Student Program

Flex Courses

What is a Flex Course?

Short, interactive online classes about the most important issues facing the world today.

Flex courses are opportunities for middle and high school students (ages 13 and up) to join a global conversation about relevant, real-world topics. Designed and facilitated by experienced GOA teachers, flex courses are mostly asynchronous, highly interactive online experiences (two to three weeks) with no required meeting times. Students explore playlists of resources, engage in discussions, and complete hands-on activities to apply their new knowledge.

Designed for teachers and students to incorporate into existing classes, clubs, advisory programs, etc., flex courses ask participants to spend two to three hours per week in the course (in-class and/or as homework), leaving time to weave online learning into in-school coursework. Many teachers and advisors supplement GOA flex courses with materials and classroom activities of their own in order to best meet students’ needs. While most students come to GOA flex courses when their teachers sign up the whole class, we certainly welcome individuals (including teachers!) who just want to learn more about the topic.

Flex Course FAQs

Flex Courses 2019-2020

Flex courses are delivered via GOA's secure online platform and are open to all students. These courses are open to students from our member schools.

When a Virus Goes Viral—March 31 - April 3, 2020

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While ideas, goods, and people move quickly around our globalized world, pathogens spread with the same haste. Outbreaks of disease and epidemics have been part of human history since we started living in close proximity, but increased mobility and population densities allow for disease to spread even faster, making any local outbreak a potential global threat.

Using the recent coronavirus outbreak as a case study, this one week learning experience will explore specific factors that contribute to epidemics and pandemics as well as some strategies for preventing these occurrences. We will then move to examine ways that countries, organizations, and individuals may respond, depending on their context.

As this global health crisis unfolds, you will be given the opportunity to consider some crucial questions through the lenses of both public health and social sciences. These questions include: Is this SARS 2.0? Are we appropriately applying lessons learned from past epidemics? What role does place play in the spread of these diseases? How can we share news of these threats responsibly?

Course Details

We are offering this abbreviated flex course as a timely response to the current outbreak of the coronavirus. Like all GOA flex courses, this experience is designed for teachers to incorporate into existing courses, clubs, advisory programs, and school related endeavors. Students and teachers can expect to spend 2-3 hours of total engagement in this course from Tuesday, February 18 to Friday, February 31. This leaves significant time for other curricular work in the typical middle or high school schedule. Many teachers or club advisors supplement GOA flex courses with materials of their own in order to best meet their students’ needs.

Guest Speakers

Lily Liu teaches Mandarin in an international school in Vietnam. On January 24, she returned to her hometown in Nanjing, China to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Now, the coronavirus' spread across China is preventing her from re-entering Vietnam.

David Wohl, MD is a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He is the site leader for the HIV Prevention and Treatment Clinical Trials Unit at Chapel Hill and co-leads the UNC Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Research Working Group. He researches serious viral infections, specializing in HIV and diseases that have affected Liberia, West Africa, such as Ebola and Lassa fever.

William Fischer, MD is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. His specialty areas include severe viral infections, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and critical care medicine. His research works to mitigate the threat of acute viral infections in constrained communities.

Who is this course for?

This course will serve as a conversation catalyst for students in grades 7-12. The variety of resources available in the course will appeal to this wide span of age groups along with classes from many different disciplines, including journalism, social studies, global studies, biology, and government.

Changing the Course of Climate Change — May 11-22, 2020

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Have you experienced climate change? Are there rising temperatures, or extreme weather conditions in your hometown? Have there been droughts or floods that leave environmental and human devastation in their wake? Or is climate change still a distant, largely theoretical threat to you?

Dramatic changes to our climate, the warming of the globe and consequent widespread damage to our environment are recorded and reported daily. The latest UN report issued in October 2018 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives humanity about a decade to make substantive changes to avert future climate disasters. The risks of inaction are already evident, reported in the news daily, in floods, wildfires, droughts, and increasingly violent storm surges.

What can we do, as citizens, through our global, national, regional or local governments? And as individuals in our daily acts of energy consumption and our support for sustainable markets? In this two week course, you will explore your own opportunities to change the course of climate change, through awareness building, political action, community and individual initiatives. There is a growing network of scientists, social activists, business leaders, educators, students and concerned citizens at every level calling for action now, and we need to connect to all of our allies as we engage this battle. We will explore actions large and small and engage in a global conversation, sharing local stories of how we have experienced or anticipate climate change, and how together we can begin to reverse the course of climate change, to save ourselves and our planet.

Course Details

Like all GOA flex courses, this one is designed for teachers to incorporate into existing courses, clubs, advisory programs, etc. Students and teachers can expect to spend 2-3 hours per week (in-class and/or as homework), which leaves significant time for other curricular work in the typical middle or high school schedule. Many teachers or club advisors also supplement GOA flex courses with materials of their own in order to best meet their students’ needs.

All students in this course will gain an introductory understanding of scientific and political issues surrounding climate change . All students will participate in a common introduction and engage with our expert speakers (to be announced in March/April). Following the introduction, there are several pathways for students or teachers to choose from. These pathways will likely include the science of climate change; vulnerable populations/geographic locations; mitigation vs. adaptation; community action; the future of the Paris Climate Accords. Each pathway will include multimedia resources curated for students from grades 7-12 to discuss the resources and pose questions to teachers and peers from around the world. All students in the course will reconvene at the end of the second week for a concluding reflective activity.

