl said.

Brooke Wells, head of high school, would be the one to decide whether GOA would be added to the curriculum.

“It’s one of those things that would go slowly,” Wells said. “The finances have to be figured out. It’s not a cheap program if the school buys into it.”

GOA courses would not replace required math, science, history or English, Wells said. Instead it would be a chance to expand elective offerings and enrichment offerings.

Wells said the addition of GOA would be something he would consider during the summer, as throughout the year he has to deal with day-to-day issues.

“At this point, it’s just a cool idea,” Wells said. “When our student population grows a bit, it would be nice to support a wide variety of electives.”

GOA offers courses in art, media, design, health, medicine, intercultural studies, mathematics, technology, philosophy, politics and economics.

According to a recent poll of 114 high-school students, 98 said that they would take an online course because of its availability.

Junior Jag Lally said he would take a class during his free period.

“It would be way more convenient than commuting to another school, and it would allow me to get credit for a class without having to take it in an actual classroom,” Lally said.

Juniors Jacob Durante and Keaton Ochoa are currently teaching themselves computer science during one of their free elective periods. They are using an online textbook written by professors at Princeton University.

“Although it isn’t an online class, (Keaton and I) have had such a positive experience with our online book that I would trust an online program,” Durante said.

Freshman Atsuo Chiu wants to take an online class to avoid spending a year on one subject.

Although Chiu doesn’t have any classes in particular that he would want to take online, he said that he would take a class that wasn’t provided at Country Day.

“I could just take the class whenever I had free time, which would allow me to go straight into a higher level class the next year or to get credits for that class,” Chiu said.

This tactic is already used by several high-school students, including senior Jaspreet Gill.

Gill took biology through BYU Independent Study over the summer of his junior year and is now taking AP biology. He did this to fulfill the prerequisite for AP biology.

By doing this, Gill was able to take an additional AP class during his senior year instead of taking regular biology to fill the requirement.

Biology was easy to take online, Gill said.

“The program was interactive, and I didn’t have to drive anywhere to take the class,” he said.

“I just brought my computer with me everywhere I went.”

Other students who have taken online classes in the past are also interested in taking classes from GOA because of their positive experiences.

Sophomore Camille Locke took Algebra II through Apex Learning during the summer after her freshman year.

“Apex was really well done, especially since I could set my own pace,” Locke said.

Since Apex is geared for homeschooled children, its teachers are very interactive and are available to answer questions at most times, according to Locke.

“I had access to a teacher at any time,” she said.

Although students are requesting the addition of GOA, would its courses make the school more attractive?

Lonna Bloedau, director of admissions, doesn’t think so.

Bloedau said that she sometimes looks at distance learning skeptically, especially concerning the rigor and depth of such programs.

When applications arrive with records of online classes, they also come with letter grades. However, according to Bloedau, those letter grades never indicate the level of critical thinking skills that are required at Country Day.

“Those types of grades leave us wondering what was done to earn that grade,” Bloedau said.

“Was it a mere comprehension test? Did the student learn about literary analysis, or were they asked to synthesize and interpret what they read? This makes it hard to gauge the value.”

Because of this uncertainty, any classes taken outside of Country Day, including online classes, are attached to the official transcript. Therefore, those classes aren’t included in students’ overall GPAs.

However, when new classes are added to the curriculum, the school must get the classes approved by the University of California, which articulates approved classes in California high schools, according to college counselor Jane Bauman.

For instance, when history teacher Ron Bell wanted to offer Great Ideas that Changed History last year, he had to have it approved as a college-prep elective by UC.

Although UC approves online classes on a case-by-case basis, it approves certain online schools. If Country Day offered online courses, these would also have to be articulated with UC. If they were approved, then the classes could be added to the Country Day transcript, Bauman said.



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