The growth of distance education in Louisiana has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years. Long before the advent of modern educational technology, the real catalyst of this growth began with our learners seeking to broaden their eductional options through correspondence and, when necessary, exodus from the state of Louisiana. The extension of program and course offereings through insititutions with online programs such as University of Phoenix and our local insititutions such as Louisiana State University, Southern University, and Southeastern University. Now, online education in Louisiana has expanded beyond higher education and into elementary and secondary education. This growth only mirrors the growth of online education nationwide.
Last October, the U.S. Department of Education amended the Higher Education Act of 1965 to include Program Integrity Regulations. These regulations focus on improving three major integrity issues: State Authorization, Incentive Compensation, and Misrepresentation. State Authorization is an issue that greatly impacts all higher education institution – public, private, for-profit or non-profit – because it requires all higher education institutions that offer online programs nation to gain certificationin each state in which they offer classes. Regarding state authorization in online learning, the Program Integrity Regulations states:
If an institution is offering postsecondary education through distance or correspondence education to students in a State in which it is not physically located or in which it is otherwise subject to State jurisdiction as determined by the State, the institution must meet any State requirements for it to be legally offering postsecondary distance or correspondence education in that State. An institution must be able to document to the Secretary the State’s approval upon request.
As such regulations are being created by lawmakers to govern the online learning policy and procedure, leaders in the educational technology community feel that it is of the utmost necessity to create a Congressional E-Learning Caucus. The mission of this caucus will be to advocate the issuess concerning the implementation and regulation of online learning in higher education. Of the creation of the caucus, eSchoolNews’ Dennis Carter quotes Representatives Kristi Noem, R- South Dakota and Jared Polis, D- Colorado as having expressed that it’s purpose is to “promote research on successes and failures in eLearning so that federal education funds are used prudently, and to ensure policy is aligned with practice.”
State authorization regulations such as these protect our students as well as those institutions who provide online distance education to the state of Louisiana. These regulations along with the Congressional E-Learning Caucus will make it much easier to create a stronger system of check and balances as we continue our education reform efforts to make school accountability a top priority and keep our talent in our state.
To learn more about the Program Integrity Regulations of the Higher Education act of1965, visit Department of Education Program Integrity Issues.