Frequently Asked Questions


What is MSON’s mission?

The Malone Schools Online Network (MSON) expands academic opportunities for motivated, upper-level students by connecting them with inspiring teachers and peers across the country in real-time online seminars. MSON courses provide challenge beyond the standard curriculum while nurturing students’ intellectual curiosity, building their independence and time management skills, and fostering relationships across geographical divides. Beyond its classes, MSON draws on its vibrant community to help teachers and school leaders collaborate and innovate in their schools, charting new territory in learning.

How is MSON different from other online learning programs?
MSON provides students an engaging, immersive, educational experience that often surprises participants with its quality and lasting impact. The key difference between MSON and most other online learning is that it happens in real time. When we think of online learning, we often picture students sitting alone in front of computers, disconnected from other people, moving through content at their own pace. At MSON, we believe that learning happens through relationships, so we put students together with their peers and with teachers in video conferences where they can see and hear one another as they would in a brick and mortar classroom. The class runs on a schedule with two set meeting times each week assignments due, and quizzes, tests, and final projects.
Can I take an MSON course?

MSON is available only to students at MSON schools at this time. If you are a student at one of our participating schools, you should contact your school’s MSON Academic Liaison for more information. MSON courses are usually open to advanced juniors and seniors through a selection process determined at each school.

How do colleges view MSON courses?

Student taking MSON courses have been admitted to a wide range of colleges and universities, which  understand the high-level and challenging nature of the courses and the fact that they are taught in real-time seminars. College representatives have visited MSON classes in session, and they have noted the high degree of motivation, independence, and time management required for a student to succeed in an MSON course.

Are MSON courses NCAA-approved?

Yes, MSON is an approved program, and 27 MSON courses are approved.

Does MSON grant diplomas?

No. MSON courses appear directly on the transcripts of MSON schools.

Who founded MSON?

In 2012, at the annual meeting of Malone Schools heads, six heads of school envisioned a collaboration based on the expertise of the Stanford Online High School to extend each school’s curriculum and challenge their brightest students. See more here.

What is MSON’s relationship to the Malone Family Foundation?

MSON would not exist without the Malone Family Foundation, which selected all of the Malone Schools and thereby launched the collegial relationships from which MSON developed. The Foundation gave MSON an initial founding grant and and, several years later, an endowment and innovation fund. It is because of the support of the Foundation that MSON is able to keep its yearly membership costs low.

Is MSON non profit?

Yes. MSON is housed administratively as a program within the Maret School, an independent school in Washington, D.C.

Does MSON offer courses in the summer?

In summer, 2017, MSON launched a pilot summer course (Computer Science: Creative Game Design). The course bears full MSON credit on students’ transcripts and takes place on a condensed schedule. Students are permitted to attend class from laptops for a percentage of class meetings.

Who supports MSON at each member school?

In addition to the Head of school, who leads each school’s engagement in MSON, each member school appoints an Academic Liaison and a Technical Liaison. The Academic Liaison manages the school’s student enrollments, scheduling, exam proctoring, teacher involvement—in addition to providing leadership within MSON in terms of policies, practices, presentations at conferences, and more. The Technical Liaison ensures smooth running of the courses in MSON from hardware setup to teacher support on technical tools.


How do schools benefit from joining MSON?

MSON schools are able to offer their students courses they would not normally be able to take—from BioEthics to Greek to Ecosystems. Students who have “maxed out” in subjects such as math or language can continue challenging themselves without taking courses at a local community college or pursuing a lower quality online option. Instead, they take this challenging, engaging course, as part of their school’s curriculum and during their school day—and learn valuable skills that prepare them for college. Teachers at MSON schools have the opportunity to teach a course they’ve always wanted to teach, and schools can keep teachers engaged and developing professionally in opening up this opportunity for them. MSON schools are the only ones in their markets able to offer these kinds of courses in this way and therefore distinguish themselves from peer schools.

What does it cost for a school to join MSON?

MSON is proud of its low costs, made possible through initial and endowment grants from the Malone Family Foundation. Schools pay a yearly membership fee of $5,000 and then a fee per enrollment, with that fee lowering after certain numbers of enrollment. Schools receive a discount off of those enrollment fees per teacher teaching a semester course.

Can my school join MSON?

