Michigan could become the first state in the nation to require students to experience some kind of online instruction before graduating, if the state legislature approves a proposal now before it. The plan is part of a larger effort to ratchet up high school graduation requirements in the state, and its supporters say it's a bold idea that will help prepare students for the challenges of an increasingly global economy.
February 10, 2006—A pioneering proposal now before the Michigan state legislature would make Michigan the first state in the country to require students to experience some sort of online instruction before they graduate from high school.
Advocates for virtual instruction say that if the plan is approved, Michigan likely will set a precedent for other states to follow as more schools begin to experiment with the benefits of online learning.
The online learning mandate is part of larger piece of legislation designed to ratchet up high school graduation requirements across the state. Until now, Michigan students have been required only to take a civics course to graduate. The new proposal would require math, science, and a foreign language in addition to some form of online instruction.
The idea for the virtual learning requirement reportedly came from a report produced by former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins in September. Watkins, who published the report "Exploring E-Learning Reforms for Michigan: The New Education (R)evolution" while on sabbatical from Michigan's Wayne State University, recommended that every school in the state adopt some form of eLearning as a means of extending course options and providing new ways to engage struggling students. Susan Patrick, executive director of the North American Council for Online Learning and former head of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology, called Michigan's proposal "a bold plan" to foster a culture of lifelong learning and more readily prepare students for the challenges of an increasingly global economy.
"Michigan [officials have] realized that they have an industrial economy--they spawned the auto industry--but they face many of the challenges that other states face in making the transition to a more knowledge-based economy," Patrick said She added, "I think the recommendation is terrific--and I think you are going to see more states following suit." There already is strong support for online instruction in Michigan. At the Michigan Virtual University, enrollment in its Michigan Virtual High School program has grown from 100 students in 1999, the program's first year, to 5,959 students during the 2004-05 school year, according to the Detroit Free Press.