In this blog post, I would like to share information about Onstudy Academy, an online school that I have founded with Eduardo Marentes, a science educator and former researcher. We currently offer three courses: Grade 12 Advanced Functions (MHF4U), Grade 12 Biology (SBI4U), and Grade 12 Chemistry (SCH4U). Our school is ministry-inspected and able to grant OSSD credits to students that complete courses that we have developed. We are in the process of enrolling students for the 2019/2020 school year.
Who are our courses intended for?
Online courses can be very convenient for mature students that have been out of school for sometime and are looking to receive credits in high school courses that they need in order to be admitted to college and university programs. These courses would also be ideal for students that are being homeschooled and have a hard time going through the grade 12 math and science curriculum without the aid of specialist instructors. Since our courses are offered year-round, there is a lot of flexibility when it comes to when a student would like to start and end a course. This can be very convenient for students that missed the window to enrol in a course that is in a physical school, or have to miss school for unforeseen circumstances. Students living in parts of Ontario were there is limited course selection options can also benefit from taking courses through Onstudy Academy. Our courses can also be taken by international students that are planning on studying at a postsecondary institution in Canada, but might currently be living abroad.
What separates our online courses from elearning experiences offered by other private schools and district school boards?
Most of the online courses currently available deliver course content in a purely text format. These courses are similar to just reading a textbook, which is not an engaging learning medium for most students. It has been shown that most students are visual learners and learn best when visuals are combined with verbal instruction. Each course offered through Onstudy Academy contains over 40 hours of video content. The courses are comparable to watching and listening to a teacher deliver lessons in a classroom. Students are taught through examples and thorough explanations. Each lesson contains ministry expectations, learning goals, success criteria, video instruction, and homework exercises with solutions. Each unit contains formative quizzes, virtual labs and investigations, a review package, and a practice test. All quizzes and practice tests contain detailed solutions. Since these courses have been developed by experienced Ontario certified teachers, they are very similar in nature to being in an actual classroom.
Is there support offered to students that are having a hard time progressing through the course content?
There is a discussion forum where students are encouraged to post questions that will get answered by a teacher. There is also extra help offered to students through online tutoring.
How long would it take an average student to complete a course?
If a student spends about 75 minutes a day for 5 day each week going through the course content, and completing course work, he or she should be able to complete a course in 3-4 months, which is comparable to how long it would take to complete a course in a traditional school setting. If a student has double the time to dedicate to a course, he or she would be able to complete all the course content in 1-2 months. The advantage to taking a course online is that a student can set his or her own pace. The maximum amount of time given to complete a course is a year. The completion of a course can be deferred if a valid reason is provided to an admin at Onstudy Academy before the permitted time to complete a course has elapsed.
Can these courses be used by students to improve their outcomes in courses that they will taking or are taking in school?
Entrance averages for well-recognized university programs have been rising over the past few years. Some programs now require an average in the mid 90s for an application just to be considered. Many students across Ontario that want to be accepted into these renowned programs are feeling anxious and hopeless. For many it is no longer advisable to only rely on their classroom teachers for help understanding the curriculum. They realize that they need extra support. Many seek the help of tutors to supplement their classroom learning. For some it is too costly to hire a qualified tutor for many sessions in a year, or they might feel that having tutoring sessions once or twice a week is just not enough. For these students, supplementary online resources can be of great help. The supplementary resources that we provide are less expensive than hiring a tutor, and are similar to what a tutor would bring to sessions with the student.
Each of our courses includes quizzes, tests, and assignments for every unit, as well as complete solutions to all assessments. Students are shown how to solve the different types of problems in each unit. There is a focus on application and thinking questions that are typically much harder to answer or solve. Students often complain that the examples that their teachers show them in class and the questions that they do for homework are much easier than what they see on tests. For this reason, we have designed all of our assessments to be as difficult as the tests that students would be given in class. All of our assessments have been created by Ontario certified teachers, and have been administered in schools.
Students who have completed our online courses have told us that our lessons prepared them well for their tests and final exams. Our online courses have an emphasis on clarifying common misconceptions and showing students how to solve the most challenging problems in each unit. We are different from typical online courses. that brush over the material and do not have an emphasis on preparing students for assessments.