Through its Online Academy, the Loomis Chaffee Summer Program is bringing its on-campus summer experience to academically motivated students around the world.
"It's been a terrific process,” said Jim O’Donnell, director of the Summer Program.
In the spring, Jim collaborated with the Summer Program's 25 faculty members and assistant director Linda Hathorn to develop the new Online Academy. “We spoke at length to see what we could deliver and then brought it to life together,” Jim said.
Central to their planning were modifications to the most popular Summer Program offerings for a distanced learning environment. According to Jim, an emphasis on writing continues to be a priority for the program, and integral courses such as writing workshops have remained highly sought after. The Summer Program’s Best Self curriculum also has been weaved in as a signature part of the Online Academy.
"The Best Self curriculum is the backbone of our summer experience and is highly experiential when we're on campus together. We had to give a lot of thought about how we could deliver a composite version of the curriculum via distanced learning,” said Jim. The Summer Program team decided to transform the curriculum into interactive virtual seminars based on five themes: inclusion, identity, intelligence, integrity, and impact. This adaptation has allowed students to continue to think introspectively about what it means to be their best selves and their capacity to make a difference.
The Online Academy also introduced courses designed specifically for the program's new environment. "Plagues & Pandemics: An Introduction to Virology, co-developed and taught by Dr. Erica Gerace and Dr. Dave Samuels, is a perfect example," said Jim. In this course, students analyze outbreaks of microbial diseases throughout history, including the current COVID-19 pandemic.
As the Online Academy passes its mid-point, faculty report high levels of engagement from students and are pleased with how students are managing the expectations of each course.
"There are 200 students enrolled in the summer program this year, which is a phenomenal success given the circumstances,” said Jim. The Online Academy has brought together students from all over the world, including Australia, Thailand, and many states around the United States. “It's been a lot of fun to see that they've come from far and wide and are involved in the program together,” he said. "We take great pride in our Summer Program community."