Virtual Nobles Spring 2020

Virtual Nobles Spring 2020

We are proud to introduce Virtual Nobles, officially launching April 6. Below, we share both the philosophical and logistical information that will be helpful as we continue the Nobles experience.


Upholding Our Mission

It is essential for the wellbeing of our community that we stay connected in myriad ways, including not only classes, but also advisory, academic support, counseling, college counseling, and, when possible, afternoon programs and some clubs and organizations. As education reporter Jenny Anderson writes in her piece for Quartz, “How To Give Your Kids Stability When Coronavirus Closes Schools,” stability, connection and routine will be key factors in fostering community wellness. What follows in this document are guidelines and resources to help facilitate this transition to online learning.

Acknowledging the added demands on time created by this crisis situation, we need to be clear from the outset that we will need to limit the amount of screentime work we can expect from community members—faculty, staff and students. That said, we are confident that Virtual Nobles will advance teaching and learning, prepare students for future academic challenges, and care for our community members.

Implementing Virtual Nobles will be challenging and a marathon, not a sprint. We will do this together, learning and growing as a community every step of the way.

Providing Meaningful Online Education

To prepare to move our programs online, Nobles’ faculty will use the first five school days to:

  • Develop syllabi for virtual teaching and learning in one-week chunks: 
  • Set up a plan to coordinate live, virtual (synchronous) conversations with students using Zoom;
  • Prepare and organize video lectures, presentations and demonstrations;
  • Determine pedagogies and introduce policies for Virtual Nobles;
  • Begin to plan for clubs, organizations, afternoon program and affinity groups; 
  • Collaborate with departmental and core-group partners and leaders to share resources and plans.

Structure and Schedule

To ensure that students would not have five to six online classes in a single day (i.e. too much screentime), we have designed a schedule that allows for a balance of live instruction (synchronous learning) and assigned work that will be completed independently and/or in collaboration with peers (asynchronous learning).

In our planning, we avoided choosing normal first-period (8:25 a.m.) classes as possible synchronous blocks for classes, recognizing that having extra time in the mornings to sleep in or take care of family would be helpful to many students.

  • All synchronous classes will be conducted on the video-conference tool, Zoom. Many will be recorded for students who are unable to attend.
  • Our virtual class schedule is a modified version of our weekly schedule. Teachers will be in touch via email to let students know when their classes will be synchronous and when they will be available for office hours. A student’s schedule will also be available on their Google Calendar.
  • A student’s academic commitment may begin as early as 8:45 a.m.; the virtual school day will end at 5:00 p.m.
  • A student’s latest academic commitment will conclude by 3:10 p.m., but some afternoon-program, club and organization meetings and check-in calls with advisors may extend to 5:00 p.m.
  • Academic Classes: For a class that normally meets four times per week, the virtual, synchronous class will be held for approximately 50 minutes at least once per week but not more than twice per week. For a class that normally meets fewer than four times per week, the virtual, synchronous class will be held for approximately 50 minutes once per week. Personal Development classes for Classes IV and III will not meet.
  • Morning Assembly will take place virtually on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:50-9:10 a.m.
  • Advisor Meetings will take place virtually on Tuesdays from 8:45-9:15 a.m.

EXAMPLE SCENARIO: If a student has a class that meets in A-block (Monday, first period), the student will have a synchronous class on Tuesday at 1:50 p.m. and/or Thursday at 9:20 a.m. Friday at 1:50 p.m. is available for the teacher of that course to conduct virtual office hours.

NOTE: We recognize that circumstances beyond a student or teacher’s control may impact classroom engagement. If you have any concerns, please contact your teacher, advisor, or dean at any time.


  • All school rules and principles regarding behavior (as outlined in The Guide) are in effect. 
  • Spring semester grades: if we don’t return to on-campus learning this spring, all second-semester courses will be graded Pass/Fail. If we return before the end of the year, we will determine whether or not we will assign grades or be Pass/Fail for the second semester. (Please see Grading Policies)
  • At the beginning of each week, teachers will post a one-week schedule for synchronous and asynchronous learning. 
  • During synchronous classes, teachers may conduct lectures, give presentations, and facilitate student activities. During other regularly-scheduled class periods, teachers may assign work to be completed independently or collaboratively. 
  • Student engagement will be assessed based on a number of factors, including attendance in synchronous classes, participation in online forums like discussion groups, and completion of both online assessments and assigned work. 
  • Work Load: Teachers will aim for three to four hours of class work per week maximum, including time for:
    • Homework (asynchronous learning), e.g., reading/watching/listening to content or completing problem sets;
    • Engaging with peers via discussion boards or collaborative docs;
    • Attending class virtually via Zoom;
    • Taking assessments;
    • Other learning tasks. 
  • Attendance: During unpredictable times, we believe that a predictable schedule is grounding. Teachers will be taking attendance during our synchronous, online courses and during advisor meetings, and we ask that students be present in these sessions just as they would attend courses on campus unless they are unable to do so. We recognize that circumstances beyond a student or teacher’s control may impact classroom engagement. If you have any concerns, please contact a teacher, advisor, or dean at any time. If a student cannot be present in their online course that day, we ask that you email, just as you normally would. 

Expectations for the Virtual Classroom: Students should conduct themselves in a manner that reflects a professional, academic, public space. 

