HLC Brings Globalization to MCDS

Miami Country Day School offers a large selection of classes from Mandarin and the Art of Gardening to several fine arts classes. But in addition to the myriad courses already in place, this semester there will be more classes added to the list. These classes, however, are not traditionally taught. Miami Country Day School is now a member of a program called the Hybrid Learning Consortium (HLC).

The Hybrid Learning Consortium is an online globalized learning community which brings together students and teachers from around the globe to share learning by taking advantage of the digital world we live in. Teachers in schools around the world, primarily China and the United States, create an online class which students sign up for online. Miami Country Day School’s very own Mrs. Gallup, Humanities Department Chair and English teacher, will be teaching a course called “Understanding Film.”

Mr. Cahill and Upper School Director Mr. Turf traveled to an HLC symposium two years ago and Mrs. Gallup, Mr. Karnes, and Mrs. Borchers went last year which is what got the ball rolling for MCDS involvement. When asked what the catalyst to join the HLC was Mr. Mann responded, “…three or four years ago all of us saw the potential for online learning.” After the idea was out in the open Country Day incorporated a few hybrid classes such as Mrs. Borcher’s government class last year as well as a hybrid film class Mrs. Gallup taught. Though the Hybrid classes proved successful, MCDS administrators wanted the benefit of ten to fifteen independent schools assisting in the learning process being that Country Day has a limited amount of teachers to accommodate all of the students who could potentially take a hybrid class. This way students have access to any teacher from over fifteen schools part of the consortium. Out of all of the online learning programs, MCDS selected the Hybrid Learning Consortium after a thorough eighteen month review because it was the most compatible with our school seeing how it is independent and had other highly regarded schools contributing.

Students take the MCDS approved courses on their computers on their own time. The classes will be graded and awarded the appropriate weight on GPAs. According to Mrs. Gallup, these classes will be offered to all approved 10th – 12th grade students and serve as a major benefit for students who have scheduling conflicts and who still wish to fulfill the credits they otherwise would have completed with an ideal schedule. With few exceptions, the classes will have an additional fee of four hundred dollars attached.

Courses will be available to the high school with the exception of incoming Freshmen. Freshmen are not offered these classes because the rigor of high school and the initial change from Middle School can be challenging. Therefore, adding on to that stress would most likely prove unproductive for a ninth grader and hinder their transition into high school. Like any other student looking to go into a course there will be an approval process with Mr. Mann and the appropriate department chair. The student will not only have to demonstrate the capability to complete the academically rigorous courses, but the ability and the personal executive skills needed to complete an online course and the independence that comes with it.
This spring, some students have already begun to take HLC classes. Students who were initially enrolled in one of Dr. Conea’s cancelled humanistic studies classes who needed to fill graduation requirements were offered a chance to try out the program a semester early. Maddie Hertz was one of these students. “When I found a class that I could take for credit and that would fit great into my schedule because it was online, I took it,” she said. She is enrolled in Global Perspectives Through World Music, a course taught by Mr. Powers, an English teacher from Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg, Florida. (See Maddie’s accompanying editorial for more insight into her experience this semester). Josh Hug and Veronica Ortiz also enrolled in this hybrid course. Said Josh, “I decided to take this course because I am very involved in music and have always been interested in learning about music in culture throughout the world and its history.” The class seeks to “explore world music through the context of various ethnic music cultures and the historical and social factors that contribute to each culture’s music.” Students will earn one half of a humanities credit by listening to music, watching lectures, and writing responses about musical heritage that ranges from traditional Native American music to ethnic European songs.

The Hybrid Learning Consortium connects students from places as far away as Germany and Japan, meaning that students could be enrolled in the same class as someone who lives thousands of miles away. Obviously this presents challenges – not all schools have a Minimester program, and Spring Breaks can vary wildly – but the variety of schools present also gives students the chance to broaden the scope of their education.

Many students were first introduced to HLC by Jenny Hofstra, who attended a 9-11 grade assembly this Tuesday. But if you have any more questions, feel free to ask Mr. Mann. Course requests for next year will open this spring. In the meantime, we’ll all have to watch closely to see how students enrolled in Global Perspectives in World Music learn through the new platform.