Guide to Virtual Course Implementation: Under Section 21f of the State School Aid Act

Published on March 30, 2021

Modified on April 30, 2021

Written By: 

Michigan Virtual

Student access to any time and any place learning options has expanded under a new law in Michigan. Section 21f of Public Act 60 of 2013 allows students in grades 5 through 12 to take up to two courses online per academic term (with parental consent). Michigan is the seventh state in the U.S. to enable statewide choice at the course level through online learning options.

About this Guide

School administrators, teachers, counselors, mentors, parents, and students in Michigan need accurate information about the changes in educational policy that permit Michigan students to take online courses. This guide provides an overview of the policies found in Section 21f of the State School Aid Act and identifies basic implementation decisions schools need to explore.

Most recently, the Michigan Legislature updated legislation regarding virtual courses in Michigan Compiled Laws Section 388.1621f in response to an abrupt shift to distance learning necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift brought to light gaps in Michigan’s ability to quickly transition students and staff to distance learning. This unprecedented crisis will cause continuous recalibration at the state and local level regarding education policy and practice.

Introduction

Michigan’s interest in and commitment to digital alternatives to traditional instruction have a long history, spanning two decades of legislation and policy development. Some key milestones include:

YearLegislationPublic Act
2000Enacted legislation to create the Michigan Virtual School® (MVS®) operated by the Michigan Virtual University.P.A. 230 of 2000
2004Dedicated first-time appropriation support for K-12 online professional development.P.A. 351 of 2004
2006Became the first state in the nation to pass a requirement that students have an “online learning experience” before graduating from high school.P.A. 123 & 124 of 2006
2008Allowed school districts to seek a waiver of the state’s pupil accounting rules to allow eligible full-time students to take all of their coursework online through a process implemented by Michigan’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. 
2009Allowed the formation of two full-time online charter schools.P.A. 205 of 2009
2012Raised the enrollment cap for cyber schools and allowed up to 2% of Michigan’s total public school enrollment (about 30,000) to participate in full-time programs.P.A. 129 of 2012
2012Allowed traditional school districts, intermediate school districts, and community colleges (within the college’s regional boundaries) to each authorize one “school of excellence that is a cyber school.” Statewide authorizing bodies were limited to authorizing in aggregate a total of five cyber charters in 2013, 10 in 2014, and 15 after 2014.P.A. 129 of 2012
2012Enacted legislation to create the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute within Michigan Virtual University.P.A. 201 of 2012
2013Enacted legislation that allowed students in grades 5 to 12 to enroll in up to two online courses as requested by the pupil during an academic term, semester, or trimester.P.A. 60 of 2013
2014Revised grade levels to 6-12 and altering funding formula; initiated full launch and use of Michigan’s Online Course Catalog (MOCC)P.A. 196 of 2014
2015Revised Section 21f of the State School Aid Act to allow community colleges to offer online courses, require primary districts to assign mentors to online learners, and altered funding formula.P.A. 85 of 2015
2016Revised Section 21f of the State School Aid Act to allow students in K-12 to participate while allowing districts to deny requests for students outside of grades 6-12.P.A. 249 of 2016
2017Expands access to digital learning options for students in Michigan by establishing that public school students in grades K-12, with the consent of parent or legal guardian, may enroll in up to two online courses during an academic term from the courses listed in their district’s local catalog or from MOCCP.A. 143 of 2017
2020Addressed the applicability of Section 21f to pandemic learning during the 2020-21 school year. (15) The requirements under this section concerning virtual courses do not apply to virtual courses offered as part of pandemic learning. As used in this subsection, “pandemic learning” means a mode of pupil instruction provided as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.P.A. 147 of 2020  

Public Sector Consultants, in cooperation with Michigan Virtual™ surveyed 600 Michigan adults and 400 Michigan college students in February of 2019. These surveys were part of ongoing public opinion research conducted by Michigan Virtual to better understand the opinions, preferences, and beliefs of Michigan residents about online learning opportunities for high school students in the state. What they found is a majority in both groups view online learning as important, that it has value in preparing students for college, and that it will continue to grow in use. Michigan’s K-12 Virtual Learning Effectiveness Report, 2019-20 authored each year by the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute® revealed that the number of students taking virtual courses was 121,900 during the 2019-20 school year. Actual enrollments totaled 672,682, coming from 964 different course titles. Students in grades 9-12 accounted for 81% of virtual enrollments.

As a result of the legislation passed in 2013, students in grades K-12 enrolled in a public school academy (PSA) or public local district (including students enrolled through a district on a part-time basis, such as those participating in a shared time program) are eligible to enroll in up to two online courses during an academic term. A student may be enrolled in more than two online courses if the student’s primary district determines that it is in the student’s best interest, the student agrees with the recommendation of the district, and the district and student have developed an education development plan that is kept on file by the district.

The adoption of Section 21f extends two levels of choice to students statewide: one level to choose online learning as a delivery option and one level to select specific course titles. This legislation creates a path for access to options and moves Michigan’s educational decision-makers from considering “if” they are going to allow online learning to “when” and “how” they’re going to offer online options.

In addition to being a consumer of online courses, all Michigan school districts will need to determine if they also want to be a provider of online courses. School districts may partner with other public and private organizations to support their efforts in offering online courses to resident and nonresident students. Districts may use locally developed online learning solutions and/or contract with third-party providers for content, delivery, and support services. The State School Aid Act includes provisions for community colleges to provide online courses through MOCC.

All LEAs (local education agency), PSAs (public school academy), ISDs (intermediate school district), community colleges, and Michigan Virtual are eligible to advertise online courses in the statewide catalog. Serving as a provider, school districts can offer online courses throughout the district or across the state. If an allowable reason for denial is not identified, districts must allow students to enroll in virtual courses if requested. For more information about how to prepare for and implement online learning in your district see the Michigan Virtual Planning Guide for Online and Blended Learning.

Definitions/Clarification of Terms

People refer to learning that takes place using computers or other devices in a number of ways: digital learning, virtual learning, or e-learning, for example. Section 21f defines a specific model of online learning in which the course:

  • Is capable of generating a credit or grade;
  • The majority of the curriculum is delivered through the internet; and
  • Allows students and their instructors to be separated by time, location, or both.

In addition to specific requirements for courses, Section 21f also requires that each course have a teacher of record. A teacher of record:

  • Holds a valid Michigan teaching certificate or a teaching permit recognized by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE);
  • Is endorsed in the subject area and grade of the virtual course if applicable;
  • Is responsible for providing instruction, determining instructional methods for each pupil, diagnosing learning needs, assessing pupil learning, prescribing intervention strategies and modifying lessons, reporting outcomes, and evaluating the effects of instruction and support strategies;
  • Has a personnel identification code (PIC) provided by the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI); and
  • Is an instructor employed by or contracted through the providing community college, if the provider is a community college.

Under Section 21f, only online options that meet all these requirements (and are available to students in grades K-12) are considered an online course. However, the legislation does not prevent a district from offering online options that do not fit the Section 21f definition. A district can provide other online options as long as the options meet the requirements established in two sections of the MDE Pupil Accounting Manual:

  • Section 5-O-A4: 4) The pupil was enrolled in the course on Count Day and the course title (as published in the course catalog or list) or board-approved course name is reflected on the pupil’s class schedule and transcript.
  • Section 5-0-B5: 5) The course must be capable of generating credit toward a high school diploma. Earned credit is recorded on the pupil’s transcript.

Figure 1

Illustrates the opportunity for eligible students to enroll in online courses provided by their local district (resident primary district) and nonresident districts, Michigan Virtual, and community colleges.

The state’s pupil accounting rules equate the word “enroll” with counting pupils and the payment of the per pupil foundation allowance, or the splitting of FTE between two school districts. Under Section 21f, “… allow pupils in grades K to 12 to enroll in online courses …” means to “allow pupils in grades K to 12 ‘to take’ online courses.” Section 21f is about billing (School A pays School B), not the FTE/foundation allowance splits.

Summary of Section 21f

The digital learning initiative is about access, accountability, quality, and empowerment. The legislation creates the following policy framework:

  • Provides unprecedented statewide choice for students at two levels: one level to choose online learning as an instructional delivery option, and one level to select specific course titles from the statewide catalog of offerings from local districts, ISDs, community colleges, and Michigan Virtual;
  • Establishes mechanisms to govern the growth of online learning;
  • Maintains a key role for schools in determining curriculum and the quality and rigor of the online courses they offer as well as the online courses they allow students to take; and
  • Empowers districts to determine their level of engagement as an online learning provider.

The legislation delineates several policies and regulations for offering online courses and for enrollment in them.

District Responsibilities & Parent Rights

Section 21f calls on school districts to support the expansion of online learning by:

  • Creating a link to the statewide catalog on the district website;
  • Allowing students from the district to take up to two online courses or more, with the conditions outlined in the Introduction, during an academic term;
  • Enrolling students in online course(s) and paying the expenses associated with the online course(s);
  • Including the course(s) on the student schedule and granting academic credit for successful course completions;
  • Counting that credit toward graduation and subject area requirements;
  • Adding the course to the student transcript, identifying the online course title as it appears in the syllabus;
  • Providing online students the same rights and access to technology as they provide to all other students; and
  • Requiring parental consent before allowing a student to enroll in a course under Section 21f.

Districts are provided guidelines for managing course and student record oversight. School districts may establish course completion criteria for their students enrolled in online courses in the statewide catalog. It is expected that the criteria will not be substantially different from the course completion standards used for traditional face-to-face courses.

When it comes to determining the letter grade included on student transcripts, districts should abide by their district policies or guidelines or create new ones to address any differences. Some districts may treat Section 21f courses the same way they do when recording credits for a new transfer student. Under Section 21f, a district is required to “grant appropriate academic credit and shall count that credit toward completion of graduation and subject area requirements” as well as “identify the online course title as it appears in the online course syllabus.”

Some districts may already have established a policy or comprehensive mentoring program if they previously offered courses in a self-scheduled format as allowed by pupil accounting Administrative Rule 340.11. If a district is new to self-scheduled learning, the district should seek appropriate advice on what arrangement would best serve the educational interests of their students.

Mentors must be professional employees of the district who monitor the pupil’s progress, ensure the pupil has access to needed technology, are available for assistance, and ensure access to the teacher of record. Mentors are also responsible for a two-way interaction log as defined by the MDE Pupil Accounting Manual to verify participation in 21f courses.

Districts and ISDs Acting as Online Course Providers

All districts and ISDs offering online course(s) as the course provider must:

  • Link to the statewide catalog from the district website;
  • Ensure that the virtual course has been published in the pupil’s primary district’s catalog of board-approved courses or published in the statewide catalog of virtual courses maintained by Michigan Virtual;
  • Assign to each pupil a teacher of record and provide the primary district with the personnel identification code assigned by CEPI for the teacher of record. If the provider is a community college, the virtual course must be taught by an instructor employed by or contracted through the providing community college; and
  • Offer the virtual course on an open entry and exit method, or aligned to a semester, trimester, or accelerated academic term format.

If the virtual course is offered to eligible pupils in more than one district, the following additional requirements must also be met:

  • Provide Michigan Virtual with a course syllabus in a form and manner prescribed by Michigan Virtual for inclusion in a statewide catalog of virtual courses;
  • Accept responsibility for the results of the course quality review for each course syllabus submitted to the statewide catalog even if the course is offered through a partnership with a third-party online course provider;
  • Identify a single price for each course title they elect to publish in the statewide catalog based on the limits identified in Section 21f; and
  • Provide Michigan Virtual, not later than October 1 of each fiscal year, with an aggregated count of enrollments for each virtual course the provider delivered to pupils pursuant to this section during the immediately preceding school year, and the number of enrollments in which the pupil earned 60% or more of the total course points for each virtual course. This information can be reported through MOCC.

