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Guidance Related to Earning of Credit Toward High School Graduation Through Online Learning


The purpose of this guidance is to answer questions that educators, administrators, and community stakeholders may have about Part 100 Regulations of the Commissioner of Education regarding options for earning units of credit through online and blended learning. We look forward to receiving further questions and will continue to update this Q & A.

Contents

Introduction

Digital and Internet-connected broadband technologies have increased access to a rich variety of educational opportunities for schools and students across New York State in the form of online content, instruction, and evaluation. These educational opportunities have resulted in a number of questions from school districts and educational organizations and a need for the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to provide guidance regarding how school districts may utilize online instruction and content in the provision of initial course credit.

This webpage is intended to provide guidance to school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) interested in offering opportunities for students to complete units of study and earn units of credit through online instruction. NYSED recognizes that concepts such as “online instruction,” “online courses,” and “online learning,” may have multiple meanings, which may evolve and change with the development of new technologies.  As a result, this guidance is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis, nor is it intended to cover every possible situation and/or educational program in which online instruction may be contemplated.  If, based on this guidance, districts have questions regarding specific situations and/or educational programs, they should consult with their school district attorneys.

The Commissioner’s regulations on online and blended learning can be found at: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/part100/pages/1005.html#Credit

 

Definitions – for the purposes of this guidance

Online Course:  Instruction in a specific subject consisting of teacher-to-student, student-to-student and/or student-to-content interactions that occur solely through digital and/or Internet-connected media (§100.5[d][10][i][a]).

An example of this would be:

A school district or BOCES develops or acquires digital course content in an advanced mathematics course.  The school district or BOCES hires a New York State-certified mathematics teacher with the pedagogical skills and training to deliver this content in an online environment.  All interactions between enrolled students, certified mathematics teacher employed by the district or BOCES, and content occurs using digital means in a fully online environment with no face to face contact. 

Blended Course:  Instruction in a specific subject consisting of teacher-to-student, student-to-student and/or student-to-content interactions that occur through a combination of classroom-based digital and/or internet-connected media (§100.5[d][10][i][b]).  

An example of this would be:

A teacher who holds a New York State teaching certificate in the subject area in which instruction is provided and who is employed by the New York State school district or BOCES delivers 90 minutes of instruction per week in a face-to-face classroom setting, and another 90 minutes of instruction is delivered through student participation in a web-based presentation and discussion from a museum, institution of higher education, or other cultural institution which is supervised by the teacher who holds a New York State teaching certificate in the subject area in which instruction is provided and who is employed by the New York State school district or BOCES.

Online Course Requirements

According to Commissioner’s regulation §100.5((d)(10)(ii)(b), all courses must:

  • be aligned with the applicable New York State learning standards for the subject;
  • provide for documentation of student mastery of learning outcomes including passing the applicable Regents Exam or other assessment IF required for a diploma
  • provide instruction by or under the direction and/or supervision of a certified teacher (see “Online Instructor/Teacher Requirements” below)
  • include regular substantive interaction between the student and the certified teacher providing the direction and/or supervision of the course
  • satisfy the unit of study and unit of credit requirements in Commissioner’s regulation §100.1(a) and (b)

Online Instructor/Teacher Requirements:  Teachers of online coursework must be:

  • A certified teacher who holds a New York State teaching certificate in the subject area in which instruction is provided and who is employed by the school district in which the student is enrolled; or
  • A certified teacher who holds a New York State teaching certificate in the subject area in which instruction is provided and who is employed by the BOCES that contracts with the school district to provide instruction in the subject matter area pursuant to Education Law §1950; or
  • A certified teacher who holds a New York State teaching certificate in the subject area in which instruction is provided and who is employed under a shared service agreement; or
  • In the case of a registered non public school or charter school, a teacher of the subject matter area from a registered nonpublic school or charter school.

In addition, as described in NYSED’s June 2, 2010 guidance on contracts for instruction, school districts may contract with non-profit or other entities to provide distance or online learning opportunities to students, provided that such programs are used as supplementary or additional resources to assist a district’s certified teachers in delivering instruction. For more information, see
http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/resources/contractsforinstruction/home.html

 

Credit Attainment

Online/Blended Courses

Question: Do current Commissioner's regulations provide a basis for schools to offer courses of study resulting in diploma credit through online instruction?

Answer : Yes, provided the online courses offered meet all applicable online course and teaching requirements as outlined above and provided for in Commissioner’s regulations §100.5(d)(10).

Question : Does offering a course of study through online instruction require a special variance, waiver, or flexibility from the Part 100 regulations for unit of credit or unit of study (8 NYCRR §100.1[a], [b])?

Answer : No, provisions for online or blended courses exist in Commissioner’s regulations §100.5(d)(10) and therefore require no variance or waiver.

