Access to high-quality education options is visible on the horizon thanks to Missouri’s new virtual education/course access law, but parents and students will have to wait just a little bit longer before they can take full advantage of the new options.
Missouri Course Access Program (MOCAP) Director Stacy Morse said last week that many of the benefits of the new law will not be available until at least January.
Because the new law does not go into effect until Aug. 28, Morse says that accredited districts will not be required to pay for virtual courses for the fall semester which has an enrollment deadline of Aug. 13. Students throughout the state will also only have access to courses from one provider – Mizzou K-12.
The programs offered through Mizzou K-12 are 18-week-long courses, which requires the Aug. 13 registration date in order for students to be able to complete the courses during the first semester.
“August 13 is the only enrollment date and everything has to be paid up front,” said Morse. “We do not have contracts written for vendors who accept monthly payments yet. That is what we are in the process of doing right now.
Morse says that the delay and limited options are also partially a result of last minute changes in the law (which made it much more parent and student-friendly in the long run) which has delayed certification of some providers and created a mountain of rulemaking and bureaucratic work for the MOCAP office.
“We had multiple providers who were willing to use our learning management system and then they changed the law,” said Morse. “The intent was to have many more providers but the law changing as abruptly as it did disrupted all of the contracts we had out. We are in the process of trying to figure out how we can implement everything in the law and have as many good options as possible for students.”
According to Morse, the state had been planning on requiring course providers to provide the online courses through the CANVAS management system, something that many companies were considering doing even though it meant retooling their systems. When the wording of the law changed during the session to open it up to as many providers as possible, every provider except for Mizzou K-12 opted to continue to use their proprietary learning management systems.
“Now we are in the process of writing another request for proposals (RFP) for those other learning management systems,” said Morse, noting that they hope to have many more offerings for K-12 students by January but warning that the rulemaking and RFP process will take some time. “To get an RFP out and reviewed and responded to will be a push to have that before January. That is our target, but we do not know who will be able to respond and meet those targets yet.”
In addition to the RFP process, the state also has to go through the rulemaking process for the new law which will include clearly defining the standards for the learning management systems to meet cybersecurity requirements, creating a process for transferring and accepting credits and setting guidelines for prices and payment processes for districts.
“The rules will be drafted and then go to public comment at which point parents can give comments and we can adjust them,” said Morse. “Then we have to have the state board approve the rules.”
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