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NMSI Provides North Dakota Students With More Course Offerings, Support

Students aren’t alone when taking online coursework through NMSI’s Blended College Readiness Program. They have support from teachers, coaches and each other to guide them along the way.

Two North Dakota students taking an online AP Physics class through Blended CRP have set times and a location at school where they meet to complete their daily lessons and help each other as needed.

“We have problem sets where we can collaborate without using each other’s ideas,” says Elizabeth Bichler, a junior at St. Mary’s Central High School in Bismarck.

Brit Senftner, who joins Elizabeth in the shared space, adds, “We work together when there’s confusion on directions or something that’s difficult to understand. Two brains are better than one.”

This is the first time both students have taken an AP course. St. Mary’s wouldn’t be able to offer as many AP courses without a partnership between NMSI and VHS Learning, which provides online-only classes to schools across the country.

St. Mary’s became a NMSI Blended CRP partner in 2019. Along with the student and educator supports offered by traditional CRP, the blended component connects schools with VHS Learning and provides students with a coach that they can connect with to ask questions about the coursework. The program also requires an adult at the school to be part of the team supporting the students.

Along with helping each other, Brit and Elizabeth reach out to their NMSI coach for support.  

“I had a question that the coach answered in 24 hours,” Elizabeth says. “It helped me a lot to understand more of the concept and to solve the problem.”

Tracy Friesen, St. Mary’s assistant principal, says Brit and Elizabeth have “done a really good job taking ownership of their schedule and connecting with who they need to connect with when something doesn’t go well.”

Friesen encourages online students to be their own advocates when they need to reach out to their teacher or coach for help.

Being first-time AP students, the St. Mary’s juniors can see a difference between regular courses and the college-level concepts they’re learning in AP.

“In prior science courses, I learned how something works, but with AP physics, I’m not only learning the how, but also why it works,” Brit says.

Elizabeth adds, “AP dives deeper into the material.”

Both students are leaning toward STEM career paths in college. Elizabeth is thinking about architecture or design, while Brit is considering civil engineering. With a better understanding of how AP prepares them for college, they both say they want to take AP math courses their senior years.

Along with the support from each other, teachers and coaches, NMSI also provides on-demand and real-time student study sessions online to help prepare for the AP exam in the spring. Brit and Elizabeth are planning to participate in their first NMSI study session this month.

“Students experience a rigorous course, but also learn lifelong skills in time management and organization,” Friesen says. “The students that choose these courses are well-prepared not only for the AP exam but for post-secondary experience.”