Fledgling University of Miami online high school doubles students, tops 300
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
The University of Miami's online high school, soon to mark its first birthday, has a lot to celebrate, including doubling its enrollment and earning accreditation.
The Web-based Global Academy has grown from 160 students to 300-plus who have chosen to take their education online.
The program is now accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, said Dr. Craig Wilson, Global Academy headmaster.
UM's Global Academy is tailored to provide students involved in activities such as sports or arts or who travel with a quality education at their fingertips.
Some of the students are rising stars, Dr. Wilson said, from models to scholar athletes and highly intellectual students who benefit from logging onto a computer and accessing classes from anywhere in the world.
With a national and international student mix, Dr. Wilson says the extensive curriculum, faculty and student interaction, and high-tech resources are decisive factors for parents enrolling students.
"The parents really enjoy the fact they can see the difference in an online private school," he said, "the quality instruction as well as the fact the faculty is so interactive with the students as they are working on their assignments."
The curriculum offers 120-plus courses, including electives such as essentials of business, digital arts and financial literacy, plus interactive clubs such as science and social studies clubs and writing and math labs.
"We have these resources outside of class to help bolster the classroom experience," Dr. Wilson said.
For fall and spring semesters, the cost is $995 per half credit, $1,990 per full credit, or $11,940 for six credits for the full year. For summer, tuition is $320 per half credit and $640 per full credit. A $70 non-refundable application fee is required. The spring semester ends in April and summer classes begin May 1.
Classes are offered for fulltime students seeking high school diplomas and part-timers looking to take classes and transfer them to their host high school.
Participation abroad is significant, with students enrolled from nations including Poland, Monaco, Argentina and Chile, Dr. Wilson said. The national student base has grown quickly, with many participants based in New York, California, Georgia and some locals.
"The majority of the students are within the United States and also get to interact with students from across the world," he explained. "The cultural exchange is really on point and adds more value to the learning experience that students are finding."
Languages are among electives piquing students' interests. To cater to them, the school has added Mandarin and Chinese and is to soon teach Latin. For pre-med and law school-bound students, he says, those languages are necessary.
Adding more clubs and extra-curricular activities is also in the plans.
For example, Global Academy is in the process of getting its honor society charter, Dr. Wilson said. "Those are things parents are looking for" when selecting a school.
One recent addition to the academy that came straight from students' feedback is UMGAther, a social networking site developed to create a virtual meeting place for enrolled students to connect with classmates.
Dr. Wilson said it's too early to measure the program's financial achievement, as the university is still investing in building the academy.
But with more parents dissatisfied with overcrowded schools and limited course offerings and eyeing new learning options for their children, the online school's future is promising.
Online learning in the US drew more than 2 million participants in 2008-2009 for grades K-12, growing from 50,000 in 2000, Dr. Wilson said, and that figure is expected to rise to 10 million by 2014.
"If you look at the growth, it's been really exponential."