Who is this course for?

This course is appropriate for students in grades 7-12. The use of pathways in the course design will allow classes from a wide variety of disciplines to connect meaningfully to the program, including Earth Sciences, Environmental Science, Biology, Civics, Social Studies, Government, Statistics, and Economics students.

Agreeable Disagreements: Civil Political Discourse — February 24-March 6, 2020

Have you or a member of your family stopped talking to someone because of their political beliefs? Do you tend to avoid discussions about religion? Are you afraid to express your political beliefs because of what people might say or think? Do you believe that people are far too concerned with being “politically correct?” Is the media making us more divided?

It would be easy to get the impression that all people are doing these days is either arguing or ignoring each other. In this two-week course, students will explore various strategies of engaging people in civil discourse. Students will begin with a series of self-assessments to determine where their own ideas and influences may derive from to better understand the complexity of factors in other people's opinions. Students will examine different methods of engagement from the likes of ancient philosophers to contemporary hip hop artists. We will also explore why the very act of discussing controversial topics creates a more democratic society. Scenarios will be given to students to deploy where they reside so that they may share their results with their GOA classmates.

Who is this course for?

This course is appropriate for students in grades 7-12. The use of pathways in the course design will allow classes from a wide variety of disciplines to connect meaningfully to the program, including Government, Civics, History, English.

Previous Flex Courses

Check back for next year's dates.

Algorithms, AI & Machine Learning — September 30-October 10, 2019

When you go online to search for something, buy something, listen to music, or interact with peers, you can’t escape the influence of algorithms: the programmed rules and sequences of code that work on you--on all of us--like invisible forces. They influence your news consumption and political opinions, your taste in movies and clothing. They are forever shaping your understanding of the world around you. And what about their effect on your future? When you apply to college, will a computer program screen your application in or out of the pool for consideration? In the workplace, will increasingly sophisticated algorithms chip away at your job or force unexpected adaptations?

Whether you want to resist the influence of algorithms or harness their power for your own purposes, the first step is to understand them. In this course, you will discover the ways a wide range of professionals, including political scientists, economists, psychologists, marketing experts, and computer programmers, are investigating the power of algorithms. You’ll take inventory of their presence in your daily life and compare findings with classmates around the world. You’ll learn to trace the outlines of these seemingly invisible forces.

Guest speaker: Natalie Evans Harris of BrightHive. Natalie is a data scientist whose work focuses on using data to improve lives and make a social impact.

Who is this course for?

This course is appropriate for students in grades 7-12. The use of pathways in the course design will allow classes from a wide variety of disciplines to connect meaningfully to the program, including Social Studies, Government, Journalism, Psychology, Math, Statistics, Economics and Computer Science students.

Write Where You Are — November 11-22, 2019

Why does place matter in the stories we tell? How are we shaped by the places where we live? What happens when stories of place are shared with readers from other locations?

Write Where You Are is a two week experience in creative writing that focuses on the stories you have to tell about your places, yourselves, and your communities. This is an opportunity for students from around the world to collectively write, record, and share place-inspired drafts in a global gallery of words and media.

You’ll look closely at where you are. And who you are. And your communities. You may conduct interviews, dabble in travel writing, or dig deep into personal narrative. You’ll have a variety of pathways from which to choose, each offering creative inspiration and each focusing on how place can be the foundation for some of the most meaningful stories we have to tell.

You’ll be joined by inspiration from our guest speaker, the writer Sonya Huber, and a community of student writers from around the world working simultaneously to draft, explore, and share storytelling from varied locations and experiences.

Course Details

Like all GOA flex courses, this experience is designed for teachers to incorporate into existing courses, clubs, advisory programs, and school related endeavors. Students and teachers can expect to spend 2-3 hours per week (in-class and/or outside of the regular school day), which leaves significant time for other curricular work in the typical middle or high school schedule. Many teachers or club advisors supplement GOA flex courses with materials of their own in order to best meet their students’ needs.

All students in this course will gain an introductory understanding of the fundamentals of place-based writing, personal narrative structure, and creative techniques. Everyone will participate in the same course introduction. Following that launching point, students and teachers will choose from several pathways. They might include more in-depth explorations of travel writing, personal narrative, storytelling elements, or the art of telling the stories of others. Each pathway will include multimedia resources curated for students from grades 7-12. Participants can expect interactive discussions, creative exercises, and opportunities to draft short place-based essays that lead to a festival of audio-recordings. All students in the course will reconvene at the end of the second week to share their essay recordings in a global gallery.

Who is this course for?

This course is appropriate for students in grades 7-12. The use of pathways in the course design will allow classes from a variety of disciplines to connect meaningfully to the program, including English, language arts, social studies, global studies, and journalism.

