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Harvard Summer School Moves to Online Format for 2020 Session

Harvard Summer School will move online, mirroring a larger shift as higher education responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harvard Summer School will move online, mirroring a larger shift as higher education responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. By Jenny M. Lu
By Andy Z. Wang, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Summer School will hold its 2020 session online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Summer School Dean Sandra A. Naddaff ’75 announced to registered students in an email Monday afternoon.

The announcement follows a Monday email from Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana to the undergraduates, which informed students of a shift to online programming for the summer. Students across the University transitioned to online courses for the spring term in mid-March.

The summer school hosts roughly 9,000 students every summer on Harvard’s campus for courses at both the collegiate and high school level. It also oversees Harvard’s undergraduate study abroad programs, which the University cancelled in late March due to pandemic-induced travel uncertainty.

Naddaff wrote that while on-campus programming will not occur, the program remains committed to providing students a “rigorous and enriching academic experience.” Much like the rest of the University, the summer school will hold courses and meetings over the Zoom video conferencing platform.

Citing variances in students’ ability to participate in courses based on time zone differences, as well as the change in course format, Naddaff wrote the summer school is offering students full-tuition refunds provided they meet the proper deadlines.

However, the new digital programming’s accessibility may actually increase enrollment at the Summer School, according to DCE spokesperson Harry J. Pierre. In an emailed statement, he wrote that the Summer School currently expects “an uptick in enrollment due to the move online, but it’s too early to speculate on exact numbers just yet.”

The Summer School’s online courses usually do not count for credit for students at the College, but this year, the University will make exceptions to that rule. The Summer School published a page on its website late Monday afternoon with a list of courses now eligible for College credit.

Some College students also participate in the summer school as proctors, a role which Bilal Wurie ’21 — a previous Summer School proctor — described as the “first point of contact from which [students] can find broader support networks.”

Wurie, who had originally planned on returning to the summer school as a proctor this year, expressed concern over the new online format’s ability to connect summer school students outside of the classroom.

“A big part of the experience beyond simply going in and taking classes was meeting people and interacting with people from all over the world,” said Wurie. “I think that that degree of personal interaction will be lost, or — if it will be maintained over Zoom — in a slightly smaller degree.”

However, Wurie said the efforts and adjustments would be worthwhile to stave the effects of the current pandemic.

“I hope that decisions made on administrative and governmental levels are done in a calculated, compassionate kind of manner, and we can all just collectively get through this crisis as quickly as possible,” said Wurie.

—Staff writer Andy Z. Wang can be reached at

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