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Open online course prepares students for biology exam

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Massive open online courses (MOOCs), which have skyrocketed in popularity in the last year, offer the draw of college classes that anyone with an internet connection can take free of charge. Now, the University of Miami has launched what it calls the world’s first 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 UM Global Academy (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, were enrolled as of press time 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.

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 might offer other MOOC test prep courses in the near future, Wilson said.

The inaugural version of the course began Nov. 26 and ends Dec. 14. Sessions also be recorded for students who have missed any session, officials said.

For more information or to register, go to http://www.umga.miami.edu/mooc.

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