Question : What is the seat time requirement related to online instruction?

Answer : Commissioner’s regulations §100.1(a) defines a unit of study to be at least 180 minutes of instruction per week throughout the school year, or the equivalent. The existing regulations do not confine instruction solely to classroom time. Instruction may be delivered in multiple ways and through multiple media that best meet the needs of the student, so long as such modes and media (e.g., virtual learning, in whole or in part) are under the direction of a NYS certified teacher in that subject area and accountable to the district providing instruction.

Question : What are examples of “regular and substantive interaction” between student and teacher?

Answer : While digital learning may allow students to progress through material in a more individualized fashion, it should not replace the teacher’s role as instructor.  Certified teachers supervising online instruction should frequently interact with, observe, and measure their students’ progression through course content and provide meaningful feedback on student work.  This interaction need not be face-to-face, but can occur via various media.  A teacher certified in the subject area should also be consistently available to meet students’ needs.  In addition, students who complete their courses in a separate location from a teacher certified in the subject area should have access to consistent technical support with the course content and program.

Question : Does New York State register or charter any fully online schools?

Answer : No.  At this time, New York State does not register or charter any fully online schools.

Question : Must students pass the related Regents Examination or other assessment to be awarded credit for online course work?

Answer : Yes.  In order to receive make-up credit or credit for an online or blended course, students must pass the Regents examination in the subject or other assessment required for graduation, if applicable. 

Question : Who approves a public school or BOCES student’s participation in an online courses leading to credit toward graduation?

Answer : It is the responsibility of the school district or BOCES to approve online courses and evaluate the coursework and scholarship of its students enrolled in online courses.  The school district or BOCES has the responsibility to set the parameters for course completion and determine mastery of learning outcomes in order to award credit to students enrolled in approved courses.
In the event of student participation in an online course for independent study credit, participation shall be approved by a school-based panel consisting of, at a minimum, the principal, a teacher in the subject area for which independent study credit is sought, and a guidance director or other administrator.
In the event of student participation in an online course for make-up credit, the student's participation shall be approved by a school-based panel consisting of, at a minimum, the principal, a teacher in the subject area for which the student must make up credit, and a guidance director or other administrator.

Transfer Credit

Question : Can transfer students receive credit for courses taken online?

Answer : Yes, a transfer student may be awarded units of credit for work done outside the registered New York State high school in which he/she is enrolled, including in a virtual or online setting. The principal, after consultation with relevant faculty, may award transfer credit for work done at other educational and cultural institutions and for work done through independent study (8 NYCRR §100.5[d][5]). The decision as to whether or not to award transfer credit for work done at educational institutions other than New York State registered high schools shall be based on whether the record indicates that the work is consistent with New York State learning standards at the commencement (high school) level, and is of comparable scope and quality to that which would have been done in the school awarding the credit. See 8 NYCRR §100.5(d)(5) for more information on transfer credit.

 Make-Up Course Credit

Question : What are the criteria for digital learning (online study) used in a make-up credit program?

Answer: Section 100.5(d)(8) of the Commissioner’s regulations specifies the criteria for digital learning (online study) used for making up failed or incomplete course credit.  The digital learning (online study) must:

  • be aligned with the applicable New York State learning standards for such subject;
  • satisfactorily address the student’s course completion deficiencies and individual needs;
  • ensure that the student receives equivalent, intensive instruction from a certified teacher (as defined above) in the subject matter area provided, as applicable, under the direction and/or supervision of a school district teacher who is certified in the subject matter area; or a teacher from a BOCES that contracts with the school district to provide instruction in the subject matter area pursuant to Education Law §1950, and who is certified in such area; or, where applicable, a teacher of the subject matter in the registered nonpublic school or charter school;
  • include regular and substantive interaction between the student and the teacher providing direction and/or supervision (see above); and
  • be of comparable scope and quality to regular classroom instruction (8 NYCRR §100.5[d][8]). 
  • To receive credit for a make-up credit program, including digital learning (online study), the student shall demonstrate mastery of the learning outcomes for the subject, including passing the Regents examination in the subject or other assessment required for graduation, if applicable (8 NYCRR §100.5[d][8][i]).

Question : What constitutes satisfactory documentation of successful completion of a make-up course credit program taken online?

Answer : To receive credit for such programs, students must successfully complete the program and demonstrate mastery of the learning outcomes for the subject, including passing the Regents examination in the subject or other assessment required for graduation, if applicable (8 NYCRR §100.5[d][8]).   Documentation should be comparable to that which would be used to verify student completion and mastery in a traditional classroom setting.  In addition to passing the applicable Regents examination or other assessment required for graduation, examples of satisfactory documentation of student achievement may include - but are not limited to – tests, quizzes, projects, documented participation in online discussion groups or blogs, etc.   

