POSS update: providing team-based academic opportunities to students around the world

Pioneer Academics > News > POSS update: providing team-based academic opportunities to students around the world

POSS update: providing team-based academic opportunities to students around the world

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When Director Matthew Jaskol introduced POSS (Pioneer Open Summer Study) as a unique online program for the summer of 2020, it was in response to a need created by COVID-19 and the reality that virtually all in-person summer study programs for high school students had been canceled. At that point, it was clear that there was a need for an additional online summer enrichment opportunity in addition to Pioneer’s highly selective, rigorous Pioneer Research Program. What was not clear was just how great the need was, or how successful Pioneer’s new free initiative would be in filling it. Now the numbers tell a large part of the story: 171 teams involving 1078 students from at least 16 different countries worldwide are participating in POSS.

But the numbers only tell part of the story, because one of the major goals of POSS is to provide an opportunity for international online educational teamwork. And it’s that teamwork that is making the program such an exciting experience for the participants.

The Pioneer academic panel that created POSS was committed to developing a new model of independent study with an interdisciplinary, problem-based, and collaborative approach. After nearly four months’ development work, the panel, in collaboration with four faculty members, launched the timely program, which gives students the options to participate in a structured independent study on one of four themes: Pandemics and Globalization (international relations and economics), Pandemics Epidemiology (international relations and biology), Socio-cultural evolution (anthropology), or Age of Plague (history of science). Given the strong influence Covid-19 has had on students’ lives around the world, many of the themes give students the chance to dive right in and explore Covid-19 from the perspective of different academic disciplines. The POSS faculty members are from Columbia University, University of Notre Dame, Hamilton College, and Stanford University.  

Some of the participating team members come from Turkey, Russia, India, the U.S., China, South Korea, Vietnam, Egypt, Canada, Nigeria, Macedonia, the United Kingdom, Macedonia, Kenya, Israel and Uzbekistan. Each team works closely with a school advisor, who is the group’s overall supervisor. The advisors have been as eager to participate as the students. One school advisor from Macedonia wrote shortly before the program began, “I simply can’t wait to start working. Thank you for this amazing opportunity.”

Volunteer “Independent Study Advisors” serve as teaching assistants in the program. These “ISAs” are Pioneer alumni who developed strong research skills as they successfully met the high standards of the Pioneer Research Program in 2018 or 2019. Now they are passing on what they have learned by organizing study materials for the students, providing “office hours” open to students who have questions, and running small group discussions about key topics. The ISAs come from the U.S., India, Turkey, and China. They will be freshmen or sophomores in the 2020 academic year at Barnard, Harvard, UT Austin, UC Berkeley, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern, Duke, the London School of Economics, and the University of Oxford.

At the heart of the program are the individual team members, working together in teams to meet their goal.When the program finishes by the end of August, each team will have completed, working together, a final team paper and presentation. The adventure is already well under way. Guided by their professors, faculty advisors, and ISAs, each team has worked together through online meetings and online chats to discuss their ideas, decide on their project, and figure out how to accomplish their goals. In the process, the individual students are learning not only teamwork skills, but independent study skills and time management skills that will provide long-term benefits both in their academic endeavors and in daily life as well.

Dear educator friend,

In the critical process of preparing students to transition to college, you are key. The
ramifications of your guidance are far-reaching.

The Pioneer Research Program believes that it, too, has a role to play in preparing students of special potential and passion for learning. This is a role we trust you will appreciate knowing about. Our mission is to offer a deep and otherwise unavailable opportunity to exceptionally motivated young scholars who want to learn and research at the college level and to explore their potential for innovation.

What makes Pioneer a unique deep-dive learning experience is not just the mentorship of distinguished professors. It is the rigorous quality controls developed conjointly by Pioneer and Oberlin College. Professors (must) adhere to rubrics for

1) setting learning goals;

2) syllabus development;

3) oversight, feedback and evaluation, and

4) grading standardization.

This rigorous academic system is supported by thorough admission process and a high-minded ethics code. The combination gives students an exceptional learning experience that is brought to fruition in a college-level research paper documenting their findings.

You can follow this link Pioneer’s concrete academic system to learn more about the academic system. Academic quality control and academic oversight assure Pioneer’s focus is on learning and learners, and therefore all of our practices were built upon the following principles:

No conflict of interests Pioneer’s academic ethical standards
Because of its high academic and ethical standards, the Pioneer program has earned the trust of college admissions departments and formed the basis for the ground-breaking collaboration with Oberlin College. Pioneer scholars get two college credits upon completing their Pioneer research.

Click to learn about Pioneer and Oberlin College's groundbreaking academic collaboration.

Pioneer has a rigorous admission process. Students who have genuine academic interests and are highly motivated are a good fit with Pioneer’s values. Pioneer’s founding board insisted that Pioneer commit to a professor-blind policy during the application process, ensuring that applicants have authentic field interest and correct priorities. Consequently, no information about professors is released before admission to the program. This policy is much appreciated and respected by universities. Professor-blind admission policy
On this page is the critical information needed to meet your needs.

If you have additional questions, feel free to let us know how we can help you by emailing info@pioneeracademics.com or calling 855-572-8863.


Matthew Jaskol

Founder & Program Director