The Malone Schools Online Network is a consortium of Malone Schools—schools who have been granted scholarship endowment funds by the Malone Family Foundation. However, we believe that our model—leveraging the best of excellent schools to offer real-time courses—is applicable more broadly. We are happy to share more about what we do and how we do it and seek to build relationships with other educators.

Courses and Teachers

How are courses selected for the MSON Course Catalog?

MSON selects courses based on the degree to which they meet a stated need from member schools and/or present a compelling opportunity for our students with a talented and passionate teacher. Teachers submit course proposals in response to an MSON Call for Proposals in the fall, and with the approval from their schools.

How does course scheduling work?

MSON classes take priority over other courses in students’ schedules, and some MSON schools schedule students into MSON courses before completing the rest of their schedules. It is not uncommon for students to miss a few minutes of another class to attend an MSON course. Some MSON courses occur after school and do not conflict with students’ other courses.

How are teachers selected to teach in MSON?

MSON teachers propose courses in response to a Call for Proposals based on curricular needs in MSON. Their proposals and availability to teach are approved within their schools before moving forward; each school vouches for the quality of that teacher. All teachers are interviewed by the MSON Executive Director to determine fit for teaching in the program.

How are teachers prepared? Do they need to have prior online teaching experience?

MSON teachers are stars within their own faculties, eager to adapt courses to MSON or design new ones based on their academic passions. The MSON Dean of Instruction leads a New Teacher Support Program in which new teachers observe MSON classes in session and explore synchronous and asynchronous course design and other key concepts. They then attend the MSON Annual Workshop at Stanford for three days in June for additional training, orientation, and community building. A collaborative consortium, MSON relies on experienced teachers to mentor and guide new ones.

MSON teachers do not need to have any prior online teaching experience

Are courses evaluated?

MSON courses are evaluated through student surveys and observations. Each host school bears ultimate responsibility for ensuring course quality.

Taking an MSON Course

How are students selected to take MSON courses?

The process for identifying students to take MSON courses varies from school to school. All MSON students must be highly academically motivated and intellectually curious and have demonstrated that they are likely to succeed in an environment that requires independence and time management. Students interested in MSON courses at their schools should speak with their MSON Academic Liaisons.

How do MSON courses fit in with students’ normal course loads?

Most students take an MSON course either to replace another course in their standard course load or as an additional course. Policies governing how MSON courses count for students toward graduation vary from school to school.

From where do MSON students attend their MSON classes?

The majority of MSON students attend class from video conferencing setups in their physical school buildings as part of their school days. Most MSON schools devote a room to MSON, installing the large screens that allow students to see their teachers, peers, and shared educational content. Alternatively, some MSON schools elect for their students to attend class from individual laptops.

How many hours should a student plan to devote to MSON in a week?

In general, an MSON course—including the synchronous seminars and out of class time—could take a student anywhere between 6 and 8 hours of work a week. MSON courses are “flipped,” meaning that presentation of content traditionally done in class (such as lectures) is available to students as homework through recordings or reading, and work students would traditionally complete as homework (such as practice problems) can be completed in class and done interactively with other students and the teacher. Students prepare outside of class so that when they come to class they can go further with the material and engage in discussions or debate that deepen their learning. As such, the MSON workload varies course to course, and the emphasis is always on deep learning rather than “seat” time or hours of homework.

What does an MSON course look like on my transcript?

MSON courses are listed on MSON school transcripts along with other courses at that school, often with a designation that they are MSON courses. Each school sends to colleges and universities a statement describing MSON courses.

Is there a placement test/process for MSON courses?

Because students attend MSON classes from so many different schools, they sometimes enter courses with varying backgrounds in the subject. As a result, some courses, especially language courses, may require students to undergo a placement process including an interview with the teacher, detailed explanation of prior coursework, etc. MSON teachers are available to speak with Academic Liaisons at each school and with families as appropriate.

On what technical platforms does MSON run?

Students and teachers convene for MSON courses in Zoom. MSON’s learning management system is Canvas LMS.

What kind of device do I need to take and MSON course?

If MSON courses are attended from students’ classrooms at their brick and mortar schools, so no specific device is usually required to join the virtual seminar, however,we recommend that students have access to a laptop for Zoom breakout rooms. At MSON schools that elect not to use room systems, students need individual laptops Courses may require specific software such as for computer programming.

“I learned so much from this class that allowed me to discover about myself, my identity, and about other cultures and ideologies. This is a great class and I HOPE IT NEVER ENDS.

— MSON Student