Minerva Baccalaureate at Elite Open School: Applying Skills Rather than Cramming for Tests

 

When Yul Kim, a 14-year-old student from California, was searching for high school programs, he had a few criteria he was looking for. An ambitious student, he wanted a program that offered a hybrid format that would challenge him in new ways and prepare him well to apply to top universities.

He found exactly what he was looking for in the Minerva Baccalaureate (MBacc) program.

“MBacc has really challenged me to think in new ways and helped me grow as a student,” said Yul, now in Year 2 of the program offered at Elite Open School.

MBacc, a 3-year college preparatory program with a fourth-year dual enrollment option in conjunction with Minerva University, ended up being a perfect fit for Yul, who came from a homeschooling background and wanted a curriculum that would allow him to have more interaction with peers and teachers but would also have a structured self-study component.

Grounded in core academic subjects—science, social studies, literary arts, and math—MBacc is unique in that it also helps learners connect competencies like critical thinking and problem solving across disciplines. Students in MBacc programs learn through a blend of guided self-study and virtual active learning class sessions. Each class meets virtually in two 50-minute sessions per week on ForumTM, Minerva’s proprietary learning platform. The in-class sessions are complemented by a guided self-study component, where students spend several hours outside the classroom learning and applying concepts on their own, similar to a “flipped classroom” approach.

Yul said he appreciates the blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning because it suits his learning style. Small class sizes allow for engaging and meaningful in-class discussions with his diverse set of classmates, most of whom are in Asia, and instructors, some of whom are graduates of Minerva University and other leading institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania. The asynchronous portion of each class allows him to review material on his own and spend more time going over concepts he finds more challenging.

“This has allowed me to become a better student,” he said. “Because of the small class size, I have more time to ask questions to the teacher about difficult concepts as well as assignments.” 

Yul said he also finds the method of learning and assessment helpful. As the Minerva programs emphasize skills instead of content, students need not spend time cramming for tests or endlessly memorizing facts that they will soon forget. To better help students grasp difficult concepts by applying them in many different contexts, MBacc is framed by a distinct set of Learning Outcomes (LOs). (LOs are designated with a hashtag for ease of use and recall.)

Students apply LOs in assignments and in class activities many times throughout the curriculum and can see their progress in the application of them. This is a process that Yul said has helped encourage him to reflect more deeply on topics and better understand his strengths and weaknesses.

Some LOs are discipline specific. Others like #costsandbenefits (consider different types of costs and benefits for stakeholders), are addressed across disciplines and reintroduced in many contexts. Yul said one of his favorite MBacc assignments was in a Year 1 World Cultures class where students applied the #costsandbenefits LO to an assignment on the immigration crisis in the European Union. Students also apply this LO in a Literary Arts class in a debate on personal freedom and public security tied to a literary work, and again in a Biology class where they discuss human impacts on ecosystems and key principles of ecology.

“There are a lot of connections, which helps me figure out how all these subjects are related,” Yul said.

Yul has even found himself applying LOs outside of the classroom without even realizing it, such as when he is reading world news and applies the LO #sourcequality (distinguish between categories and types of information to ensure source quality) to make sure the news he is reading and interpreting is from a legitimate and trustworthy source.

If students do need help outside the traditional classroom environment or other ways to engage with their peers, Elite offers many opportunities. Students meet one-on-one on a weekly basis with one of their MBacc teachers to discuss personal learning goals and academic progress. The personalized academic counseling that the students receive extends beyond MBacc and includes college counseling, academic tutoring, and personal guidance. Elite’s MBacc students also have the opportunity to attend teacher-facilitated assignment workshops and study cafes to either receive help on their MBacc assignments or simply to use the space to collaborate with their peers for group projects and club meetings. 

“Elite Open School excels at taking personalized learning to the next level by giving room for students to apply the complex concepts they learn to real life problems by guiding them through attending competitions, organizing discussion clubs, taking up programming and more,” said Bukle Unaldi, a Minerva University alum who is a Social Studies & Personal Skills instructor at Elite. “We always ensure that the academic needs and personal interests of our students are met at an individual level.”

Because MBacc suits his style of learning so well, Yul said he has seen tremendous growth in himself. As someone who is interested in someday working in STEM or a geopolitical-related field, he said the focus on practical skills he can use in the real world is particularly helpful.

“I’ve grown better at communicating with people,” Yul said. “I have learned to become more diplomatic when it comes to debates and discussions.”

One of his favorite aspects of the MBacc program is its social emotional learning component, also known as the Personal Skills track. This segment of the program teaches students skills such as empathy, self regulation and stress management, topics not often taught in most secondary school programs. Yul said this has helped him communicate better with classmates both inside and outside the classroom and become better at managing his time so that he doesn’t suffer academic burnout or take on too much stress.

Yul said he encourages any high school student looking at programs to consider MBacc because its blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning makes it engaging and more self-directed than traditional programs.

“You can go at your own pace, see what your limits are, and challenge yourself to help you grow more as a student,” he said.

Alison Herget is Higher Education Program Manager for Minerva Baccalaureate.
 

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