BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota rural schools with limited finances are using online classes to expand course offerings for students.

The North Dakota Center for Distance Education, which offers hundreds of online courses, has seen a considerable increase in course enrollments after the state Legislature started subsidizing course costs. Students enrolled in 7,350 courses at the center this year, compared to about 2,170 in 2011, according to the center's data.

School districts utilize the center's online courses when there aren't financial resources or certified instructors available to offer certain subjects, the Bismarck Tribune reported .

The center offers online courses for grades 6-12, including Advanced Placement, credit-recovery courses and electives. North Dakota students make up 90 percent of enrollments, but courses are also offered in other states and overseas.

Medina Public School Superintendent Brian Christopherson started using the center to give seniors more elective options.

"I think that every school wants to have that teacher in-house, wants the students to be in front of a teacher. If you can't find one, you have to go to Plan B, and that was our Plan B to get through the fall semester," Christopherson said. "So far, it's worked well."

Lynnsey Slaughbaugh, 18, has been taking online classes since seventh grade. "There were so many different areas that you could choose from," said Slaughbaugh. "If you're interested about something, you could take a class and learn from it."

Slaughbaugh took three AP courses online, which helped her save money for college.

The center relies on the state Legislature to appropriate funds every two years, and tuition charged to districts and students.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune,