The Global Online Academy (GOA) classes offered at Catlin often go under the radar to many students at Catlin. People rarely talk about it, and I know I myself did not know much about it more than the presentations. To bring more awareness, I asked Dave Whitson, an Upper School history teacher, a few questions about the program.
Audrey Davis: What is the purpose of incorporating online courses into our curriculum next year? What are some of the benefits of online courses?
Dave Whitson:I’m going to combine these questions, as the answer is pretty much the same. I guess I see four major benefits to this:
- One of the challenges of a smaller school like Catlin is being able to provide a wide range of course offerings. You can only have so many different electives, as you don’t want to have three students in a class and you also don’t want your teachers to have four or five different classes to prep. And yet, I think everyone here recognizes the benefits of expanding the options available to students, in order to give everyone the opportunity to study subjects that are important and interesting to them. GOA offers one solution to that; it effectively doubles the course offerings for students next year. That’s exciting.
- In addition, Catlin students are really busy. They do a lot of different interesting things, but those interesting things often create scheduling conflicts. An online class that is not bound by a daily schedule can potentially free students up to do other things.
- Many students worry about the “Catlin bubble.” While the close-knit community is a wonderful thing, I can understand why, for lifers in particular, it can start to feel too comfortable and too familiar. The GOA provides an opportunity to engage other students from around the world. This immediately expands the range of perspectives, diversifying the discussion in tremendously beneficial ways. How cool is it to have a small-group project with one person in Portland, one in Jordan, and another in Indonesia?
- Finally, I think the online format really appeals to some students. I’m a huge believer in the benefits of sitting together, in a circle or rectangle, and having a discussion. But the range of options available to you online are huge, and some people are more comfortable typing or Skyping than they are talking in a full group. We want to create many different ways for students to learn and to experience academic success.
- Plus, there’s a class on French hip-hop. French hip-hop!
Davis: What are some of the disadvantages?
Whitson: There’s the potential for it to feel impersonal. As a teacher, I worry that I’ll have students in my class for a full semester and that I won’t be able to build much of a relationship with them. George (Zaninovich – teaches online urban studies course) has been really committed to fighting against that, and I hope to be able to learn from his experience.
I think certain ambitious students will use this as a way to shoehorn in yet another thing to their schedules. They have to realize that this is a full class and that, because it doesn’t actually meet for class four times each week, it will feel like it has double the homework. Students have to be really careful not to overextend themselves.
Davis: What other schools will the online courses be available to?
Whitson: See here: http://www.globalonlineacademy.org/who/index.aspx#whoweare
Davis: What Catlin teachers will offer online classes?
Whitson: In addition to my class on 9/11, George will offer his urban studies class again, and Lauren will offer a class called “The Hispanic Experience.”
As Whitson stated, the Global Online Academy fills the gaps in some of the areas Catlin falls short. It provides an opportunity to work with a diverse group students all over the world and from different backgrounds and a wider range of course offerings. Check out the classes offered online and sign up if it appeals to you!