U of Miami adding online middle school
Written by Meghan Mangrum on August 8, 2013
The University of Miami’s online Global Academy, which recently graduated a class of seniors and live-streamed the event to other students around the world, is expanding to add a middle school to its successful high school program this school year.
The web-based school was launched in 2009 and saw enrolled students increase during the first couple of years. Currently, enrollment at the high school level is about 300-plus students, according to Global Academy Headmaster Craig Wilson.
This number is about what the school intends to keep at the high school level, enabling it to stay selective, but the addition of a middle school this year will boost those numbers in the future.
For the upcoming school year, Mr. Wilson expects to enroll about 20 students in the middle school program because it is still in its development stage. Applications continue to come in as the summer winds down, but Mr. Wilson says the academy’s first mission is to ensure the development and integration of the middle school program goes well.
“A student’s ability to achieve their academic goals in high school and beyond is really set on eighth grade achievement,” Mr. Wilson said. “We might not be growing as fast… because we truly take our time.”
The Global Academy already offers 120-plus courses, including over a dozen advanced placement courses, four foreign languages and a wide array of electives such as essentials of business, digital arts and financial literacy. The school also has interactive, extracurricular clubs such as National Honor Society, a newspaper club and a science club.
The school focuses highly on service learning, Mr. Wilson said. Service learning includes service activities that students take part in outside of the classroom that enhance what they are already learning. Such activities may include volunteering at an animal shelter or teaching other students English, depending on where the student is living.
“What it boils down to is doing activities in their community that tie into their curriculum,” Mr. Wilson said. “If you look at the landscape of other online schools, K-12, no one else has pushed service learning like us.”
These enhanced activities coupled with an extensive, well-rounded curriculum have allowed graduates of the Global Academy to further pursue their education at some of the nation’s top universities.
Graduates have been accepted at higher education institutions including Harvard University, Penn State University, New York University and locally at the University of Miami and several other Florida schools.
Mr. Wilson said that graduates have felt very prepared for their coursework and further education because of the level of interactivity that the Global Academy provides, as well as the opportunity for students to work with other students from around the world.
Originally tailored for students involved in performance arts or sports that require them to travel frequently, the school has enrolled students living in countries such as Japan, China, Australia and across Europe, Mr. Wilson said.
The type of students who enroll in the online school has been shifting, though, according to Mr. Wilson. More and more students are enrolling because they aren’t happy with their education at a “brick-and-mortar” school or because they want to supplement or complement their current education.
“Online learning has gained in popularity over the past five years,” Mr. Wilson said. “Parents can supplement their students’ education at brick-and-mortar schools.”
The Global Academy also has begun partnering with other institutions to provide virtual instruction in an area that school might not have an instructor for. Schools reach out to the Global Academy, which then provides virtual instruction in the topic to a classroom of students. Those students will have additional coursework online after the instruction is finished, so they are engaged in both areas.
“That is really a perfect blend of a hybrid model,” Mr. Wilson said.
As younger generations grow up with more and more technology, such hybrid models might become more popular. Mr. Wilson cites students’ technology-filled childhood as a reason online schools are successful.
“They don’t know the world without the internet,” Mr. Wilson said. “Everything has been digital their whole life.”