Online Learning

Online Learning (OLL) Frequently Asked Questions:

Which programs must be approved? Online learning programs in which non-resident students are participating in a K-12 online learning program from a site other than the assigned school building must be certified in order to generate funding. Programs being used exclusively for PSEO, independent study or homebound instruction do not need to be approved through the online learning certification process. Additionally, programs in which students are participating from inside the school during the school day (e.g. a student taking an online course during a study hall) need not submit a program application. The Minnesota Department of Education, however, encourages all online learning providers to apply for certification by the state and be listed on the MDE website and the statewide web- based clearinghouse of certified OLL K-12 courses.

What are the timelines for approval? Applications for certification are accepted on a continuous basis. A program intending to apply for certification must notify MDE 12 months prior with a letter of intent to apply.

What are the criteria for approval? The OLL statute states that online courses be rigorous aligned with state academic standards and contribute to grade progression in a single subject. Online learning providers must demonstrate to the MDE commissioner that online learning courses have equivalent standards or instruction, curriculum and assessment requirements as other courses offered to enrolled students. The online learning provider must also demonstrate expectations for actual teacher contact time or other student-to-teacher communication. (Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.095 Subdivision 7b)

More importantly, signed statements of assurances regarding program structure and implementation are required.

Is online learning from OLL Providers open to all Minnesota K-12 students? Yes, however a student age 17 or younger must have the written consent of a parent or guardian to apply. No school district or charter school may prohibit a student from applying to enroll in online learning. (Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.095 Subdivision 3a)

What are the rules that students must follow when taking courses from approved providers? Full-time online learning students are limited to a maximum of 12 semester-long courses or their equivalent delivered by an online learning provider in a comprehensive program.

Students seeking supplements to local course offerings may take up to 50 percent of a full schedule of courses per term at their enrolling district.

Students may exceed the supplemental OLL registration with permission from their district for additional supplemental OLL enrollment through agreements between the enrolling district and the OLL provider for these instructional services.

Can a student participate in online learning courses beyond being a full-time student? Yes. The statute states that enrollment in courses, beyond full-time status, is permitted under a separate agreement that includes terms for payment of any tuition or course fees. (Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.095 Subdivision 4b3)

So students can pay their own expenses, and/or if a district chooses this option for a student it is at the district’s expense. In each of these instances funding is not generated for the school district.

The enrolling (resident) district may also reduce the instructional contact time of an online learning student in proportion to the number of online learning courses the student takes from an online learning provider that is not the enrolling district (Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.095 Subdivision 3e)

A public school student must first be offered a reduction of instructional contact time in the enrolling district so that full-time status is not exceeded. If a student/family elects not to reduce instructional contact time to within full-time enrollment, then payment of tuition is allowable.

Can home school or nonpublic school students participate in online learning from a certified provider and generate state funding for online learning? The Omnibus Education Bill (2005) changed funding for online learning such that Minnesota nonpublic school students must become full- time public school students to be eligible to generate funding for OLL courses. If you have specific questions relating to funding, please contact Sharon Peck at 651- 582-8811 or email

Nonpublic school students (home and private school students) can generate funding through the shared-time aid law (Minnesota Statutes, section 126 Subdivision c19), but the students must participate in core curriculum from a public school building. Therefore, nonpublic school students can generate shared-time aid for online learning only for the number of hours they access the course from a computer in a public school building.

What are the student reporting requirements? A significant change in the OLL law effective FY 2006 was the elimination of the OLL appropriation and the eligibility of all Minnesota public school participants to generate general education revenue. Students enrolled in a district or charter school and who take OLL courses can be reported on the MARSS file for both the seat-based classes and OLL classes. Students who access an OLL program while remaining enrolled in another Minnesota public school district or charter school will continue to be reported by the enrolling district on MARSS for the courses taken there, and by the approved OLL program for the completed supplemental OLL courses via the OLL course completion file.

