State Education Policy

Bill Suggests Michigan Virtual Grow into Blended Research Hub

Two decades after its founding, a virtual school in Michigan legislated into existence faces an expansion of its mandate to include research. Michigan Virtual has long delivered courses to middle and high school students. Now, the organization might also become a hub for online educational experimentation. House bill 6324 so far has been read once and referred to the Committee on Education Reform.

Michigan Virtual (formerly known as Michigan Virtual University & Michigan Virtual School) delivers courses to students in districts under contract to the non-profit. Other students, such as those home-schooled or attending private schools, pay tuition at the same rate as a public-school student's fee.

Should the recent bill move out of committee in its current form, the school would "significantly expand" course offerings through new agreements with school districts or other curriculum providers and would serve as a "broker" for Advanced Placement courses.

Also expected: formation of a "Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute," to "support and accelerate innovation" for virtual learning. Among its proposed charter:

  • To test, evaluate and recommend new technology-based instructional tools and resources;
  • To research, design and recommend virtual education delivery models, including blended learning;
  • To research, develop and recommend criteria by which "cyber schools" and online course providers should be monitored and evaluated;
  • To analyze the effectiveness of online delivery models in preparing students to be college- and career-ready;
  • To provide professional development to teachers in how to integrate virtual learning into their instructional practices; and
  • To identify and share best practices for virtual and blended education.

Over the last 20 years, according to Michigan Virtual officials, the school has served 250,000 people.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.