Districts are expected to apply the same registration deadlines for Section 21f options as they would for their traditional course offerings. As an online course provider, districts listing an online course in the state catalog must identify in the syllabus an open enrollment period. This information can help districts make a determination in a timely fashion to process enrollments or institute a random draw system if demand for a particular course exceeds capacity.

School districts may choose to make their online courses available to their resident pupils only and still use MOCC to publicize the courses locally. Schools may also develop their own local catalog of online course titles. If an online course meets Section 21f requirements, then a course syllabus must be submitted to the statewide catalog in a form and method prescribed by MDE even if the course is only being offered within the district (see MOCC and Syllabi section). School districts are not required to make their online course offerings available to nonresident students and may limit enrollments to the students they claim for pupil accounting purposes.

A district or community college shall determine whether it has capacity to accept applications for enrollment from nonresident students in online courses and may use that limit as the reason for refusal to enroll an applicant. If the number of nonresident applicants eligible for acceptance in an online course does not exceed the capacity of the district to provide the online course, the district will accept for enrollment all of the eligible nonresident students. If the number of nonresident applicants exceeds the district’s capacity to provide the online course, the district will use a random draw system, subject to the need to abide by state and federal antidiscrimination laws and court orders. A district can institute reasonable rules and processes regarding appropriate timeframes for requesting an online course.

Community Colleges Acting as Online Course Provider

In 2015, the ability for community colleges to offer online courses under Section 21f was added. While some of the requirements of local school districts and ISDs offering online courses also apply to community colleges, there are some differences as well. Refer to the table below for details.

  RequirementLEAs/PSAs/ ISDs/Michigan VirtualCommunity Colleges
Provide Michigan Virtual with the course syllabus in a form and method prescribed by Michigan Virtual for inclusion in the statewide online course catalog.xx
Offer the course on an open entry/exit method or aligned to a semester, trimester, or accelerated academic term format.xx
Provide no later than October 1 the number of enrollments in each course provided to pupils in the immediately preceding school year, along with the number of enrollments in which the pupil earned 60% or more of the total course points for each course.xx
Provide on its publicly accessible website a link to the course syllabi for all online courses offered.x 
Provide on its publicly accessible website a link to the statewide catalog of online courses (http://micourses.org).x 
Assign to each pupil a teacher of record and provide the primary district with the PIC (personnel identification code) for the teacher of record.x 
Ensure that each online course provided under 21f generates postsecondary credit. x
Ensure that each online course provided under 21f is taught by an instructor employed by or contracted through the community college providing the course. x

Denying Enrollment Requests

According to the legislation, school administrators may deny student requests to enroll in a virtual course for 10 reasons:

