Parents need some heroic help.
Children at home are unable to see friends or have contact outside of their family. Their minds are still firing at full capacity but they are stuck with a sort of sensory deprivation. Parents who have relied on regular commercial child care are stuck at home by necessity. Those who have relied on regular help from grandparents are forgoing that assistance to protect the grandparents’ health.
Give your distance learning program as a gift.
Independent schools are in a unique position to assist their communities in a time of great need while exposing new families to some of their greatest assets — their teachers.
I know what you’re thinking. We can’t do that.
CHALLENGE 1: How can we justify collecting tuition payments from our current families while other families are receiving our distance learning resources at no charge?
Consider your current families to be on the “premium” distance learning plan. Then look into what could be offered as a “free” program. Some of the asynchronous components of your distance learning program are candidates for the free plan. And of the synchronous components, are there some short sets of coursework that could be offered to the public for participation?
CHALLENGE 2: We can’t offer actual credit for a distance learning class to non-matriculated students.
That’s OK. Many school systems will not be offering credit to their own students. Since the state requires that all students receive equal access, most public schools are not requiring student participation nor giving course credit since they cannot guarantee access to students who lack a proper home computer/WiFi setup. What families need anyway is engaging instruction for their directionless children.
CHALLENGE 3: Since one of the goals is to expose our community to our gifted teachers, how can we do that without offering our “premium” experience of live teacher engagement?
As previously mentioned, design some short sets of coursework that could be offered to the public with live teacher engagement. Introduce families to some of the unique curriculum at your school that public schools may not offer — courses like the following.
1. Introduction to Mandarin Chinese
2. Women’s US History
3. Creative Writing
4. Songwriting Workshop
5. Introduction to Coding
6. Modeling for 3D Printers
7. Sports Medicine
8. Theology: The Bible and Christian Theology
Surely there are existing course offerings from your school that come to mind after scanning this list.
The minimester concept might be a good model upon which to frame public offerings. These courses, which often combine hands-on work and independent learning, are perfect candidates for a public mini-course.
CHALLENGE 4: How would we notify our community to encourage participation?
This a marketing, communications, and PR challenge like any other. Since this project generates no immediate income for your school, you’ll want to push hard on your free social media channels and earned media PR opportunities. Parents are online in greater numbers than ever, so a modest budget devoted to paid social media is worth considering.
Companies that are giving away their services in this time of need are making the news and their philanthropy is being shared in great numbers on social media. Independent schools that lead will experience the same.