  • Students should be wearing appropriate attire during live, online (synchronous) classes. A student should not be in sleeping attire (pajamas, etc.), revealing clothing, clothing with inappropriate words, etc. 
  • Students should attend a live, online class sitting on a chair or couch and, whenever possible, in a private place; we want to respect the sanctity of the classroom community, so parents, guardians and other family members should not be present during discussions. If possible, students should wear headphones or earbuds.
  • Students should be sitting up, and school materials should be easily accessible on a desk or table. In other words, a student should not be attending class from a private, intimate, or unsafe space (e.g. lounging in bed, while driving in a car, etc.). TIP: Please attempt to sit as closer to a router as possible to increase the speed and strength of the internet connectivity for video calls.
  • We recognize that online learning creates opportunities for academic dishonesty. It is critical that students adhere strictly to our principles—honest and respect for self and others—as well as our statements on Academic Honesty as outlined in The Guide (pages 37 and 38).
  • While online, students should have only the relevant tools and materials needed for their course, and their attention and behavior should reflect the respect they would show a teacher in any brick and mortar classroom. 
  • Cell phones and other distracting chat platforms should be put away during synchronous classes.


Advising: Advisors will use Zoom to hold group advisor meetings every Tuesday from 8:45-9:15 a.m. Advisors will take attendance and follow up, first by email and then phone, with advisees who are absent.

Academic Support

  1. Academic Support Department: The Learning Specialists in the Academic Support Department are able to support students in the event there is a prolonged period of time when students are not physically present on campus. Learning Specialists will continue to connect with students through email, phone, and Zoom. Students will be able to contact Learning Specialists during previously scheduled individual times or during office hours that will be posted. 

If teachers, families or students encounter learning challenges with the new online platform that teachers are using and wish to schedule a time to interface with a learning specialist, we strongly encourage them to contact the Director of Academic Support, Heather O’Neill at or to call (617) 877-3329 at any time.


Department of Psychology and Counseling: The Nobles Department of Psychology and Counseling will be available to meet with students face-to-face through Zoom or by phone call. We encourage students to reach out via email to set up appointments; those with regular weekly meetings are welcome to continue to connect with counselors at those times if they wish. 

Jen Hamilton  617-686-0644

Rick Wilson 617-513-8620

Mary Batty  617-669-5243

College Counseling

College Counseling: In the event of a school closure for a prolonged period of time, the Nobles College Counseling Office will continue to offer students, parents and guardians face-to-face meetings (via Zoom) and phone calls during school hours. The goal will be to continue to offer the same level of service and support to our families that we do when we meet them on campus. Students, parents and guardians should use email to schedule appointments.

Fortunately, the college counseling team has experience using online platforms for short-term, distance college counseling. The counseling team uses Skype, Zoom, screen sharing technology and/or FaceTime when working with students who study abroad for the year, or in the summer when some students or families are unable to meet on campus. The college counseling team also has a bank of presentations and online resources that can be shared with students and families as needed throughout the remainder of the semester.

College counselors will also serve as a conduit for information about any impact that the current crisis may have on College Board/ACT in regards to changes to future standardized test dates.

Tools and Platforms

In order to prepare for Virtual Nobles, we are requesting that all students download Zoom and Google Chrome by Friday, April 3. These tools will ensure that we can begin our virtual classes as smoothly as possible. Here are resources to assist students in this setup process:

  1. Video: How to Download and Set up Zoom 
  2. Video: How to Download and Set up Google Chrome

If you have any questions or troubleshooting needs related to these technologies, please email

If you have any questions about Virtual Nobles policies and procedures, please reach out to:

Middle School

John Gifford: 

Colette Finley: 

Upper School 

Michael Denning 

Kim Libby:

Programming for the week of March 30: Next week, while faculty and staff are preparing to open Virtual Nobles on April 6, we will be offering Nobles students an opportunity to reconnect through a series of intellectual, wellness and exercise programs. Please look for an email from Kate Ramsdell on Monday, March 30 with information about next week’s programs.


We are excited about the Virtual Nobles we have built over the past several weeks and are confident that Virtual Nobles will not only enable us to advance teaching and learning and prepare students for future academic challenges, but also provide a crucial platform for providing the connections so important to our community and the health and wellness of our students. That said, we are mindful that the nature of this health crisis and the stress and challenges it has created (and will create) for all members of the Nobles community—students, parents, guardians, faculty, staff—will make the next few weeks anything but business as usual:

  • Demands on (and schedules of) students, parents and guardians are different: while we are virtual and battling this crisis, many faculty, students and staff will have obligations to their families and communities during what have historically been the hours of the school day, requiring more asynchronous and non-traditional teaching and learning. 
  • Teaching and learning will be innovative, new to students and less traditional: As we attempt to teach and learn the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will be most important for our students next year at Nobles, in college, and in their future personal and professional endeavors, we will be at once deliberate and discerning, but also innovative. 
  • Greater limitations to standardization and fairness: Although teachers of core courses, e.g. Civics, English IV, Physics, Algebra I or US History, will continue to collaborate, the level of standardization from one core course to another will not be as great during this first semester of distance learning at Nobles as when we are on campus.

The ways in which Nobles faculty will assess will have to vary and be experimental. Traditional assessments, e.g., final exams, labs, research essays, in-class tests, will have to be augmented and/or amended.