  • The pupil is enrolled in any of grades K to 5.
  • The pupil has previously gained the credits that would be provided from the completion of the virtual course.
  • The virtual course is not capable of generating academic credit.
  • The virtual course is inconsistent with the remaining graduation credits or career interests of the pupil.
  • The pupil has not completed the prerequisite coursework for the requested virtual course or has not demonstrated proficiency in the prerequisite course content.
  • The pupil has failed a previous virtual course in the same subject during the two most recent academic years.
  • The virtual course is of insufficient quality or rigor. A primary district that denies a pupil’s enrollment request for this reason shall enroll the pupil in a virtual course in the same or a similar subject that the primary district determines is of acceptable rigor and quality.
  • The cost of the virtual course exceeds the amount identified in subsection (9), unless the pupil or the pupil’s parent or legal guardian agrees to pay the cost that exceeds this amount.
  • The request for a virtual course enrollment did not occur within the same timeline established by the primary school district for enrollment and schedule changes for regular courses.
  • The request for a virtual course enrollment was not made in the academic term, semester, trimester, or summer preceding the enrollment. This subdivision does not apply to a request made by a pupil who is newly enrolled in the primary district.
  • Districts may also deny a student enrollment request in an online course if the student wants to take an online course but is already enrolled in a full course load.
  • Offering online learning options outside of Section 21f is not listed as a reason districts can use to deny a student from enrolling in an online course in the statewide catalog.
  • Districts are only required to enroll students in courses under Section 21f during the regular school year. The regular school year may, however, extend into what is traditionally considered the summer break if the student’s school operates on a year-round, extended or balanced school calendar.
  • If a pupil is denied enrollment in a virtual course by the pupil’s primary district, the primary district shall provide written notification to the pupil of the denial, the reason or reasons for the denial, and a description of the appeal process. The pupil may appeal the denial by submitting a letter to the superintendent of the intermediate district in which the pupil’s primary district is located. The letter of appeal shall include the reason provided by the primary district for not enrolling the pupil and the reason why the pupil is claiming that the enrollment should be approved.
  • The ISD superintendent or designee shall respond to the appeal within five days after it is received. If the ISD superintendent or designee determines that the denial of enrollment does not meet one or more of the reasons specified above, the primary district shall enroll the pupil in the virtual course.

The legislation also designates rights for students and parents:

  • Students are able to request enrollment in up to two online courses per academic term from their local district catalog or the statewide catalog.
  • A student may be enrolled in more than two online courses in a specific academic term, semester, or trimester if the student’s primary district determines it is in the best interest of the student, the student agrees with the recommendation of the district, and the district and student have developed an education development plan that is kept on file by the district.
  • Parents must provide consent as part of the student request process (unless the student is 18 years of age or an emancipated minor).
  • Parents may not enroll their students directly in an online course; school personnel must be involved in registering and enrolling students.

Status Quo

Not all established policies related to online and blended learning are affected by Section 21f:

  • Section 21f does not supersede the policies and regulations governing Schools of Excellence that are cyber schools.
  • Students who take online courses onsite with a certified teacher present are not limited in the number of courses they can take (Section 5-O-A).

Michigan’s Online Course Catalog & Syllabi

Michigan’s catalog of online courses provides information about each course title in a syllabus format that includes more than a dozen required fields, including student performance data. The actual course content is not viewable in the statewide catalog; however, the statewide catalog provides core services that allow authorized school users to:

  • Manage course offerings;
  • Add, edit, and delete course syllabi;
  • Advertise course offerings; and
  • Search for course titles.
Michigan's Online Course Catalog

Local school districts, intermediate school districts, Michigan community colleges, and Michigan Virtual may submit online course syllabi to the statewide catalog. Only online courses offered to nonresident students under Section 21f must be added to MOCC.

The mechanism for providing a course syllabus to Michigan Virtual is through MOCC. Through this website, districts are able to add, edit, copy, and delete their course syllabi. For more information on how to use the catalog website, and how to enroll a student in an online course, refer to the About Michigan’s Online Course Catalog maintained by Michigan Virtual. The public is able to search the statewide catalog for course titles, but enrollments for students are not created here.

The focus of Section 21f is online courses, not blended learning programs that rely on some use of face-to-face interaction. Districts can continue to promote and use blended learning options, and there is no need to prepare and submit a syllabus for these types of offerings. A simple way to determine if the course meets the eligibility requirements of an online course is to ask if nonresident students could fully participate in the course with no need for in-person activities. If students need to participate in some face-to-face interactions, then the course probably does not meet the definition requirements of a 21f online course.

A district can add online course syllabi to the catalog at any time. All online course syllabi require the results of the course review be posted below the course description within the Additional Course Information section in the statewide catalog. For example, Michigan Virtual’s Algebra 1A course review

School districts can select individual course titles that appear in the statewide catalog to also appear in their local district catalog. Districts may want to use this feature to let students and parents know which offerings in the statewide catalog are recognized by the district as high quality or preferred based on previous experience.

