For the last 28 years, one of the leading international science education organisations has regularly provided a week-long summer school experience for doctoral students. In summer 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented international travel and close-contact interactions between scholars. This required the transformation and relocation of learning interactions between mentors and doctoral students online through a virtual week-long summer school. All doctoral participants, from across the five continents, were invited to reflectively comment on their educative experience after the online event. This paper consequently presents the perspectives of these science education PhD students who engaged with the transformed virtual summer school to consider how the range of varied online interactions maintained the learning opportunities for them and enabled their introduction to an established research community. The study indicates how the digital activities facilitated and maintained high-quality learning exchanges through a varied array of intellectual activities involving both experienced and novice scholars. The findings demonstrate how successful academic outcomes can be achieved remotely while minimising international travel and significantly reducing financial outlay. This was achieved through creatively structuring a week-long virtual experience and combining a series of synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities for different groupings of participants within the international summer school community.


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

Cite as

Cullinane, A., McGregor, D., Frodsham, S., Hillier, J. & Guilfoyle, L. 2022, 'Transforming a doctoral summer school to an online experience: A response to the COVID‐19 pandemic', British Journal of Educational Technology, 53(3), pp. 558-576. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.13195

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 21 September 2022
Was this page helpful?