Call for Volunteers!

Hi all! We need your help!


We need volunteers! As we are researching online education and developing VBI’s online curriculum, we are coming up with lots of ideas for how to run an effective online program. The problem is, we don’t really know which of them will work. Many of our ideas strike me as awesome (e.g. correspondence debate rounds), but we want to test them out before we build them into the curriculum.

And for each cool idea we want to test, our curriculum team comes up with two new questions that bear on how we design the overarching curriculum: How long can students stay engaged during online lab? And how well can instructors monitor student engagement? (I’m planning to ask some of our volunteers to jump on and off social media during instruction and will then test to see if the instructor can tell who is engaged and who is not.) How painfully awkward are our go-to icebreakers when done over Zoom? How many hours of synchronous online instruction are even effective over the course of a day?

Thus, VBI is looking for current high-school students who are interested in volunteering to test run various elements of our online curriculum as we continue development. You will try out different drills, you will attend various sample modules, you will test various online platforms that we are thinking about using for an online camp. Hopefully, you will get some top-notch free coaching and we will get regular and honest feedback about what is working and what can be improved.


If you would like to volunteer, please fill out this form (unfortunately, depending on the number of volunteers, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to work with everyone).


In the opening of Flower Darby’s and James Lang’s book Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes, they note that one unique challenge to online education is that most instructors have never experienced the “apprenticeship of observation.” Most teachers, before they ever start teaching, have spent decades learning in a physical classroom. They thus have a developed mental model of what classroom teaching is like, and more importantly, they know which of their teachers were best and what it was that set them apart. It is this experience that most teachers rely on when first beginning to teach others.

With online education, however, we “can’t fall back on the apprenticeship of observation” because we never attended an online debate camp as students! Everyone is designing curriculum in the dark. And while we can make some very good guesses about what will work best, we still want to test these ideas to see what is really most effective and will give all of our students the best summer experience possible.