How to Prepare an Online Summer School

Misty Hance
Misty Hance
Assistant Elementary School Principal; Ed.D. in School Leadership, Carson-Newman University, TN
Young boy wearing headphones and watching a tablet next to a white board.

One year ago, it would have been impossible to imagine that this summer we would be looking at hosting summer school through an online platform. As an administrator, we are used to the unpredictable and need to be flexible. Still, these current circumstances may leave room for questions and concerns about the ability to provide remediation through an online video conference. It will be different, but it will not be impossible if you plan ahead following a few simple guidelines.

Get a Team Together to Collaborate on the Plan

Whether it is a few other administrators working on the same type of project or a few lead teachers who know the audience and the curriculum needs, collaboration is always a good place to start. It is important to have other colleagues with whom you can discuss ideas and postulate problems and solutions. Likewise, you will want to choose people who have effectively worked with online conferencing platforms and can share experiences and ideas.

A team of three to five is ideal, as too many people involved can slow down the process, and with summer quickly approaching, you need to get started as soon as possible.

Determine the Scope

As with the development of any new program, an administrator needs to carefully consider the scope of the project. Who will be involved and how many will attend are the first questions that need to be addressed. The entire student population may have lost eight to 12 weeks of traditional class instruction, yet it would be a daunting task to try to get every student involved in summer school online. Other questions that might be addressed include:

  • Will the program cover all content areas and electives or will it be based on selected courses?
  • Will the program be open to all students K-5, 6-8, and/or 9-12 or be more selective to narrow the participants?
  • If you choose to narrow the number of participants, how will those students be chosen? Will it be based on benchmark scores, final grades, or other criteria?
  • Will you need one teacher per content area or multiple teachers per subject/grade?
  • How many students will be able to enter each hosted class?
  • How long will the summer program last and will it meet every day of the week or only a few days each week?
  • What length of time will each meeting last, knowing the students’ development needs?

You and your team know your student population best and your most pressing needs. The first step you must conquer is identifying the scope of the online program and then you will better be prepared for addressing other issues.

Choose a Learning Platform

The next question that needs to be addressed is what kind of platform will work best for your school’s needs? The age of your students may help in determining the learning platform. Younger students will need a user-friendly site while older students will be able to share screens and files. Some platforms allow the host to divide the entire group into smaller groups and then go in and out of each group to listen and share ideas. This is very similar as to how teachers utilize small-group instruction within their classroom and could provide time for collaboration and peer tutoring. One way you can choose is to hold practice meetings on a few different platforms to see which would work best for your teachers and students.

Enrollment and Correspondence

In order to be able to enroll your students, you will need to determine how to conduct enrollment. Will you have teachers call, text, email, or put information on social media sites? Just remember, a personal contact will allow time for parents to ask questions while an invitation on social media may open the door for more participants wanting to attend. You will also need to determine how enrollees will gain access to the platform. Will they set up their own accounts or will the teacher set up accounts for each child?

Once enrollment procedures have been established, the administrator will need to develop guidelines for future correspondences from teachers. Some questions to consider include:

  • How will teachers relay information for future dates and times of meetings to students?
  • Will students who miss a session be able to view it at another time?
  • How often will teachers relay student progress to parents, and how will this information be shared?
  • How will assignments or activities be distributed and collected?

Final Preparation

As an administrator, you will need to prepare a method for holding teachers accountable. Will you visit meetings in progress and/or request documentation of student progress? Will you provide teachers with forms for data collection of grades, times met, and those in attendance? Also, you will need to determine how teachers will receive any necessary professional development prior to initiating the summer program and how they will be compensated.

Once you feel secure in your plans for online summer learning, teachers will need time to set goals, prepare materials, and contact students. Some teachers might need a tutorial on how to use the online platform if it has changed from what they used in the Spring or they are new to online learning. Some teachers might need time to conference with other teachers and share ideas on how to make summer learning rigorous and engaging. All teachers will need a chance to meet with you, even if it is through an online conference, and learn your expectations for making this summer’s online school a successful event.

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