Do teachers of online courses need to be licensed in Minnesota? Yes. Teachers properly licensed in Minnesota and highly qualified must assemble and deliver instruction to online learning students enrolled in certified programs. The delivery of instruction occurs when the student interacts with the computer or the teacher and receives ongoing assistance and assessment of learning. The instruction may include curriculum developed by persons other than a teacher with a Minnesota license.

Is there a limit on the number of students enrolling in a single course or program? A teacher providing online learning instruction must not instruct more than 40 students in any one online learning course or program. The only exception to this rule requires a waiver from the MDE Commissioner.

Can an online learning provider limit enrollment? An online learning provider may limit enrollment if the provider’s school board or board of directors adopts by resolution specific standards for accepting or rejecting students’ applications.

Can online providers prohibit students from applying to enroll in their programs? The law specifically states that no school districts or charter schools may prohibit a student from applying to enroll in online learning (Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.095 Subdivision 3a).

How many courses can a student take through a certified online learning program? Supplemental online learning defined as an online course taken in place of a course period during the regular school day at a local district school may not exceed 50 percent of the student’s full schedule of courses per term at their enrolling district. A student may exceed the supplemental OLL registration limit if the enrolling district grants permission for supplemental OLL enrollment above the limit, or if an agreement is made between the enrolling district and the OLL provider for instructional services. Students that enroll in a full time program (open enroll or transfer to a charter school) will take all of their classes and receive all student services through the online school in which they’ve enrolled

What school is responsible for comprehensive student enrollment when a student registers for online learning classes outside of their enrolling (local) school? There are full time or comprehensive online learning programs that provide grade level advancement and grant high school diplomas and others that provide supplemental online learning instruction (grade level progression and comprehensive student enrollment is maintained at the local school). Several certified OLL programs offer both comprehensive and supplemental enrollment options.

The student and family determine which school (local or online) the student will be enrolled as a full-time, comprehensive student. Continued enrollment in the local (enrolling) school requires that all grade level and graduation requirements are met at that district, OLL courses are transferred in and the enrolling school continues to provide non-academic services. A student may access supplemental instruction through online learning up to 50% of the student’s full schedule of courses per term at their enrolling district and remain enrolled in their local school.

Are there deadlines for student application to online learning and notifications to students and resident districts? In order that a student may enroll in online learning, the student and student’s parents must submit an application to the online learning provider and identify the reason for enrolling in online learning. The online learning provider that accepts a student under this section must within ten days notify the student and the enrolling district in writing if the enrolling district is not the online learning provider. The student and family must notify the online learning provider of their intent to enroll in online learning within ten days of acceptance, at which time the student and parent must sign a statement of assurance that they have reviewed the online course or program and understand the expectations of online learning enrollment. The online learning provider must notify the enrolling district of the student’s enrollment in online learning in writing on a form provided by the MDE (OLL Supplemental Notice of Student Enrollment Form).

Supplemental online learning notification to the enrolling district will include the courses or program, credits to be awarded, the start date of online enrollment, and confirmation that the courses will meet the student’s graduation plan. A student may enroll in supplemental online learning courses up to the midpoint of the enrolling district’s term. The enrolling district may waive this requirement for special circumstances and upon acceptance by the online provider.
(Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.095 Subdivision 3b)

Comprehensive Online Learning Students may apply for full-time enrollment in an approved online learning program through open enrollment, agreement between school boards or to an online charter school following enrollment procedures and timelines in Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.03 (Enrollment Options Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.08 (School Boards' Approval To Enroll In Nonresident District.) or Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.10 (Charter School).

How does the student get access to necessary technology for online learning? An online learning student has the same access to the computer hardware and education software available in a school as all other students in the enrolling district. An online learning provider must assist an online learning student whose family qualifies for the education tax credit under section 290.0674 to acquire computer hardware and educational software for online learning purposes. (Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.095 Subdivision 4c)