While there are many different ways you can run an effective summer learning program, the remainder of this guide will focus on our area of expertise: online summer learning. Every year, we work with schools across the state of Michigan to offer their students online summer courses, and each school does it a little bit differently.
Here are the most common models for online summer programs we see schools using:
Model #1 — Parent- or student-led approach
Some of the schools we work with choose to take parent- or student-led approach to offering online summer learning programs. What this means is they allow students to earn credit for taking online summer courses, but provide few school-sanctioned supports (e.g., a mentor, lab space, or proctored exam). In this model, parents and students are the primary responsible units for ensuring student success.
Model #2 — School-sponsored, minimal supports provided
Other schools take a more active role by encouraging students to take online courses over the summer and providing students with some supports to help them succeed. Often times, the schools using this model will actively promote summer learning options to students through school counselors or schoolwide communications. A mentor may be paid a stipend to work remotely to check in with parents and hold students accountable for completing their coursework, but a lab space is typically not provided for students to work.
Model #3 — School-sponsored, highly supportive
The model that often yields the highest student outcomes is a school-sponsored online learning program with high levels of student support. In this model, the school pays a mentor or several mentors (depending on program size) to run a summer lab space where students have the option to come work on their online coursework. This mentor serves an active role in holding students accountable and also provides a safe, positive learning environment with stable internet access.
To fund these student supports, schools using this model typically ask parents to pay for summer courses and raise the price of each course to cover the cost of paying mentors and keeping a lab space open during the summer.
NOTE: Given that having dedicated face-to-face lab space may not be an option this summer, it’s even more important to ensure you invest in highly supportive mentors to facilitate student success. This can be an effective option when mentors are trained, highly communicative, and work diligently to keep students accountable for their summer work.
Which model is most conducive to student success?
You can find student success in any of these models, but generally, we see the highest and most consistent student outcomes in schools that use Model #3. Why? Because we know from research that online learners perform best when they receive the appropriate supports.
Before continuing the rest of the steps in this guide, you may want to start thinking about which model will work best for your school.