Independent Study

Question : What are the criteria for digital learning (online study) used in an independent study program?

Answer Commissioner’s regulations §100.5(d)(9)(iv) enumerates four criteria for independent study leading to a unit of credit:

  • It must be academically rigorous and aligned to the Common Core/New York State commencement-level learning standards;
  • It must be overseen by a NYS certified teacher who is knowledgeable and experienced in the subject area of the independent study;
  • It must be based on a syllabus on file for each independent study;
  • It must be of comparable scope and quality to classroom work that would have been done at the school district, charter school or registered nonpublic school awarding the credit.

Question : May students earn required diploma credits in an online environment through independent study?

Answer : No, a student may only earn elective credits through independent study, regardless of whether such study occurs online or  through other modes of instruction (8 NYCRR §100.5[d][9][v]).  Credit earned through independent study may not be awarded for courses required for the Regents diploma (8 NYCRR §100.5[d][9][v]).

Question : How many elective credits (online or other) may a student earn under the independent study regulations?

Answer : Students may earn up to 3 elective credits (online or other) through independent study (8 NYCRR §100.5[d][9]).  

Question : Can you provide examples of is meant by “comparable in
scope and quality” in relation to independent study?

Answer : In order for an independent study course or program in an online format to be of comparable scope and quality to that of regular classroom instruction, it should:

  • maintain a comparable level of academic rigor to classroom work that would have been done at the school district, charter school or registered nonpublic school awarding the credit;
  • encourage a comparable level of student engagement and performance to classroom work that would have been done at the school district, charter school or registered nonpublic school awarding the credit;
  • be aligned to the appropriate New York State Learning Standards; and
  • include interaction between student and instructor comparable to that in a traditional classroom setting.

Curriculum and Instruction

Question : Is there a specific certification a teacher must obtain in order to teach an online course at the commencement level?

Answer : New York State does not have a specific certification in “online instruction.” The State, however, does recognize that teaching in an online environment varies greatly from teaching in a traditional setting.  Principals and school districts are advised to ensure that teachers providing/supervising online instruction have the knowledge, training and pedagogical skill to be effective online.

Question : Is there a specified format required for online courses?

Answer : NYSED does not mandate a particular format for online instruction as long as the course meets the regulatory requirements for online, independent study, and/or make-up course credit programs as outlined above.

Question :      Are any courses available on a statewide basis? 

Answer :        No. 

Question : Will districts be required to offer online courses?

Answer: No, NYSED does not require districts and schools to offer online courses.  NYSED, however, encourages school districts and BOCES to continue to provide all students with access to rich and rigorous learning opportunities, which may include, but are not limited to, online courses. 

 

Contracts

Question : Can a district contract for services from other entities offering online coursework? 

Answer: School districts may contract with non-profit or other entities to provide digital content, distance or online learning opportunities to students, provided that such programs are used as supplementary or additional resources to assist a district’s certified teachers in delivering instruction.  For more information, please see the NYSED guidance document,
“Contracts for Instruction”).

Question : Can one district contract with another school district or BOCES to provide online coursework? 

Answer: Yes, a district may be a component of one BOCES and participate in the services of a different BOCES.  BOCES also cross-contract with one another.  The structure to manage these programs is the Cooperative Service Agreement, or “CoSer”. Online learning can be part of a distance learning CoSer, so it can be done by two or more school districts in partnership with BOCES.  The New York State teacher certified in the subject area of instruction must be employed by the school district or BOCES which is contracted to provide such instruction.

 

Assessment

Question : How will students be evaluated in online courses?

Answer : Local assessment of student performance in an online course is similar to classroom assessment.The instructors set evaluation criteria for each course, just as they do in classroom courses.  Assessment can be based on writing an individual paper, preparing a group presentation, class participation, attendance, homework problem sets, exams, or other means. If exams are required by the instructor and/or as a graduation requirement, the instructor would arrange for students to come to a campus for an exam, or take exams in a student’s own location, at home, or in an agreed-upon location.  

State assessments, Regents Examinations, and Regents Competency Tests may be administered only at official centers within New York State. The official centers include all registered secondary schools and other educational institutions that have been given specific approval to administer secondary-level State exams. Pursuant to section 102.3 of the Commissioner’s regulations, the school principal or chief administrative officer of the exam center is responsible for the school’s compliance with all regulations and NYSED policies governing the administration of these exams.

Question : How are records of student progress in online and blended courses maintained?

Answer : The responsibility of teachers in online and blended courses in maintaining records for the purpose of reporting students' academic progress is the same as that of the teacher in a traditional classroom. Teachers in online and blended courses would use the same reporting methods of other teachers in the district, including preparation of similar progress reports and report cards that reflect progress during a grading period.

Last Updated: March 13, 2012