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Letter: Better oversight for online courses

Published: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:57 p.m. CDT

To the Editor:

A growing number of colleges and universities are offering online classes in response to student demands for a different teaching technique and more convenient scheduling of desired courses. States have been struggling to review the quality of these courses and respond to student complaints about some courses and those providing them. 

I co-sponsored Senate Bill 3441 to address these issues, and the bill was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn last week. This legislation allows the Illinois Board of Higher Education to make agreements with other states to review the quality of these courses, assures students that course credits will be accepted by Illinois colleges and universities, and sets up a mechanism for handling student complaints and refunds of fees.

Distance learning programs have a role to play in higher education and we must find ways to assure the quality and effectiveness of these courses as teaching tools. Many students want to take courses that aren’t offered at their college or at a time that fits their work and class schedules. They can access courses over the internet rather than traveling to campus. Some courses utilize blended learning with traditional labs and discussion sections.

Then there is the issue of cost. Online classes can be less expensive because they don’t require a brick and mortar campus with all the usual university overhead costs. This may be a trend in higher education, much like what is happening in the retail merchandise industry. 

It has been obvious to me for at least the past decade that states are defunding higher education and a different model of providing higher education must be developed. The legislature must continue to monitor and pass regulations like SB 3441 to assure the quality of courses and that the necessary learning occurs.

State Rep. Bob Pritchard

R-Hinckley

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