Last updated: 05.04.12

Iowa lawmakers discuss online learning bills

Online learning is a key debate in Iowa, the Bullingdon Hawk Eye reports.

Last autumn, it was not a particularly important consideration among lawmakers as they toured the area discussing plans for education reform, but has now hit the forefront of their conversations.

State representative for Mount Pleasant Dave Heaton told the news source he is concerned about whether or not the e-learning course provider will exist in the region.

Legislators are worrying that a school district will invest large quantities of money in e-learning, which will be utilised by outside firms, he declared.

The policymaker said: "I don't think a lot of people up here are comfortable with that, even though a lot of them are impressed with the potential of online learning in some cases."

Iowa Department of Education policy liaison Mike Cormack said a house bill will cap the maximum number of students that can engage in online learning through private firms partnering with school districts at 900.

Furthermore, Senate versions will enable as much as 50 per cent of coursework issued over any day to be performed through online learning, with exceptions granted for certain people with medical requirements.

He said e-learning is "something that is very much up in the air".

"There are a lot of different scenarios," the politician added, hypothesising that some of the hesitation among lawmakers is because the concept is innovative and new to the area.

Mr Cormack explained 29 other states offer online learning in some manner and speculated that if a bill is passed, this will occur in a conference committee, involving representatives of both chambers and political parties coming to a compromise through negotiations.

Legislators in Tennessee are examining virtual learning environments as well, arguing these should be an essential aspect of any educational reforms, an article in the Tennessee Report revealed.

They are also looking at a bill called HB3062 that could mandate minimum teacher to pupil ratios in online learning courses.