Two members of Congress formed an eLearning caucus last month–a much-needed Capitol Hill forum, educators said, after a recent survey showed Congressional representatives and their staffers lacked a basic understanding of online education.
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., a conservative House member, and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., among his party’s most liberal members, created the eLearning caucus Oct. 5 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,” according to a “dear colleague” letter written by Noem and Polis.
A poll conducted this year by the Presidents Forum, a group of online colleges that primarily serve adult learners, showed policy makers were unfamiliar with up-to-date web-based learning. Many on Capitol Hill thought distance learning was still conducted primary through correspondence classes, and survey respondents said online programs were only equivalent to classroom learning if a large institution created and administered the curriculum.
“There was very little understanding of the impact of current technology,” said Paul Shiffman, executive director of the Presidents Forum. “Both staff and [Congressional] members come from a place and time identified primarily with traditional education. They have not been in contact with most recent methodologies … so there’s a void of knowledge there.”