Written Comments to the Senate Education Committee


 

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Comments for House Bill 3223 for Senate Education Committee
May 13, 2011

My name is Jeffrey Hunt. I am the director of e-learning at Indian Prairie School District 204 in Aurora, Illinois. I am an educational technology practitioner with practical experience implementing learning technologies in traditional classrooms as well in electronic settings, such as online learning. I am here today to ask you to support House Bill 3223 to amend the existing Remote Education Act.

This proposed revision of the Act will allow school districts to count students’ work in their online classes during weekends, holiday periods, teacher institute days, and other non-attendance days as part of the districts’ General State Aid calculations up to the limits of law.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has existing compliance rules to audit districts’ programs for students’ participation in online courses. So there are no additional costs or efforts outside the existing requirements of the Remote Education Act or ISBE’s compliance rules.

We are not suggesting in this revision of the Act that students be forced to work on weekends or holiday breaks. Rather schools should be allowed to track students’ participation in their online courses outside the approved school calendars for General State Aid purposes. Many students are telling us that they want to learn outside the traditional time and place of school. Online courses provide them the avenues of flexibility, pacing, and place of learning. A revision to the Remote Education Act will make this a reality.

The number of online learning opportunities is increasing for the nation’s students. The International Association for K-12 Online Learning reports that in 2009 approximately 1.5 million students were enrolled in online courses nationwide and that 70% of the nation’s school districts offered at least one online course.

In higher education, the Sloan Consortium reports that during the fall semester 2009, nearly 30% of all students enrolled there participated in online courses.
Learning in non-traditional formats is an emerging trend in education. From the phone calls I receive, Illinois’ schools are beginning to notice the promise of online learning.
In today’s implementations online learning has different meanings, such as hybrid courses where students attend traditional classes for part of the courses and they complete work online for the other fraction of the courses.

In fully online courses, students may never see the inside of a traditional classroom, except for an orientation to the course and to complete the final exam. Yet, students and teachers interact electronically through electronic mail, video conferencing software, and telephone calls, when necessary. Learning online does not mean that a student learns alone. Quality teachers are essential in learning regardless of the learning format.

At Indian Prairie, we offer fully online courses. Consumer Economics and Health are the most popular courses taken online. We also offer astronomy, English courses, and US history online. Our students are successful in our courses, with over 90% of them finishing their courses with an “A,” “B,” or “C” grade. Our students follow the same curriculum plans and take the same examinations as students enrolled in traditional courses. We share the concerns that many have about the quality of online courses, and we focus our attention on those issues.

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