back to map

Data & Information


Michigan has extensive digital learning activity, including fully online schools, a large state virtual school, single-district programs, and blended learning activity, including:
  • Nine online charter schools, two of which operated in SY 2012-13, and five of which are newly opened in SY 2013-14.
  • At least eight blended schools including three Nexus Academy schools, MySchool@Kent operated by Kent Intermediate School District, and two FlexTech blended high schools.
  • Michigan Virtual School (MVS) is one of the larger state virtual schools, with 21,944 course enrollments in SY 2013-14, a 5% increase over SY 2012-13.
  • A large consortium program, GenNET, operated by the Genesee ISD with over 400 districts participating and processing more than 18,000 course enrollments supplied by multiple providers in SY 2013-14, a decrease of 21% from the previous year.
  • An unknown number of single-district programs.
Public Act 205, passed in 2009, allowed the formation of full-time online schools for the first time in fall 2010. In 2006, the Michigan Legislature was the first in the nation to pass a requirement that students have an “online learning experience” before graduating. In an April 2011 message to the Michigan Legislature, Michigan’s governor proposed that funding for online courses follow a student rather than being tied to a school district. The governor’s plan also would give districts more control over the length of the school year, day, and week, as well as more flexibility when it comes to instruction and classroom configurations. In response to the governor, the Michigan Legislature is developing a comprehensive education reform plan that, among other initiatives, would replace seat time as a primary measure of effectiveness. Until new legislation is enacted, the MDE’s “Streamlined Process for Approving Seat Time Waivers” memo expands the existing process to any district that applies for the 2011-12 school year. Existing seat-time waivers will continue to be recognized. New applications will be accepted from 1) an independent school district-led waiver consortium program; 2) an individual district-designed and operated waiver program; or 3) a blended learning option with certain enrollment caps.

Fully online schools

The first two fully online schools opened in SY 2012-13: Michigan Connections Academy served 809 enrollments, and Michigan Virtual Charter Academy served 932 students.

In 2010, Michigan’s first virtual charter schools were chartered by Grand Valley State University and Ferris State University in partnership with K12 Inc. and Connections Academy, respectively. Virtual charters had been prohibited by Michigan legislation, but Public Act 205 (2009) allowed the formation of two full-time online charter schools. As charter school authorizers, public universities in Michigan have the ability to aggregate students from across the state. This is in contrast to school districts and community colleges, which are limited to serving students in their service areas. These cyber schools, or “schools of excellence” per the legislation, must meet the online learning provisions required under section 553 of the state’s school code. After two years of operation, the cyber school must submit a report to the superintendent of public instruction “detailing the operation of the cyber school, providing statistics of pupil participation and academic performance, and making recommendations for any further statutory or rule change related to cyber schools.” Each cyber school is limited to an initial enrollment of 400 pupils in its first year of operation. In the second and subsequent years of operation, “a cyber school may expand enrollment to exceed 400 pupils by adding one pupil for each pupil who becomes enrolled in the school of excellence who is identified as a dropout in the Michigan student data system maintained by the Center for Educational Performance and Information.”

A new educational partnership among local school districts, K12 Inc. and Job Skills Technology Inc., a Michigan-based corporation, provides online courses using K12 Inc. curriculum and teachers. Participating schools have a School of Choice program that allows them to accept and enroll students from the county the school providing the online courses is in or any contiguous counties. More than 20 schools are offering online courses through this partnership beginning fall 2011. Two other initiatives, the Yes Academy (grades 6-12) and Jenison International Academy (grades 7-10), offer full-time course options.

State virtual school

MVU is a private, nonprofit entity funded by annual legislative appropriations, course tuition, and private grants; it had approximately 20,812 course enrollments in SY 2012-13, a 5% increase over SY 2011-12. MVU became the first state virtual school in the U.S. to offer an online Chinese (Mandarin) language course for high school students in 2006.

