First online character education course to launch this summer

Michael Rothberg

The preliminary trial run for Harvard-Westlake’s first ever online course will begin this week. The course called Optimal Living 101, which will cover character education, is scheduled to launch this summer, Assistant to the Head of Upper School Michelle Bracken said.

At this point, only one or two Choices and Challenges teachers will be alpha-testing the course, along with former history teacher, technology entrepreneur and basketball coach Ari Engelberg ’89, who participated in its creation.

This testing is designed to allow the developers to identify any technical faults in the program. Bracken is overseeing the trial of the course and will be monitoring it the curriculum throughout next year.

The course will be accessible from any place with internet capabilities and will include multimedia modules and interactive exercises.

Last year, Engelberg approached Head of Upper School Audrius Barzdukas to introduce a character education program into the curriculum. After finding no pre-existing online character education courses, they decided to develop one for the school.

Engelberg introduced Brian Johnson, who created his own online character education course for adults, to the project. Johnson proposed adapting his program for Harvard-Westlake’s curriculum.

“From these discussions and Brian’s creative digital media expertise, which incorporates some animation and cool photography, Optimal Living 101 for Harvard-Westlake as part of the Choices and Challenges curriculum was created,” Bracken said. “The Choices and Challenges teachers will incorporate the online curriculum in the classroom, with [the in-school] curriculum designed to add a classroom discussion and sharing of thoughts and ideas from the online course, Optimal Living 101.”

“It’s exciting! The school will finally enter the online age formally,” Barzdukas said.