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DMPS Virtual Campus Needs Assessment

To expand its teaching opportunities for students in Des Moines and across the state of Iowa, Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) explored the need for a “virtual campus,” an online school to teach students entirely or primarily online.

Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) hired SPPG + Essman Research (SPPG + ER) to help them explore their community’s interest in virtual schooling. The online school would provide the same or very similar content and benefits as provided by a brick and mortar school (learning materials, online exercises, self-paced courses, live online classes, tests, web forums, etc.) but delivers these classes through the internet. The instructional models under consideration by DMPS would range from distance learning types which provides study materials and web-based discussions for asynchronous instruction, to real time, interactive classes where students work with a teacher as a group or individually via an audio-visual application.


Our team at SPPG + ER conducted six focus groups, telephone, and online surveys with DMPS administrators and educators, DMPS high school students in grades 9-12, and central Iowa parents with children in grades 6-12 to provide DMPS with data from their stakeholders. Our qualitative and quantitative research gave DMPS the information needed to assess the advantages and disadvantages to online learning among DMPS students and parents, the perceptions of the DMPS virtual campus, and the likelihood students would enroll in the virtual campus. In August 2019, the DMPS Virtual Campus earned accreditation from the Iowa Department of Education, becoming the first online high school developed in Iowa.

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