MVU received a $5 million increase in its state appropriation to expand its leadership role in four key areas: 1) provide an extensive professional development program to at least 500 educational personnel on the effective integration of digital learning into curricula and instruction; 2) research and establish an Internetbased platform and facilitate a user network that assists educators in using the platform; 3) create and maintain an statewide online course catalog; and 4) support research and quality-related functions as part of its Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute.

In 2013, the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute and iNACOL launched the Research Clearinghouse for K-12 Blended and Online Learning (, to house the latest research examining breakthrough models and trends in blended and online learning.

MVU continues to work with Cornerstone Charter Schools on the development of a health-focused charter school in Detroit. When the school is launched, students will take many of their core academic courses online. Westwood Cyber High School, a mostly online school in the Westwood Community School District (also in the metropolitan Detroit area), launched in January 2009; it is modeled on the “Not School” program in the United Kingdom. Students attend a physical building for two hours per week and do most of their coursework online.

The online learning requirement has increased demand for teachers experienced in online instruction. It affords an opportunity to expand Michigan LearnPort®, a collaboration between the MDE and Michigan Virtual University (MVU, the parent organization of MVS). MVU is required by the legislature to offer at least 200 hours of online professional development for classroom teachers free of charge. The LearnPort catalog contains over 380 online courses and professional development modules. LearnPort served 19,718 course enrollments in 2010-11. Through a partnership with MDE’s Office of Special Education Services, LearnPort supports a statewide integrated approach to improvement by providing online courses that address an array of special education services, populations, and issues.

District programs

In 2008, Michigan’s Superintendent of Public Instruction implemented a process that allows 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. The Genesee ISD was granted a seat time waiver in 2009. This was extended to over 50 districts using courses selected by GenNET from several online providers in 2010. Courses must be teacher-led to qualify for the waiver. In July 2011, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) released a memo announcing a “Streamlined Process for Approving Seat Time Waivers for 2011-12” in anticipation of a permanent legislative solution.

In 2011, the Eaton Intermediate School District established the Relevant Academy, a public school academy dropout recovery program for students ages 16-19. The primary focus is on individual learner success and includes a leadership development component. After an on campus orientation session, students work at home on laptops, taking online courses through MVS and meeting weekly with mentors. In 2011, MVS launched an instructor-supported course delivery model featuring highly qualified educators working with one or more students to provide coach-like assistance with online course or learning activities. This model was developed in response to school requests for an instructional format that places an expectation on students to take significant responsibility for their own learning, with the instructor ensuring that students are engaged and making progress. During summer 2011, MVS initiated a pilot online Global Issues and Perspectives course involving schools and students in Michigan and the United Kingdom. The course enables students to have an online global experience and develop a deeper appreciation of other people and cultures.

Serving as a broker of online courses, the GenNET Online Learning portal provides schools with access to various formats of online courses from a list of selected providers, including courses from MVS. GenNET is authorized by the MDE to extend its seat-time waiver to partner districts across Michigan, provided that MDE policies and procedures are followed. Courses must be teacher-led to qualify for the seat-time waiver. The project is funded through course fees, grant awards, and MDE support. It had 11,757 course enrollments in 2010-11.

Online learning policy history

2006: Public Acts 123 and 124  require an “online learning experience” for all high school students in order to graduate. The MDE’s 2006 guidelines for the online learning experience require students to: 1) take an online course, or 2) participate in an online experience, or 3) participate in online experiences incorporated into each of the required credit courses of the Michigan Merit Curriculum. The guidelines suggest options for the “online learning experience” and state that a “meaningful online experience requires a minimum accumulation of twenty hours . . . for students to become proficient in using technology tools to virtually explore content.”

2009: Public Act 205 allows the formation of full-time online schools. These cyber schools, or “schools of excellence” per the legislation, must meet the online learning provisions required under section 553 of the state’s school code.

