Community centers, recreation centers, and libraries can be good partners for summer virtual programs. Some students may be happier and more successful at home, but educators should set the expectation for these students that online summer school courses are rigorous and require a minimum of 10 hours per week to complete successfully. Planners should provide at least one facilitated location for proctored final exams, which are an absolute must to ensure the integrity of your online program.
Step six: Professional development
Securing a successful outcome for a virtual summer initiative begins with adequate preparation of teachers, OFs, and LFs. Teachers need instruction in the navigation and use of content and the content management system, virtual system policies (such as academic integrity policy, proctored final exam policy, district grading policy, and state testing policy), documentation, and use of the enrollment database. OFs need to know how to register students in the database, and LFs need a working knowledge of the courseware platform in order to assist learners in the lab setting.
Other considerations include determining policies and procedures and communicating them to all stakeholders; making provisions for state mandated exams, if applicable; providing for student/parent orientation in-person, online, or both; providing technical assistance to students working at home and in labs; and establishing a procedure for timely reporting of summer grades to school counselors ahead of the fall semester.
Summer programs give students the opportunity to recover not only credit, but also learning. The benefits of a virtual summer school implementation — and the lower price tag when compared to traditional summer school models — make online learning an attractive option for resource-challenged districts. With mindful planning and a clear focus, virtual summer school can be easy and effective.
1. Bowman, L.; Grade Retention: Is It a Help or Hindrance to Student Academic Success? Preventing School Failure; vol. 49, no. 2; Spring 2005; pp. 42–46; ERIC# EJ744733. See also Stump, C., Ph.D., Repeating a grade: The pros and cons. http://www.greatschools. org/special-education/health/repeating-a-grade.gs?content=659.
2. Dynarski, M., Clarke, L., Cobb, B., Finn, J., Rumberger, R., and Smink, J.; Dropout Prevention, Washington DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute for Education Sciences; U.S. Department of Education (NCEE 2008- 4025); September 2008; 66 pages.
3. Watson, J. and Gemin, B.; Promising Practices in Online Learning: Socialization in Online Learning. Virginia: North American Council for Online Learning (iNACOL); September 2008; 19 pages.
Debi Crabtree is the virtual school coordinator for the Hamilton County School district, the fourth largest school district in Tennessee. She also teaches technology courses at Tennessee Technological University and serves as an independent consultant to companies and schools that are implementing new e-learning initiatives.
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