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Alaska has offered a variety of distance (not always online) options to its students for many years. The 2011 launch of Alaska’s Learning Network (AKLN) sought to bring together the distance programs scattered around the state to expand course options to all Alaska students. In SY 2013-14, AKLN served 608 course enrollments from students in 42 out of 53 Alaska districts, an increase of 82% from SY 2012-13. In SY 2013-14, AKLN offered a summer school program with 68 course enrollments.

Fully online schools

The Alaska Virtual Academy (AKVA), managed by K12 Inc., is offered through the Wrangell Public School District and is the only fully online school serving students statewide; it served 76 K-8 students in SY 2013-14, a decrease of 54% from the previous year.

There have been two statewide full-time online schools. The Delta Cyber School operated out of the Delta/Greely School District and wasavailable to students ages 5-19. In 2010-11 it served 140 students, a 42% decrease from 242 students in 2009-10, and a 60% decrease from 350 students in 2008-09. The school closed at the end of SY 2011-12 due to declining enrollments.

State virtual school

In late 2010, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (EED) awarded $1.2 million of Enhancing Education Through Technology (E2T2) funds to Chatham School District, as a competitive grant award, to establish a consortium of Alaska districts to develop Alaska’s Learning Network (AKLN, originally named the Alaska Virtual Learning Network). The state-led initiative started with 11 Alaska school districts and two nonprofit statewide education agencies; its goal is to “locate, modify, or develop courses aligned to Alaska’s academic standards and presented by Alaska teachers.” The consortium aims to improve student achievement by providing online courses to high school students and professional development to Alaska students and educators.

All 54 Alaska school districts are part of the AKLN coalition. AKLN provides a highly-qualified teacher, the curriculum, and a recommended grade; the student’s home school awards the final course grade. The initial 21 courses were pulled from existing distance learning programs in Wrangell and Anchorage; the coalition offers 42 courses as of spring 2013. Depending on the needs of rural schools, AKLN expects to include a variety of synchronous and asynchronous courses. These may incorporate video conferencing, DVD, and other teaching methodologies, since less than 10% of students in Alaska have access to fast broadband connections.

Initial AKLN funding paid for a director, teacher leaders, content creator, technology director, overhead costs, an advisory board, and infrastructure to create the AKLN consortium. Plans called for continued course development and training, and initial state budget plans included an additional $1.2 million for AKLN, but all monies were cut from the final budget. It is now operating with $150,000 for SY 2012-13. AKLN is managed by the Alaska Council of School Administrators, and overseen by the state’s director of technology with one administrative assistant to manage registration, grades, and billing. A 15-member advisory board represents five regions of the state.

Through AKLN, districts will be able to enroll their students in online and blended courses that do not affect the per-student formula funding provided.  Districts pay $300-325 for each student’s course enrollment, though still receive the full FTE from the state.

AKLN is creating a content object library, the Digital Sandbox, that can be used by Alaska teachers seeking to implement blended learning in their classrooms. Content is aligned to Alaska Standards and the Common Core State Standards (even though Alaska has not adopted the Common Core). It also is reviewed for quality based on iNACOL’s National Standards of Quality for Online Courses. All artifacts are free to all Alaskan educators to download, revise, upload, and use as needed.

District programs

The grant effort to create the AKLN is the first large-scale effort to coordinate online learning opportunities for Alaska students, although the state’s schools historically have offered correspondence courses to support students working at home. Increasingly these courses are being offered online, though many are still delivered through video conferencing and other forms of blended learning.

The state listing of Correspondence Schools lists 29 programs excluding the Delta Cyber School. Thirteen are statewide programs, and these are a mix of full-time and supplemental programs, with the majority offering some online resources. The Alaska Virtual Academy is the only school on the list which is a fully online school across the state.

Distance offerings in Alaska School Districts: 2009-10 school year

District Grades served Primary delivery method Course types Vendors / partners
Anchorage School District 10-12 Online All core, some electives FLVS; Apex
Bering Strait School District 9-12 Blended High school, dual credit, pre-vocational Alaska districts, Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks, Harvard, Yonsei University
Craig City School District / PACE * Correspondence: K-12; Online: 9-12 Online, correspondence Many, including Alaska History and Native cultural courses Odysseyware and 12 others
Delta Greely School District (including Delta Cyber School) *CLOSED* K-12 Online, blended Credit recovery, advanced. Delta Cyber, the full-time online high school, closed at the end of SY 2011-12. Blackboard, Elluminate, FLVS, Apex, Aventa, Giany Campus, others
Galena City School District 9-12 Online, correspondence Two math and language arts multimedia courses
Kenai Peninsula Borough School District* 9-12 Video conference, distance, online Core and electives (supplemental) Apex, Blackboard, Elluminate,
Ketchikan School District (Fast Track) K-12 Online, blended, distance Full-time E2020, Compass Learning
Kodiak Island Borough School District 9-12 Blended, online Core, enrichment Moodle, VTC
Kuspuk School District 9-12 Blended, video conference Core, electives Moodle
Lower Kuskokwim School District 9-12 Blended, video conference Core, advanced, robotics, visual art Moodle
Matanuska Susitna Borough School District K-12 Blended, online Required, credit recovery, correspondence, advanced Plato, Compass Learning, Moodle
Petersburg School District 6-12 Online, blended Electives VHS
Southwest Region School District K-12 Video conference, blended Enrichment, dual credit, Moodle
Wrangell School District K-12 Online Full-time K-12, advanced K12 Inc.
Yukon-Koyukuk School District K-12 Online, blended, video conference Individualization, advanced, electives, credit recovery, core Odysseyware, Successmaker, Raven Correspondence School

Online learning policy history

In 2008, the Department of Education and Early Development (EED) established new regulations (4 AAC 33.410) governing correspondence programs, including online learning programs. School districts offering a correspondence program must give the EED a written statement assuring that it will comply with state laws, and it will be approved to offer the program indefinitely unless the district implements a change in its program. The regulations establish reporting requirements for districts enrolling out-of-district students and part-time students, and ensure standards for curriculum, instruction, and student assessment are consistent with state standards. The regulations require online programs to develop individual learning plans for students.

Districts receive 80% of the standard per pupil funding for all students served in a correspondence program; distance programs, however, are not eligible for other funds. Through AKLN, a district will be able to enroll its students in online and blended courses that do not affect the per-student formula funding provided. Tuition-based courses are also available for public school students.

last updated October 9, 2014

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