As a condition of offering an online course to a nonresident, a district is responsible for producing an online course syllabus. Section 21f requires that an online course syllabus include all of the following components:

  • An alignment document detailing how the course meets applicable state standards, or if the state does not have state standards, nationally-recognized standards.
  • Course content outline, required course assessments, and course prerequisites.
  • Expectations for instructor contact time with the student learning online and other student-to-instructor communications.
  • Academic support available to the online learning student.
  • Learning outcomes and objectives.
  • The name of the institution or organization providing the online content.
  • The name of the institution or organization providing the teacher of record.
  • The course titles assigned by the district and the course titles and codes assigned by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and searchable in the School Courses for the Exchange of Data Finder. The NCES codes are commonly referred to as SCED.
  • The number of students who do not live in the district who will be able to enroll in the course.
  • The results of the online course quality review using the Guide for Online Course Review Process published by Michigan Virtual.
  • The price of the online course.
  • Enrollment periods for the course, including drop policies and the timeline for random draw selections if demand for the course exceeds capacity.

The statewide catalog provides a link to the site that explains and/or manages enrollment and registration processes for each online course provider. Enrollment and registration is addressed by the student’s resident district.

The statewide catalog contains additional consumer information for students, parents, school personnel, and policy makers:

  • the number of enrollments in each online course in the previous year,
  • the number of enrollments that earned 60% or more of the total course points for each online course in the previous year, and
  • the completion rate for each course.

Course Review for Quality & Rigor

Section 21f requires that syllabi posted in the local district and the statewide online course catalog be reviewed for quality and rigor according to the Guide for Online Course Review Process developed by Michigan Virtual and subsequently approved by MDE. The process follows best practices, includes state content standards, and uses nationally recognized online learning standards to evaluate the courses published by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), now known as the Aurora Institute. iNACOL’s National Standards for Quality Online Courses contains 52 standards that are divided among five sections:

  1. Content
  2. Instructional Design
  3. Student Assessment
  4. Technology
  5. Course Evaluation and Support

The Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance (VLLA) and Quality Matters (QM) led a broad-based effort to revise the National Standards for Quality Online Learning, building upon the work started by the iNACOL. The updated National Standards for Quality Online Courses will be used as new courses go through a review and are added to MOCC. It is anticipated that both models for review will exist in the statewide catalog until periodic course review cycles eliminate the original review model. MDE and Michigan Virtual will not approve or reject courses submitted to the statewide catalog.

The district that is functioning as the online course provider under Section 21f is required to have board approval for the online courses they offer. The district that has students enrolling in an online course under Section 21f would not require board approval (unless the enrolling district and district providing the online course are the same). However, the responsibility rests with the district to evaluate the rigor and quality of the courses in which their students enroll.

When any eligible entity adds a course syllabus to MOCC, it is vouching for the quality of the online course. The entity may choose not to do its own review and instead accept a review conducted by another organization; in which case, it should confirm that the process used to conduct the review is in line with the Guide for Online Course Review Process for Michigan. If the review was conducted by an out-of-state organization, the eligible entity should confirm that the content portions of the review used the applicable Michigan curricular standards.

Paying for Online Courses

Under Section 21f, school districts are required to use their foundation allowance or per pupil funds to “pay for expenses associated with the online course or courses” and to cover the “cost of the online course.” The cost of an online course is tied to the direct expenses associated with paying for it through enrollment/tuition fees and includes required course materials such as learning kits, calculators, or textbooks that are in addition to the enrollment/tuition fees. Section 21f identifies the maximum amount districts are required to pay for the enrollment/completion of online courses available in the statewide catalog.

Districts offering online courses through the statewide catalog can generate revenue by enrolling nonresident pupils in their online course(s), but the district claiming the student for pupil accounting purposes will not see an increase in the per-pupil funding because the student takes one or more online courses.

