Online Learning and THINK Global School: A Global Partnership

Throughout this year, GOA has partnered with  THINK Global School (TGS) to coach faculty as they built online spaces for their students. TGS puts new meaning into the term place- based learning. At TGS, described as “the world’s first traveling high school”, students spend their academic year in four different countries where they learn, live, and immerse themselves in a diverse culture and project-based curriculum.

Last May, GOA and TGS began a year long partnership to support faculty as they built online modules for their students. Students spend one week prior to their in-country stays in online work prepping for the learning they will have on site. This year, students have traveled to Botswana, India, and Japan, and will end the year in Spain and Greece later this spring.

In January, Chris Stapel, GOA Learning Design Coach, and I traveled to Hiroshima, Japan to work with the TGS faculty on the design of  online curriculum. Students are in Hiroshima working one place-based projects. For example, some students are working on a nuclear debate where they will respond to this question: how has nuclear energy affected Japan, and how will it affect the future of our world?

During our time as coaches in Japan, TGS faculty spend two days designing, building, and sharing their work in coached and collaborative sessions focused on the following topics: student agency and teacher presence.

Coaches Chris Stapel and Kristin Daniel in Hiroshima, Japan.

Student Agency

TGS faculty worked to build student voice, choice, and pace into their online work reimagining time and space in their online work.

  • Voice gives students a level of control, autonomy, and power in their learning allowing their voice to be more present than the teacher’s voice.
  • Choice allows students to have options at all levels of the learning experience, from choice of environment, approach, content, through assessment.
  • Pace provides students the flexibility to move at their own pace through their work.

Maria Valle, a TGS teacher, worked with her partner to help students design their own modules in the future. Maria wrote, “This could be an opportunity to focus on having students to curate content and then suggest an activity to demonstrate that content.” Faculty also worked on designing content curation projects where students would help build and craft the playlist for the course content.

Maria Valle builds her online module with GOA Practice Cards.

Teacher Presence

Also important in the design of online modules is teacher presence to help students feel as if their teacher is right there with them throughout the online experience. TGS faculty used Loom, a free screencasting application, to create videos helping students navigate through new content (and seethe friendly face of their teacher in the corner!). They walked the streets of Hiroshima recording videos of their thoughts on life in Hiroshima to help students get a sense of what living in the city would be like.

Matt Cook films a video introducing Hiroshima to his students.

Our time in Hiroshima ended with a Gallery Walk where TGS faculty presented the work they’d built throughout our time together.

The time we had in Japan helped us to have a renewed mindset around designing, building, and interacting with students in the online world. When done with intention and some playfulness, online experiences are as meaningful and relevant as the learning that happens in a classroom.

Here are a few helpful resources for trying to incorporate student agency and teacher presence in an online setting:

For more on GOA’s blog, see:

Global Online Academy (GOA) reimagines learning to empower students and teachers to thrive in a globally networked society. Professional learning opportunities are open to any educator. To sign up or to learn more, see our Professional Learning Opportunities for Educators or email with the subject title “Professional Learning.” Follow us on Twitter @GOALearning. To stay up to date on GOA learning opportunities, sign up for our newsletter here.

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