Virtual Academy: where students learn.
Virtual Learning: what students do.
Virtual Instruction: what teachers do.
Almost all North Dakota schools will be opening this fall with in-person student instruction.
The circumstances under which students may learn at home through virtual instruction during the 2021-2022 school year have changed considerably since last year. There are now two options for providing virtual instruction.
A school district may establish its own virtual academy/school to provide virtual instruction. This virtual school would be separate from the physical school. For example, a school district with a high school, a middle school, and an elementary school may also establish a virtual high school, middle school, and elementary school. Plans for virtual academies must be approved both by the local school board and the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. The approval process can take two weeks or more.
A district may use a virtual school to provide instruction in cases of inclement weather or emergencies. Examples: A blizzard, a hazardous chemicals accident, a school fire, or a breakdown in the school’s heating system. This is a short-term solution and is not intended to be used for full-time distance learning. A board policy must be in place to use this option. The policy does not need the approval of the Department of Public Instruction.
During the 2021 Legislature, North Dakota lawmakers approved the new laws that govern virtual learning with the aim of strengthening accountability and quality for virtual instruction. Virtual learning arrangements must keep track of attendance, classroom progress, etc., just as is done during normal classroom instruction (HB1388, HB1232).
North Dakota has a fully-accredited virtual learning provider called the Center for Distance Education (CDE). It is based on the North Dakota State University campus. Schools that have established virtual academies/schools may contract with the CDE to provide instruction.