Virtual School Meanderings

December 21, 2009

K-12 Distance Education In Mississippi And Mississippi PBS

Several weeks ago, my good friend Clif Mims forwarded me an e-mail he received about K-12 online course development opportunities in Mississippi.  In that message, he also indicated that from his time as a teacher in Mississippi and his time as Mississippi State University he had some insight into K-12 distance education in the state, and that if I was interested he’d be happy to chat with me about it sometime.  As chance would have it, that opportunity occurred about two weeks ago (or so).

During our conversation Clif told me about when he was a K-12 teacher in Mississippi back in the 1990s, how Mississippi PBS would essentially donate access to their satellite system to the Mississippi Department of Education for their use in K-12 and higher education.  He described how the K-12 system, or at least secondary schools, would use this satellite system to do distance education essentially using instructional television.  The model was based on having a qualified teacher – often in an Advanced Placement subject or a more specialized mathematics or science course – located in a studio somewhere, and that teacher’s instruction was beamed out via the satellites to classrooms around the state.  At each of the of the receiving sites, there was a teaching assistant that was roughly equivalent to someone above the level of a para-professional that was responsible for the local level facilitation.  He indicated that it was also used to deliver professional development, and higher education made use of the system as well (particularly the community colleges).

Clif than asked me about the state of K-12 online learning in Mississippi.  I told him off the top of my head I knew that they had a statewide program, but that I’d actually have to look it up to figure out exactly how active and how extensive their activities were (or if there was anything else going on in the state).  I recommended that he check out the Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning reports, along with the Southern Regional Education Board‘s Report on State Virtual Schools.  However, cause Clif is a good guy and because I thought it would make for a good entry, I wanted to save him a bit of time – if he hasn’t already checked himself.


  • According to Keeping Pace the Mississippi Online Learning Institute (MOLLI) supplement program was created in Fall 2002, and in 2004-05 had enrolled 463 students in 17 courses – which represented an increase of 31% from the previous year. (p. 45)
  • According to the SREB Report the courses included 11 Advanced Placement, 9 core academic, 3 foreign language, and 3 non-core electives that were leased from Florida Virtual School, Aventa Learning and, and taught by 13 full-time teachers. (p. 25-26)


  • According to Keeping Pace the state legislature had passed HB 1130 and SB 2602, which created the Mississippi Virtual Public School (MVS) and stipulated that these course must be made available to students at no cost. (p. 63)
  • According to the SREB Report the MVS was awarded a $2.5 million BellSouth Foundation grant and the legislature created a budget line item to allocate $1 million towards MVS.  At this stage MVS was offering 10 Advanced Placement, 10 core academic, and 9 non-core electives (all of which were listed by course name), but they continued to lease all of their content from Florida Virtual School, Aventa Learning and, and were now taught by part-time teachers. It was reported that there were 1185 enrollments and 887 completions. (p. 54-59)


  • Odd, but in this Keeping Pace there was no individual entry for Mississippi.  Only a notation in the “Southeastern States” introduction that read, “2006 legislation authorized MVS program to replace/expand previous Mississippi Online Learning Institute among other initiatives, program is supplemental high school as of 2007 and considering expanding to other grade levels and full-time.” (p. 78)
  • According to the SREB Report the courses now included 10 Advanced Placement, 14 core academic, 6 non-core electives, and 3 technical courses that were leased from external content providers.  There were 2,768 student enrollments during the 2006-07
    terms, with completion rates of Summer 2006 – 65% / Fall 2006 – 52% / Spring 2007 – 47%.  Teachers continued to be hired on a part-time basis, with a maximum of 2 courses per teacher.  (p. 50-56)


  • According to Keeping Pace, in addition to the MVS program, Jackson Public School District had begun to run an online credit recovery program. The MVS continued to be funded through state appropriations – $1.85 million in 2007-08 and $1.9 million for 2008-09, with some supplemental grant funding. The DOE also contracted with cyber charter school providers K12, Inc. (for grades K-3) and Connections Academy (for grades 4-8) to pilot K-8 online learning opportunities in 2008, but funding was not continued for the 2008-09 school year.  (p. 82)
  • According to the SREB Report the courses now included 16 Advanced Placement, 19 core academic, 8 foreign language, 3 non-core electives, and 8 technical courses that continued to be leased from course content providers.  These courses were taught by 106 part-time teachers.  There were 5025 enrollments during the 2007-08 terms and 2,963 successful completions.  (p. 79-87)


  • According to Keeping Pace the MVS program did receive $1.9 million for 2008-09 in state appropriations and $1.8 million for 2009-10. There were approximately 3400 students and over 7000 enrollments. There were also state exam, along with AP and SAT exam, readiness courses available.  In addition to MVS, there were some district-run online program – although there were no cyber charter schools. (p. 68)
  • There has been no SREB Report released for 2009 yet (at least it is not listed on their publications page).

The question I continue to wonder about, is what happened to the instructional television system that was supported by Mississippi PBS?  When you look around their website, I was able to find information about the Mississippi Interactive Video Network (MIVN).  I began to wonder if this was the former distance education program that Clif had told me about and, if it was, how much – if any – K-12 distance education did it continue to provide in Mississippi?

For those on the ground in Mississippi, for those who may be familiar with K-12 distance education in the state, for those who may be familiar with the MIVN, and for anyone who might know more about this than I have been able to sketch out here…  Is MIVN the entity within Mississippi PBS that used to provide K-12 distance education?  If so, is the MIVN doing any K-12 distance education still?  Are there any articles – academic or otherwise – that describes the former or current K-12 distance education program that Mississippi PBS was involved with?


  1. Next door in Louisiana, we had a partnership with public television in the 1990s to offer course content via television broadcasting (after 10PM). I thought the program was poorly organized, because students had to watch the broadcasts during late night hours, and there was certainly a major gap between the people who produced the videos and the local facilitators. Possibly Mississippi had a similar program before online education replaced it in the 21st century.

    Michael (and anyone else), what do you think about these new, growing virtual schools that rely so heavily on part-time instructors? To develop and sustain high quality education, I think a virtual school needs 25-50% of faculty to be full-time, and the remaining instructional staff should be under the supervision of the full-time faculty.

    Comment by Samuel Lewis — December 22, 2009 @ 1:45 am | Reply

  2. Samuel, personally I don’t see a problem with the reliance on part-time instructors. It has been the model that many of the state-wide institutions have used since their inception. If I look at the Michigan Virtual School for example, they only have a handful of full-time instructors but the enrollment continues to grow and the quality of the instruction doesn’t seem to be called into question. This was true of the former Illinois Virtual High School as well (prior to it ceasing to exist), and it grew in size just about every year (and could have grown more but the funding model in place did not allow for dramatic growth). They relied almost exclusively on part-time teachers.

    My experience has been that the places that rely the most on full-time teachers are the cyber charter schools (i.e., full-time programs). Which makes some sense when you think about it, as their students are engaged in their online studies are greater percentage of their time because they are online all of the time. Whereas in a supplemental program the students are in a brick-and-mortar classroom for the majority of their day, and only engaged in their online studies for one or two slots in their schedule.

    But this might make an interesting question to turn into its own entry in the new year.

    Comment by mkbnl — December 22, 2009 @ 8:48 am | Reply

  3. Thanks for following through with this, Michael. This is really interesting and informative.

    Comment by Clif Mims — January 12, 2010 @ 11:38 pm | Reply

  4. No problem Clif… It was fun catching up with you and this gave me a chance to explore K-12 online learning in a state that I probably wouldn’t have looked at closely if not for our conversation.

    Comment by mkbnl — January 12, 2010 @ 11:42 pm | Reply

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