Coauthored by Collette Wilson ’23 and Penn Schneider ’23.
Global Online Academy (GOA) has been one of the most controversial topics at Sequoyah’s high school for a long time. From the number of credits each class is worth, to the effectiveness of the classes, GOA has split the students into different factions. Some students praise it as a useful supplement to the Sequoyah curriculum, while others question its value. Before dissecting this hotly disputed topic, it is important to understand what exactly GOA is.
Global Online Academy is a nonprofit organization that provides online classes to a consortium of about 120 independent schools that otherwise wouldn’t have those classes. The offered courses include topics like Arabic Language Through Culture and How to Argue Well, along with more “regular” classes like Geometry. These classes are taken online, by students from all over the world. While some courses are only offered for students attending schools in the consortium, those offered during the summer are open to all. Along with courses for students, there are also two-day-long ones offered for educators that provide tools under topics like Competency Based Learning, Leadership, and Instructional Design.
Sequoyah High School Director Marc Alongi shared that Sequoyah is part of the GOA consortium “to broaden our curricular offerings.” Since Sequoyah joined GOA in its second or third year, its courses have been listed as part of the curriculum. Alongi also shared that “relative to lots of other places they are much more mission aligned with Sequoyah in the ways that they think about education. And thirdly, they also provide lots of great resources and training for faculty and staff around teaching and learning,” something particularly useful at the very beginning of distance learning. GOA courses are only offered to 11th and 12th graders after meeting with Alongi and a Dean in order to make sure it’s a fit. At the moment, Multivariable Calculus is the only one considered SAS, but more are being considered for future years.
Some students greatly value what GOA brings to Sequoyah. Max Rabaudi ’23 shared, “it offered me the opportunity to explore subjects that they don’t offer at Sequoyah, which I’m really enjoying.” Other students echo this sentiment, having taken interesting classes that allow them to thrive. Advantages that no one can deny include the wide range of courses and the chance to meet students from all over the world. However, even the students who support it offer caveats. “Of course, it has its downsides, which is, it’s more difficult to schedule meetings with your peers,” said Rabaudi, but for him, the benefits outweighed the disadvantages.
Similarly, Harlow Lehman-Rhoads ’23 shared how her courses allowed her to learn about topics like Bioethics and Neuropsychology that aren’t available in the regular Sequoyah curriculum. She appreciated how through GOA “you’re able to refine your interests and…take a class that’s specific to what you want to learn about,” something made more possible by the broad range of courses offered. Although there is some disconnect between students, their peers, and their teachers due to its asynchronous nature, GOA also allows students to take agency over their learning and develop time and work management skills. Lehman-Rhoads observed that “you do have to take initiative for yourself, which is something that I feel like Sequoyah values in their classes, and you’re able to have your own schedule and make sure you get everything done on time without anyone being there to make sure that you do it.” While some enjoy this independence, others find it challenging to stay on top of their work, especially in instances when they don’t find the material particularly engaging.
While a number of students support GOA, others offer criticism of the program. For example, Cooper Westphal ’23 found his psychology course to be lacking in rigor. Westphal shared, “the teacher … was like, what’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? And…I had to write about that in a discussion post but it had nothing to do with psychology.” Westphal also noted the difficulty in meeting up with his fellow classmates. Since the students live around the world, it can be hard to find a time where everyone is free, or even awake. Greta Simpson ’23 mentions, “it’s really difficult trying to have organized meetings with people all across the world. And it’s kind of unmotivating, when the whole focus of the class is…setting up a meeting with someone in Germany.” Logistical challenges, as Simpson noted, can pose challenges for student motivation. Another aspect of being in a virtual classroom means that it can be hard to cultivate long-lasting relationships with one’s peers.
Some students recommend opting for a Sequoyah class or taking a free block and enrolling in a course at a local community college when possible. As with GOA, interesting and unique classes are still available, but with the added benefit of not spending “so much time trying to figure out how to meet with your peers,” Simpson says. Finally, dual enrollment at a college means that not only will passing the class reward students with high school credits (assuming prior approval by the administration), but that college credits may be acquired as well (though this will vary by institution).
Dean of Students Cliff Mason II has a slightly different perspective, given his role as a contact point between students and GOA courses. He spoke about Westphal’s experience as “just sad, because I had the opportunity to work with him in the classroom, and I can see how excited a kid can get when the material speaks to them.” With this in mind, he shares the belief that GOA is a great resource “in the interim.” Given the size and resources of Sequoyah, it makes a lot of sense that the school would be part of GOA; however, for schools with the capacity for that level of course range within their own institute, there may be no need.
Overall, GOA can be great for the right person in the right circumstance–someone who is self-motivated and looking for something beyond what is offered at Sequoyah. GOA courses should be considered as a separate entity rather than being compared as an equivalent to a Sequoyah class. A student who wants to take a GOA class should be prepared to spend lots of time on independent work, and perhaps even to wake up early to meet up with their classmates. However, the advantages are clear. Deep diving into topics that interest students not offered at Sequoyah can prove to be an invaluable experience for those who are still figuring out what they want to do with their life. In the end, once students are juniors or seniors, they should consult Mason and Alongi about whether GOA is a fit for them.