back to map

Data & Information


The state program, Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunities (MVLO), offers locally developed and vendor-provided online courses approved by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to all 24 local school systems.Districts reported 4,817 course enrollments in these courses to the MSDE in SY 2013-14. Maryland does not have statewide fully online schools.

Fully online schools

HB1362 (2010) provides guidance on virtual schools, but does not change an existing provision of charter school law that requires that students be “physically present on school premises.”

State virtual school

Maryland Virtual School (MVS) is one of three components of MVLO directed by MSDE. MVLO was established by HB1197 (2002) and § 7-1002; the first set of approved online courses was piloted in fall 2003. The three separate programs for students and teachers are: 1) MVS, a supplemental online provider for courses bearing high school graduation credit; 2) online professional development; and 3) online High School Assessment (HSA) courses and resources.

Students may take a course through MVS only with permission from the local system and school principal. Course fees are paid either by the school district or the student’s family. Fees range from $25 per student per course for districts that want to use a course that MSDE owns or leases, to $800 for a course that includes a highly qualified instructor. The average fee is $450-$600 per course.  MVLO also offers tuition-free High School Assessment online courses to students in three subject areas.

MVS provides many of the services associated with state virtual schools. It reviews and approves online courses that local school systems (LSS) can offer; licenses online courses for use by LSS; publishes the catalog and technical requirements for courses offered through MVS; and provides approved vendor contact information. However, MVS does not hire and train online teachers; it provides instruction only upon request of the LSS, supplied by the online course vendor. MVS course enrollments were not tracked in 2010-11 due to budget and staff constraints, with student enrollment delegated to individual districts. MVS course enrollments have been declining, from 927 in 2007-08, to 710 in 2008-09, and to 633 in 2009-10.

District programs

Due to MSDE budget and staff constraints, the online course enrollment process was delegated to districts in 2009. Some of the districts enrolling students and using MVS online services include Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Washington County Public Schools. Districts reported 4,240 course enrollments in SY 2012-13. Because of a legal provision that courses delivered more than 80% online must be approved by the state, while courses delivering less than 80% online do not need such approval, several blended learning initiatives exist. These include pilot programs in Prince George’s County Schools and in Baltimore County for at-risk and/or incarcerated students. Cecil County Schools, in partnership with other districts, has used a federal Title II D competitive partnership grant to develop a blended learning world history course that is being shared statewide.

Online learning policy history

MVLO was established by HB1197 (2002). HB1197 authorizes MSDE to develop standards for teachers and other school system employees for the offering of online courses or services, to review courses and courseware to “assure quality and alignment with the Maryland content standards and other appropriate standards,” and to purchase and develop Internet-based learning resources and courses for students and staff. The law required the MSDE to “review courses and courseware to assure quality and alignment with the Maryland content standards and other appropriate standards.”

In June 2012, the MSDE released Process and Procedures for Offering Student Online Courses in Maryland Public Schools to meet the requirements of SB674. (The MSDE document Process and Procedures for Offering Student Online Courses in Maryland Public Schools has been distributed to districts and implemented, but is not posted on the MSDE website.) This document outlines school district responsibilities for providing online courses and the online course review process. It provides guidelines on how to convert face-to-face courses to online courses, establishes minimum training for online teachers, states the MSDE responsibilities in the course approval process, and describes the MSDE role in monitoring adherence to the Process and Procedures. Specific requirements of the course review and approval process include:

  • If a course review is not delegated to a district, the MSDE has 120 days from the receipt of a request from a provider to complete the review process and notify the requestor.
  • Course review committees must consist of at least three teachers, one of whom is an online course reviewer trained by the MSDE or through a certified training program approved by the MSDE.
  • All reviewers, district and state, will use the MSDE tool Standards for Reviewing High School Online Courses or another tool approved by MSDE.
  • When conducting district reviews, the district sets vendor fees and manages related costs.
  •  A district must submit 15% of vendor fees collected to MSDE to support ongoing activities related to online student courses.
  • Once a review from a district or contracted course review provider is completed, the review is submitted to the MSDE for final approval, to ensure that the course review aligns with MSDE process and procedures.
  • Once a course request is submitted, the MSDE must respond to the requestor within 15 days from the receipt of request.
  • When a school district submits a completed course review and accompanying documentation, MSDE will advise the district of approval status. Approved courses will appear on MSDE’s approved online course list within 45 days of the receipt of all required documents. Districts may offer courses only after they are added to the list.
  •  The MSDE reserves the right to require a new review of an approved online course every three years.

The Process and Procedures document also sets standards for training and experience required for online teachers. Online teachers must have:

  • Participated in at least one online course as a student.
  • Successfully completed a three-credit facilitator course designed for the K-12 environment. Note: The Process and Procedures document provides examples of acceptable three-credit online teaching options such as the MSDE course Online Teaching in Maryland or the PBS TeacherLine course The Fundamentals of Virtual K-12 Teaching.
  • Shadowed an experienced online teacher for at least four weeks or the length of a two-credit course.
  • Valid certification in the course content area being taught.

Under COMAR 13A.03.02.05D(1), Maryland schools can only award credit for online courses approved by MSDE, although a district may offer a course that is up to 80% online without going through the online course approval process. COMAR also requires the MSDE to create online course approval processes as outlined in the Process and Procedures document; it allows the MSDE to charge a vendor fee of $1,400 per course evaluation. If an approved contractor reviews a course, MSDE may charge the vendor a $360 course fee for the final approval process. Additional online course evaluation and approval responsibilities are defined in SB461 (2013),172 which requires the MSDE course evaluation process meet the accessibility needs of students with disabilities.

HB1362 (2010), authorizes school districts to establish a virtual public school subject to the approval of the MSDE. The legislation does not state whether a student has the choice of enrolling in online courses in programs outside the resident school district. Although slated to go into effect in fall 2011, the governor tasked MSDE with reviewing and recommending changes to HB1362 during the 2011 legislative session, but no funding was appropriated to support the activities of HB1362, and no new district programs have been initiated as of September 2011. The legislation required the curriculum of a virtual school “have an interactive program with significant online components,” but it does not define the specifics of “interactive,” nor the extent to which “online components” should be incorporated in a course. Teachers in the virtual school must be state-certified, but the law does not require any additional training specifically in online instruction, although there are teacher requirements established by MVLO. Also, a virtual school must maintain an office in the state and is not allowed to provide funds for the purchase of instructional programs or materials to a student, parent, or guardian. The new law does not change an existing provision of charter school law that requires that students be “physically present on school premises.” Without funding support, establishment of virtual schools by local school districts will not likely occur in 2011-12. MSDE will establish a task force in 2011-12 to make recommendations regarding the state-led virtual learning program.

HB745 (2012) created the Maryland Advisory Council for Virtual Learning, which reports annual recommendations to the state superintendent regarding digital learning issues. HB532 (2013) outlines specific areas on which the Council must report and make recommendations by December 1, 2013, including but not limited to:

  • “the human, technological, financial, and regulatory resources needed to support a requirement that a student complete a virtual course or a course that blends digital content with traditional classroom instruction to graduate from high school;
  • the feasibility of establishing virtual schools in the State;
  • the experiences of other states in establishing virtual and blended schools; and
  • any issues relating to virtual learning quality standards and accessibility.”

Cecil County Schools, in partnership with other districts, developed a blended learning world history course that has been shared statewide.

last updated October 15, 2014

back to map
WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera