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Story: COVID-19 Boston

Campus Without Walls Supports Virtual Learning in Greater Boston

Project Overview

Students in high-need schools often lack access to rigorous and engaging learning opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened existing challenges in attendance, academic performance, and social and emotional learning (SEL) that students experience in under-resourced schools, creating the risk of losing an entire year of academic progress for the most vulnerable students in Greater Boston.

Through Campus Without Walls, many students now have a new opportunity to catch up — and get ahead.

Coordinated by BUILD, Boston Opportunity Agenda, and the Rennie Center for Educational Research & Policy, Campus Without Walls leverages the power of public schools, communities, and technology to connect students all over the city — regardless of their neighborhood of resident or their assigned school — with classes taught by the region’s top teachers.

We’re physically liberating young people and removing the silos and separation so that they can access all the great things that public education offers.

Ayele Shakur, Chief Executive Officer, BUILD

How it Helps

While school closures impacted all students in the wake of the pandemic, not all communities faced the same set of challenges. Students at already under-performing high schools were at the greatest disadvantage. That’s who Campus Without Walls has focused on reaching through its virtual offerings.

Most students in the program are from Boston Public Schools, charters, and parochial schools with a high percentage of students of color whose families live on a low income.

The program’s teachers are chosen based on criteria from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. To help make sure the Campus Without Walls education is inclusive, the program seeks teachers skilled in culturally affirming practices.

Classes are hosted via an accessible online learning platform where students receive personalized teaching and learning content. They also have the opportunity to earn certifications and badges in key proficiencies identified by employers, including Microsoft Office, resume writing, and design thinking.

In Spring 2021, the Campus Without Walls pilot in Boston launched across 16 schools, 13 community-based organizations, and two universities serving approximately 600 students in grades 6-12.

Beyond the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Campus Without Walls creates learning opportunities for students throughout Massachusetts with its student-centered, project-based, and experiential approach. Powered through a virtual learning platform, teachers and students throughout the state participate synchronously or asynchronously in the classroom.

By combining virtual learning technology and entrepreneurial thinking, Campus Without Walls aims to address the inequities present in under-resourced communities and help students thrive through the remainder of the pandemic and beyond.

Foundation Project Lead