Student Spotlight: Thriving in Student-Led Learning

Alex L., a student at Greenhill School, took the Introduction to Branding & Marketing course with GOA during her junior year as an opportunity to “dip my toes in the water and start exploring something that I otherwise would not have been able to.”

The course allowed Alex to dive into her interest in advertising, branding, and marketing and provided her with the opportunity to experiment and learn, which she found different from her experience in more traditional courses. Alex highlighted three significant aspects of her experience with the course: agency in how and when she learned, access to global perspectives, and development of real-world skills.

Student Agency & Student-Led Learning

In her previous classes, Alex focused on specific requirements and grades. Taking Introduction to Branding & Marketing with GOA allowed her to choose what and how she wanted to learn. “In my regular classes, I am used to being taught one way and having one right answer but in this class, I am taught through exploration.”

This allowed Alex and her peers to experiment with new ideas and perspectives. “I feel like there's not really a right or wrong answer. We're choosing how we want to take the information that is given to us and how we want to apply that,” she says. “Everyone is turning in something that looks very different, when we're all starting with the same information. It's very cool.”

Alex has also found flexibility surrounding the schedule of her course material and assignments.

"I can do the assignments on my own time,” she says. “I am a big planner, so being able to get ahead on assignments before a week that I have a lot of tests is very helpful."

Through leading their own learning, GOA students are empowered to take control of their education and to become more engaged and invested in their learning so they are prepared for college and beyond.

Global Perspectives

Alex particularly enjoyed collaborating with peers from around the world, which gave her the opportunity to discuss and engage with new ideas and people outside of her usual circle. “Coming from a school that I've been at for 12 years, I am around the same people, hearing the same thoughts and ideas,” she says. “And to be able to expand that group is a really cool opportunity.”

She also appreciated asynchronous discussions with other students and reflecting on how everyone approached a concept or assignment differently throughout the course. “You're getting to see how other people registered [the information] and how they also chose to do the assignment, and then go back and question that and compare and say, ‘Wow, I never thought about it from this perspective. … I'm glad you pointed that out.’”

Connecting on a peer level has also been a highlight for Alex. During a recent call with students from Italy and Hungary, “We were talking about our school and the difference in the work that we're having, and how they're getting ready for bed and I'm just waking up in the morning,” she says. “Laughing with them on that call was something that I will never forget.”

Relevant Skills

Alex credits her Introduction to Branding & Marketing course and the global connections she’s created in helping her build new skills, particularly in communication, collaboration, and time management as well as the ever-practical converting of time zones. “Right now we are working on a bigger project with a group, and it's hard because everyone is in different time zones,” she says.

“Communication is key with your teacher and your peers” in an online course, Alex says. “Because normally, in a classroom environment, the communication is kind of there for you with that face-to-face connection. But now that you're not having that, it's really important that you take matters into your own hands and establish that yourself.”

By offering a more flexible and student-led approach to learning, Alex has also learned how to ask more questions and follow up in her courses. “I can also apply the questioning in school and to my teachers in my classes,” she says. “Just knowing that — questioning things — makes everything better.”

The branding and marketing course has also helped Alex develop her time management skills. “In my other classes, I'm having an allotted time period, and I'm having more strict due dates for things,” she says. “In this GOA course, I'm making my own schedule and choosing when to do everything.” Alex also says the course provides a space for her to be creative and take a break from the rest of her schoolwork. “It feels like a break, but it also feels like I'm learning more than I ever would in another class.”

Alex plans to explore other GOA courses that align with her interests and is looking forward to using the knowledge and skills she’s learned in Introduction to Branding & Marketing. “This feels like the content I might take with me into my major for college,” she says, “and content that I can truly apply to the world around me.”

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This post is part of our Student Spotlight series, where we feature stories from students who take GOA courses. Are you a current or former GOA student who would like to be interviewed for a Student Spotlight article? Or, are you an educator who has a recommendation for a student for us to feature? Email us at with the subject title “Student Spotlight.”

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