UMGA Launches MOOC for High School Students

Six-session course is believed to be the world's first initiative of its kind.

(November 27, 2012) — Rising in popularity at a rapid pace, massive open online courses (MOOCs) offer the draw of classes that anyone with an Internet connection can take for free. While MOOCs have existed for a few years as online learning events for techies, the nation has recently seen a rise in the number of colleges and universities offering college-level MOOCs.

Now the University of Miami is poised to start a new trend with the distance-learning tool. The UM Global Academy is launching on November 26 what it bills as the world’s first free MOOC for high school students—a three-week, six-session class that will prepare students for the SAT subject test in biology.

“We created this from scratch, so we’re pioneers in that respect,” says Craig Wilson, headmaster of UMGA, the online high school based out of the University of Miami’s Division of Continuing and International Education. “We recognized a need to help high school students prepare for college, and we wanted to use the MOOC model to give them that opportunity without having to worry about going through a pay-for-preparation aspect.”

About 200 high school students, some as far away as China, are set to take UMGA’s “MOOC SAT BIO” course via Skype and an electronic classroom platform. The class will air live, allowing students to pose questions in real time—a rarity for a MOOC, according to Wilson. Sessions will also be recorded.

“We are very excited that our wonderful online middle and high school has taken this important and innovative step,” says Rebecca Fox, dean of the UM Division of Continuing and International Education. “We pride ourselves on making it possible for students to have an online experience that keeps them at the center of the learning process, and that is the principle that undergirds our new MOOC.”

Taught by UMGA lead science instructor Jennifer Taylor, the course will be offered once a semester and will prepare students for the SAT subject test in biology administered by the College Board. Depending on the success of the course, UMGA may offer other MOOC test prep courses in the near future, Wilson said.

For more information on UMGA’s MOOC initiative, visit

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