Voice & Vision: A Flex Course Film Festival — January 21-February 7, 2020

Voice & Vision is a three-week film production challenge, contest, and film festival. This is an opportunity for students to amplify their creative voices by producing a 2-minute autobiographical story that projects a vision of our shared future. What potential exists for greater freedom, equality, safety and peace in our own communities and across the world? The medium of film expands our vision by allowing us to see into another’s experience.

This course is designed to for students with no experience at all making films as well as those who are already budding filmmakers! After the films have screened and the jury has decided, we’ll have walked a few steps in many people’s shoes, and lasting empathic links will have formed between the filmmakers and their audiences.

Voice & Vision begins on Tuesday, January 21 and runs until February 7, beginning just after Martin Luther King Day and leading into Black History Month. In the first week, students will explore the various filmmaking prompts, choose one, and plan out their production. The prompts may include:

  • Make a film that tells a story about a facet of your identity that you wish were represented in more stories.
  • Intersectionality is a word used to describe the overlapping or intersecting nature of our social identities (race, class, religion etc.). Use film to tell a story about a character encountering an intersectional experience.
  • Draw inspiration from the words and ideas of one of history’s great freedom fighters (Dr. King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, César Chávez, etc.) - use film to explore your own or your community’s identity through those ideas.
  • What is your dream? Drill down on Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. What is your dream for your community and for our shared humanity?

Week two will focus on the basics of filming, editing, critique, revision, and finally submission to the festival. The third and final week will be the chance to watch the breadth of entries across GOA’s global network. A panel of jurors will select winners, and audiences will even get to vote on their favorite films.

Who is this course for?

Students in grades 7-12 at GOA member schools are eligible to participate. Voice & Vision can build skills in the areas of art, history, gender studies, sociology, political science, journalism, current events, diversity & inclusivity, and technology. Teachers can integrate this experience into their curriculum related to social justice, such as February’s Black History Month in the US. Voice & Vision is project-based and also builds non-cognitive skills such as teamwork, ethics, time management, creativity, curiosity, and resilience. Student can create their films individually or as a part of a small team.

Flex Course FAQs

Are flex courses open to students from non-member schools?

No, our flex courses are not open to students from non-member schools. Please view our summer course catalog for courses available to students from non-member schools.

How much does each flex course cost?

Students from member schools may attend without charge.

Who are the lead facilitators for these courses? What is their role?

These courses are designed and facilitated by experienced GOA faculty members. Throughout the course, you and your students will hear from them through videos, emails, and other tools.

Will a teacher facilitate the flex course content, or is it the task of the affiliated teacher to choose how to present this content?

Each flex course has a designated teacher (also called a lead facilitator) who will help present the content and will provide additional resources for affiliated teachers in the course. We encourage affiliated teachers to be actively involved in our flex courses with their students and to take advantage of the intended flexibility in the presentation of materials.

Will affiliated teachers have any guidance on how to incorporate the flex course into their classrooms?

The flex course teacher/ lead facilitator will provide materials and support throughout the course for affiliated teachers.

What is the time commitment for most flex courses?

These courses are typically 2-3 weeks long and are designed to combine well with on-campus courses or activities, although flex courses may also be taken on their own. Participants should expect to spend at least 2 hours per week engaging with each flex course, but there will be resources available for students looking for more.

The flex course timing does not work for my class schedule. May I access the content and use it at a time that works for me or my students?

To protect the intellectual property of our teachers and the intended collaborative and global atmosphere of our courses, we cannot provide special access to the flex course materials, outside of the dates the course is intended to be open.

How much of the course is synchronous? Is it possible to engage with the flex course on my classes’ schedule?

Flex courses are designed to combine well with on campus classes and groups. During the dates the flex course is open, students may engage daily in their on-campus classes or a few times a week after school, whatever works for them. Although it is possible to attend a flex course all at once, we recommend students log in a few times a week while the flex course is running so they can take advantage of opportunities to collaborate with peers from around the world.

Is there a limit to how many or how few students can sign up for a flex course at a time?

There is no limit to the number of students allowed in each flex course. These courses are designed for a large, global audience. Many affiliated teachers choose to enroll all of their students in a given class in our flex courses, and incorporate our courses into their regular class meetings. We also welcome individual students to take these flex courses on their own, as long as they have the support of affiliated teachers from their schools.

When will enrollment close for upcoming flex courses?

Enrollment closes the Wednesday before the course begins.

How do I use the bulk enrollment form?

Please read this guide carefully, checking that you have maintained correct formatting for the headers and the drop down data. Please list a maximum of one parent and one affiliated teacher per student. The system will not interpret commas in the bulk upload sheet (a “comma-separated value” (CSV) file) as a list of similar items, so please do not include them. Please contact hello@globalonlineacademy.org if you encounter difficulties.

Are grades and feedback provided to students in flex courses?

GOA and flex course lead facilitators do not provide grades or feedback, although many affiliated teachers choose to assess their students’ participation and engagement in our flex courses.

How long will the flex course remain open after it ends?

Flex courses remain open for one week after they end.

May adults audit flex courses?

For the privacy of our students and to protect the intellectual property of our teachers, we cannot allow adults to audit our courses without having associated students with them. Previews of the course materials are available on request. Please email hello@globalonlineacademy.org for more information.

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