Special to the I-O by Dianna Kersey
This past April the Montana Digital Academy, a fully accredited virtual online school designed in conjunction with the University of Montana, was created to give students a statewide learning program.
“House Bill 459 of the 61st Legislature states that the purpose of Montana Digital Academy is to: make distance learning opportunities available to all school-age children through public school districts in the state of Montana; offer high-quality instructors who are licensed and endorsed in Montana and courses that are in compliance with all relevant education and distance learning rules, standards, and policies, and; emphasize the core subject matters required under accreditation standards, offer advanced courses for dual credit in collaboration with the Montana University System, and offer enrichment courses.”
eLearning Online Internet High School
An interview with Jason Neiffer, Interim Curriculum Specialist for Montana Digital Academy (MDA) explained how online eLearning and teaching requires a different perspective on education. It is an asynchronous learning model where communication is conducted through email, text, chat and video conferencing, rather than real time traditional classrooms. It takes a disciplined student and a very supportive home environment to become a successful eLearner.
Course content is taught by qualified Montana-licensed instructors and is aligned to state educational standards, including Indian Education for all. “This helps create additional teaching positions for Montanans’ and it helps students get an education with Montana fingerprints all over it.” added Neiffers.
The MDA will provide innovative online coursework to students 9-12 grades, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week beginning with the 2010 -11 school year. Mr. Neiffers also explained that coursework is currently being designed for Jr. High to begin in the 2011-12 school year and for the elementary students beginning in 2012-13.
When asked about the possible tuition cost for future years, Neiffers stated that “The nationwide average is anywhere from $75 to $600 per course, per year and that MDA is working diligently to maintain costs at the lower end of the spectrum to make it more affordable for all families.”
Is This Home School? Yes and NoDo the students still participate at regular school or is the MDA program strictly on-line? Information directly from the website at www.montanadigitalacademy.org simply states; “The Montana Digital Academy provides courses for students across the State of Montana. If you are in a public, private, or homeschooled educational setting, MDA can meet your needs. MDA is a full-featured program that helps students meet college admissions requirements, make up missed or failed classes, resolve scheduling conflicts, and take advanced coursework.”
Neiffers stated that the perfect scenario would be both traditional class and on-line courses to supplement too full or unavailable courses in their school districts. He also explained that Conrad’s school district has been active in preparing for the fall on-line school year. “Conrad has the opportunity to truly embrace technology in the classroom; it is simply a matter of how to utilize it.”
Help for Struggling Students
MDA can be used for students struggling with real time learning structures as well as used to challenge high performance students.
For example: if a student fails a class at the end of the Spring semester, the on-line course work can give them the accredited make-up class work, receive credits and pass the course in order to participate in Fall sports the next year or even to graduate on time with their class. This can be a serious motivator for the right student who has the discipline to learn on-line. Pondera County Juvenile Probation Office has already taken the initiative making this program available to students this summer with having computers, books and learning materials in their office.
What online high school courses are available?
The inaugural year will be offering the following courses free of charge for the 2010-11 school year for grades 9 through 12. The advanced placement AP courses offered help enable the college bound student to CLEP college level coursework and further continue their education before stepping onto a college campus.
Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science, AP Biology, AP Physics B, AP Environmental Science
Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra2/Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC
English 1,2,3,4; AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition
Health, Physical Education1,2, Digital Photography, Microsoft Office Suite, Native American Studies, Oceanography, Psychology, Web Design
Global Studies, Montana History, World History, U.S. History, AP U.S. History, American Government, Current Issues in Government, AP U.S. Government & Politics
Chinese 1, 2; French 1; Latin 1; Spanish 1
How to Register for the 2010-2011 Free eLearning Courses
Simply contact your local school district for information on enrollment and MDA registration. Enrollment is available until September.
For more information, students and parents can log onto www.montanadigitalacademy.org for FAQ’s and helpful webinars. Parents can sign up for helpful information to determine if virtual learning is right for their child.
Most states already have very successful online school curriculum platforms in place. With MDA’s unique relationship with the University of Montana, this program is here to stay!
Editor’s note: Dianna Kersey is an Information Architect who daily commutes virtually to Tampa, Fla. representing International clients and brands for search engine presence and social media engagements. She is also a mom of teenagers and a preschooler.