Course Payment Ceiling

A district is not required to pay toward the cost of an online course an amount that exceeds 6.67% of the state’s minimum foundation allowance or per pupil funds calculated in the State School Aid Act for the current fiscal year. See the List of School District Foundation Allowances maintained by MDE at Public School Finance Information and Resources.

Some school districts may operate under a traditional six-hour schedule and others may employ a modified block schedule. Regardless of the district’s schedule, it may not establish a payment ceiling for online courses that is different from the 6.67% payment rule outlined in Section 21f.

Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Count

Under Section 21f, the enrollment of a student in one or more online courses cannot result in a pupil counting for more than 1.0 FTE. Districts are not obligated to provide a student with a course load that exceeds a full-time schedule.

Under a shared time services agreement, non-public students can take non-core courses (such as band, music, art, etc.) at their local public school in a face-to-face setting, and the district is able to claim a portion of the FTE count for each pupil. This same type of arrangement can also be used for online course offerings that appear in a district’s local catalog or the statewide catalog. Under these circumstances, the enrollment and attendance requirement can be satisfied if the pupil is in attendance on Count Day. It is possible that a non-public school student could enroll in a non-core course from their local district that is offered online from the statewide catalog options. In this situation, the non-public student is considered a partial FTE for the district.

Pandemic Learning

While Section 21f of Michigan’s State School Aid Act details the state’s virtual learning policies and addresses the unique implications of pandemic learning for the 2020-2021 school year, the Legislature took additional actions beyond 21f.

On August 20, 2020, Governor Whitmer signed House Bill 5913 into law as Public Act 149. Section 98a of that act states that to receive state aid for the 2020-2021 school year, districts must prepare and submit an extended COVID-19 Learning Plan (“Plan”) that has been approved by an intermediate district or authorizing body. These Plans detail the educational goals to be achieved for the 2020-2021 school year, as well as how districts will provide instruction (face to face, remotely, digitally, synchronous or asynchronous, etc.) and increase student engagement and achievement. The Plan does not replace the District’s COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan, rather it is an additional plan that includes new assurances and sections on educational goals, instructional delivery, grading, and equitable access.

Other changes resulting, from Public Act 149 and 148, for the 2020-2021 school year include specific guidance to districts under COVID-19 learning plans on how to count students for district Count Days, including provisions for synchronous and asynchronous instruction and teacher-student interaction. Additionally, there are provisions for calculating pupil counts for specific cases as well as two-way interactions, previously used by cyber schools to demonstrate attendance and engagement.

There are also provisions for instructional time in the updated legislation. For the 2020-2021 school year, the minimum number of hours and days of instruction are waived for all districts. However, districts are still required to provide instruction at school, at a different location, in person, online, digitally or through other remote means, synchronous or asynchronous, the necessary amount to deliver the educational course content that would have been delivered in 180 days and 1,098 hours.

Conclusion

The unexpected impact of a global pandemic forcing an abrupt closing of buildings during the 2019-2020 school year brought significant attention to the gaps in our preparedness as a nation to transition students and staff to a fully remote model of teaching and learning. The transition of learning environments from traditional classroom models to any time, any place, any pace learning systems requires the transformation of both individual and organizational behavior. This is an opportune time to explore what systemic educational transformation might become.

Michigan Virtual stands ready to work with other educational leaders to transform Michigan’s virtual learning options and position the state to assume a national leadership role in the knowledge economy.

While all stakeholders have an interest in students acquiring 21st-century skills, capacity for making changes in the teaching and learning environment run the gamut from limited to wide open. The past decade has taught us much regarding implementation considerations – wherever a stakeholder falls on the continuum.

