High schools in South Dakota have a new option for offering courses. It’s called the South Dakota Virtual High School, and it’s online at www.sdvhs.k12.sd.us.
“With the availability of the Virtual High School, we have entered a new era in education,” said Governor Mike Rounds. “This will be a tremendous resource for South Dakota schools and students.”
The South Dakota Virtual High School is a clearinghouse of distance courses that have been approved by the Department of Education. Courses are available in a variety of formats, but mainly online or via the Digital Dakota Network. Currently, four providers have been approved to offer courses. A menu of about 60 courses appears on the Virtual High School Web site.
“Ultimately, the South Dakota Virtual High School is about offering choice, quality and equity,” said Secretary of Education Rick Melmer. “Schools that struggle to find teachers in particular subject areas can take advantage of these courses, and students can access courses when they have scheduling conflicts, credit recovery needs, or want to do advanced work.”
According to Melmer, potential providers must complete an application process before they are approved to offer courses via the South Dakota Virtual High School. Once a provider is approved, the department carefully reviews each course offered by that provider to ensure that it meets the state’s content standards. “If they don’t meet our standards, the course is not approved. It’s that simple,” he said.
The four entities currently approved to provide courses include: APEX Learning, DIAL, the Rapid City School District’s Virtual Campus, and Northern State University’s E-Learning Center. Three of these entities are South Dakota-based education organizations.
Any student enrolled in a South Dakota high school is eligible to take courses via the South Dakota Virtual High School. However, students are required to register through their local school district. Students are not able to register on their own.
“We realize that distance learning is not the answer in every situation, so we have left that decision up to the local school,” Melmer explained. “If a school decides to allow a student to take a virtual course, the school also has the responsibility to monitor student progress, proctor exams and assign credit.” The South Dakota Virtual High School will not grant credit or diplomas.
The foundation for a virtual high school was put into place one year ago, when the 2006 Legislature charged the Department of Education with developing a virtual school for the state. A seven-member advisory council was formed to assist in setting policies. The department tapped the K-12 Data Center at Dakota State University to develop the Web site.
In late February, the Department of Education held meetings to introduce school personnel to the new system. Beginning today, South Dakota schools can register their students for courses via the Virtual High School. Melmer expects traffic on the site to be light initially, as schools become familiar with the system. Down the road, he anticipates that the South Dakota Virtual High School will offer all of the courses required for graduation in South Dakota.