Public Act 201 also includes three important definitions that did not previously exist in state statute:

  • “’Online instructional program’ means a course of study that generates a credit or a grade, provided in an interactive computer-based and internet-connected learning environment, in which pupils are separated from their teachers by time or location, or both, and in which a Michigan certificated teacher is responsible for providing direct instruction, diagnosing learning needs, assessing pupil learning, prescribing intervention strategies, reporting outcomes, and evaluating the effects of instruction and support strategies.
  • “Blended learning” means a hybrid instructional delivery model where pupils are provided face-to-face instruction, in part at a supervised school facility away from home and in part through computer-based and internet-connected learning environments with some degree of pupil control over time, location, and pace of instruction.
  • “Cyber school” means a full-time online instructional program for pupils that may or may not require attendance at a physical school location.”

2013: Public Act 60  expands student choice by giving students the opportunity to take two funded online courses without resident district approval, and increases funding for Michigan Virtual University (MVU) to support a variety of digital learning initiatives. MVU is a private nonprofit entity funded by annual legislative appropriations, course tuition, and private grants, and operates MVS and the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute. Public Act 60 does the following:

  • Allows students in grades 5-12, with parental consent, to take up to two online courses per academic term, semester, or trimester without district approval beginning in SY 2013-14.
  • Allows a student to choose online courses from a statewide catalog or those offered by the student’s resident district. The statewide catalog will be developed and maintained by MVU for SY 2013-14; it will include online courses from any district that elects to accept applications for enrollment from nonresident students, as well as course titles from MVS.
  • Requires a district to pay for the online course(s) chosen from the state catalog from its foundation allowance, and “pay 80% of the cost of the online course upon enrollment and 20% upon completion as determined by the district.” Based on the state’s minimum foundation allowance185 of $7,076 for SY 2013-14, districts cannot pay more than $589 (one-twelfth of the foundation amount) for a semester length course, and $393 (one-eighteenth of the foundation amount) for a trimester course; however, students may have to pay some of the tuition if a course exceeds that amount.
  • Requires districts accepting nonresident enrollments for online courses to provide MVU with the syllabus for the statewide catalog, list the courses offered by the district on a publicly accessible website, and to offer the course(s) on an open entry and exit method, or aligned to a semester, trimester, or accelerated academic term format.
  • Allows a district to deny a student enrollment in an online course if the pupil has previously gained the credits for the course, the online course is non-credit, the online course is inconsistent with the remaining graduation requirements of the student, the student does not possess the prerequisite knowledge and skills to be successful in the online course or has failed in previous online coursework in the same subject, or the online course is of insufficient quality or rigor. A student denied enrollment in an online course may appeal to the superintendent of the student’s resident intermediate district.


The first two fully online schools opened in SY 2012-13: Michigan Connections Academy served 809 enrollments, and Michigan Virtual Charter Academy served 932 students. SB619 (2012) went into effect in March 2013 and did the following:

  • Increased the number of cyber charter schools that can be authorized. Statewide authorizing bodies are limited to authorizing a total of five cyber charters in 2013, 10 in 2014, and 15 after 2014.
  • Allowed cyber schools to enroll students from anywhere in the state, to enroll students in any grade level (K-12), and to act as a course provider to any school or district.
  • Increased the cap on each cyber school’s enrollments to 2,500 students during the first year of operation, 5,000 the second year, and 10,000 students in the third and subsequent years. The law limited total statewide cyber school enrollment to 2% of Michigan’s SY 2011-12 public school enrollment (about 30,000 students).
  • Removed the requirement that students previously be enrolled in public school and dropped the requirement that cyber schools enroll a matching percentage of dropouts to new students..

Blended learning

Michigan has several blended learning programs, including three Nexus Academy schools in Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Royal Oak. Kent ISD opened MySchool@Kent in 2012, a blended learning program that accepts homeschooled and private school students in addition to those enrolled in Kent ISD public schools. MySchool@Kent served over 300 students in SY 2012-13. Livingston County has two FlexTech blended high schools.


last updated October 28, 2014

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