Keeping in line with increasing online education efforts for students, Iowa and California schools are stepping up to the plate.
The Iowa State Board of Education officials were presented with a proposal Thursday that sought to expand the program, Iowa Learning Online (ILO). ILO is a program used to bring high school courses online, and currently has 625 Iowa students enrolled. Through the proposal, ILO would see more course offerings and a rise in enrollment over a three year period to 5,000 students. While funding will come from both tuition and state funds, Iowa State Board already planned to make online education one of this year’s top priorities, and the outlined three year process might be too long. State Board Member Max Phillips told the Des Moines Register:
“Twenty-five other states have more students than we do in virtual learning, We need to learn, but we don’t need to go slow, because our students are already behind.”
The University of California – Berkeley (UC) is also trying to roll out its own online education project. Albeit in its pilot stage, the program will include 26 online courses ranging from global climate change to game theory. Professors will be gathering data to test out its effectiveness and determine what the next steps for this project will be.
One obstacle both plans will need to overcome is cost. ILO will receive over $6 million in the three year plan, but districts may need to be charged $300 per semester hour. According to Iowa Department of Education consultant, Gwen Wallace Nagel, students in online schools in other states usually pay $150.
UC also needed about $6 million for its new program, but only raised $748,000. Vice Provost Daniel Greenstein, a UC official in charge of the project, expects to fund the remaining cost with non-UC students. By visiting colleges in locations like Beijing and Shanghai, Greenstein hopes to sell about 7,000 spots in the online courses. This move is being met with debate from other UC faculty members, such as political science Professor Wendy Brown, who wondered why non-UC students would pay for online courses that are already free at other universities.
In a time where educational budgets are being reduced and institutions like UC are laying off staff members, it remains to be seen what the future will hold for these online educational programs. As UC Davis Professor Roger McDonald said in the San Francisco Chronicle:
“Academics don’t like change. Certain people are convinced that we’re going to become the University of Phoenix, and there’s not a darn thing you can do.”