Research and Resources for Online Learning Programs

Michigan’s K-12 Virtual Learning Effectiveness Report, 2019-20, produced annually, reflects continued growth in K-12 online enrollments in Michigan. The report provides school districts with the opportunity to benchmark their own virtual learning programs against their peers in the state. This opportunity should be an important step in a program’s continuous quality improvement activities. The report is organized into several sections. The first section looks at schools as the unit of analysis. The next section focuses on the virtual courses taken. The third section focuses on students. The fourth section captures performance on statewide assessments. There is also a brief section containing maps of virtual use. Each section is meant to capture the essential findings without being overly data intensive; however, data tables have been included in the appendices to provide those interested with more in-depth information.

For additional information and insights for developing and supporting your online and blended learning program, please visit the following web pages on the Michigan Virtual website:

  • Michigan’s Online Course Catalog contains syllabi information (such as state academic standards, prerequisites, instructor contact time expectations, available academic support, and outcomes and objectives) as well as enrollment and course dates for online courses made available by Michigan school districts and Michigan Virtual.
  • The Digital Backpack blog that shares findings and expertise related to K-12 online and blended learning from both a state and national perspective.
  • Michigan schools are obligated to address the learning needs of students of all abilities so everyone has equitable access to education. When students have the tools to learn according to their abilities, everyone wins. By learning more about accommodations, accessibility, and inclusive pedagogy, educators can apply best practices in meeting the needs of all students in their classrooms.
  • Research Publications that provide a foundation to examine, engage, and explore educational practices in the industry.
  • Research Clearinghouse contains references to important research and publications in the field of K-12 online and blended learning.
  • Michigan’s Online Learning Law page is dedicated to information on Michigan’s Section 21f legislation. It includes resources and samples developed by and for schools.
  • A family of Guides to Online Learning details the world of online learning from the perspective of the people integral to creating a positive learning experience. Each guide outlines key definitions, research and resources, and practical strategies that paint a picture of what kind of preparations and support systems are necessary to ensure students succeed in their online courses.
  • A page dedicated to Mentors, developed in partnership with school leaders and mentors, links educators to a professional learning community where they can ask questions, problem solve, and share ideas and resources with other mentors around the state including sample forms.
  • The set of national standards for quality online programs, teaching, and courses have been a benchmark for online learning for more than a decade. All three sets of standards were updated and published in 2019 by Quality Matters and the Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance.
  • The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) published  Standards to provide a framework for innovation in education and help educators and education leaders worldwide prepare learners to thrive in work and life.
  • Today’s students must be prepared to thrive in a constantly evolving technological landscape. The ISTE Standards for Students are designed to empower student voice and ensure that learning is a student-driven process.
  • Tools and samples developed to facilitate enrollment decisions:
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Limited Course Capacity

We’re sorry to inform you that we have reached capacity for several of our Semester 1 and Trimester 1 courses. You’ll notice when attempting to enroll students in our Student Learning Portal that some courses are unavailable. While we are no longer accepting new enrollments for these courses at this time, many courses continue to remain open for enrollment.

With many students across the state 100% remote, demand for our online courses is greater than ever before. Because every course we offer is taught by a Michigan-certified teacher, this high volume of enrollments has created capacity issues for our teachers who provide each and every student with individual feedback.

While the Michigan Virtual team anticipated and planned for significant increases in student enrollments this Fall, the increased demand we’ve experienced has been unprecedented. As a result, we are taking steps to hire even more part-and full-time teachers to support larger numbers of student enrollments for Semester 2 as well as for Trimester 2 and 3. 

For schools that still need online learning options this year, please fill out the form at the bottom of our virtual pathways page to meet with someone to discuss other solutions. While some of our teacher-led courses are full, we may still have the capacity to help you in upcoming terms or can discuss timing to implement a whole-school or collaborative program in which local teachers from your school/district use our online course content to teach students. We also have free course content and resources available for you to use.

We know this is an incredibly stressful time for all, and we’re sorry if the courses you’re looking for are unavailable. We never want to turn away a student who wants to learn from us. Our top concern, however, is student success, and we have a policy to not take on additional enrollments if we cannot guarantee that all students will have a quality online learning experience. 

We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate the unusually high volume of enrollments we are receiving.