LANSING — Indicative of the emerging role online learning plays in K-12 education, Public Act 201 of 2012 directed the Michigan Virtual University to establish the Center for Online Learning Research and Innovation.

The Center for Online Learning Research and Innovation will serve multiple roles to support Michigan’s students, parents, schools, K-12 and postsecondary educators and state and local policymakers. Housed at Michigan Virtual University and headquartered in Lansing, the center will draw upon recognized state and national leaders from K-12 schools, higher education and private industry to provide research, evaluation and development expertise.

The center will support and accelerate innovation in education through a variety of activities, including researching technology-based instructional tools and online learning delivery models, designing professional development services for educators, and identifying and sharing best practices for implementing online and blended education delivery models.

“This initiative demonstrates both Michigan’s and MVU’s continued dedication to the online and blended learning field and to supporting an array of quality learning environments for students throughout the state,” said Susan Patrick, president & CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). “The center will provide a blueprint for others to emulate as they explore the establishment of new models of learning in their own states.” iNACOL is the international K-12 nonprofit association representing the interests of practitioners, providers and students involved in online learning worldwide.

The center will also provide leadership for online and blended learning in the state through activities such as:
• Producing an annual consumer awareness report for schools and parents about effective online education providers and education delivery models, performance data, cost structures and research trends;
• Developing and reporting policy recommendations to the governor and the Legislature that accelerate the expansion of effective online learning in this state’s schools;
• Providing a clearinghouse for research reports, academic studies, evaluations and other information related to online learning;
• In collaboration with the department and interested colleges and universities in this state, recommending to the superintendent guidelines and standards for a new teacher endorsement credential related to effective online and blended instruction; and
• Convening focus groups and conducting annual surveys of teachers, administrators, pupils, parents and others to identify barriers and opportunities related to online learning.

“The center will support and accelerate innovation and we plan to focus attention on a variety of strategies designed to build greater capacity for online teaching and learning that further expand Michigan’s leadership role in the knowledge economy,” said Jamey Fitzpatrick, MVU president & CEO. “MVU has chosen Dr. Joe Freidhoff to serve as the center’s director.”

Freidhoff’s promotion to Center director comes after more than three years of service to MVU. Dr. Freidhoff earned his Ph.D. in educational technologies from Michigan State University and specializes in data-driven decision making, analysis of student and teacher performance, course evaluation and data optimization.

“The Center’s focus on policy, research and innovation in online and blended learning allows the Michigan Virtual University to further its mission as a change agent and capacity builder,” Freidhoff said. “The work of the center will bring a research-based approach to help the state and its schools continue their pursuit of providing high-quality instruction for all students.”

Freidhoff also has experience teaching in face-to-face and online settings, having taught undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in both formats. Before returning to school for his Ph.D., he taught high school English in Michigan.

Over the coming weeks, the center will establish a web presence for communicating its findings, and begin work on several of this year’s projects.

MVU is a private, nonprofit Michigan corporation established by the State of Michigan in 1998 to serve as a champion for online learning. It is the parent organization of the Michigan Virtual School, a provider of online courses for middle and high school students, and Michigan LearnPort, an online learning portal that delivers professional development opportunities and more to the Michigan education community. To learn more, visit


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