Tonight the Board is voting on adoption of a new policy for on-line courses. At the time of introduction of this item, the Board had requested information about what was currently being done in the district. The information below is a new part of the Action Item being voted on.
At Introduction, Board members requested information on what current online learning activities are underway. We contacted the head counselors in the high schools and discovered that there is not a lot of online activity underway. Many schools reported that they formerly used the Digital Learning Commons (DLC), but ceased when the district stopped funding the program. A few schools have students doing online course through Brigham Young University. Students who do use online opportunities typically take a course for 0.5 credits/semester—the same as they would earn in an SPS class. Students appear to be taking courses all along the spectrum, including math, US history, science, CTE, health and PE.
Students also appear to be taking classes both for acceleration and for remediation. For the most part it appears that students are paying for their own courses. We have had problems in the past with students abusing online courses (having other students do their coursework, etc) so some schools are fairly restrictive in what they allow.
One principal who also responded to our survey noted that in the past the school has had a
problem with online courses not being aligned to standards, and he noted that frequently the
students are taking the courses simply for credit, not for knowledge. When the student then
moves on to the next level of course and takes it at the school, the student frequently does not do well, because he or she has not acquired the knowledge or skill set through the online course
necessary to progress to the next level.
The issues raised by the counselors and principal are all reasons why we believe we must move
deliberately towards increasing our online learning opportunities. While online opportunities can be a great benefit to students, we must ensure that the courses are being offered by an accredited institution, that the courses are aligned to state standards, and that appropriate safeguards are in place to avert abuse of the opportunity.
Over the next year we will be working with the high school counselors (and middle and
elementary, if appropriate) to identify the issues and solutions so that our students can have the appropriate online learning opportunities to enhance their education.
So many schools stopped using online learning when the district stopped paying and "it appears" that students are paying for online courses themselves. The former should be no mystery to anyone and the latter? Again, little documentation in this district of what actually happens.
It is good, though, that the Board asked for this information and district staff went out and brought it back to them.