History of the MSC Online Learning Project
MSC Online began in 2004 with a request from several Superintendents in northeastern Minnesota; these Superintendents were interested in finding out if a collaborative, regional model might work for providing cost effective online learning to high school students. Working with these school districts, the Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC) conducted a review of existing products, delivery models and best practices in online learning. The resulting recommendations and a one-year start-up grant through the Enhancing Education Through Technology program and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) launched a pilot project that involved five districts in the region served by NESC.
This early pilot – known then as the NE Online Learning Project - included training for teachers and administrators, the development of model policies and access to prepared online curriculum, in addition to providing a robust online course management system. At the end of the pilot year, the participating schools – and other interested districts – made the decision to continue the collaborative venture and became an Approved Online Provider through the MDE.
From the beginning, the goal of the program has always been to assist districts in building their own capacity and ability to offering online learning options to their students.
In the years after the pilot program, teacher and student use of the online resources provided by the NE Online Learning Project has increased enormously as students, parents and school district personnel came to realize the value of online options for students who needed courses for credit recovery and for scheduling conflicts or needed courses not offered by their own districts, as well as courses for enrichment and college preparation. Enrollment in fully-online courses has grown from a few students in 2005-06 to over 400 enrollments in 2008-09. In addition, well over 1000 teachers and students use the online system to enhance their classroom learning and to offer blended online classes each year, and other district staff use the online resources to streamline work processes and provide professional development.
In 2008, the NE Online Learning Project became Minnesota Service Cooperative (MSC) Online as several other regional Service Cooperatives and their member districts joined the program. There are currently four regional Service Cooperatives and twenty-three districts involved in the project (and itŐs still growing!). Through all the changes and growth that has occurred, the core mission of the MSC Online program remains to provide a collaborative program that builds capacity, knowledge and expertise in online and distance learning for member districts.