Perhaps it comes as no surprise, but members of Congress really don’t have a firm grasp on what online education is. In fact, a 2011 survey of representatives found that many thought distance learning was basically correspondence classes. That led to the formation of an e-learning caucus.
The primary goal of the caucus is to educate elected representatives about online learning. The group has plenty of work to do since members still fail to understand just how much online learning has advanced or who the classes target.
“There’s this thought that most participants are just coming for one or two classes, that online education is just used for shorter-term certificate programs,” Julie Peller, director of federal policy at the Lumina Foundation, told eCampus News. “The number of students taking online courses, either completely or as part of a brick-and-mortar program, is not widely known or discussed.”
That can be a problem when 14% of the college population in the United States is taking courses entirely online, according to a study from Learning House Inc. and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. A Sloan Consortium survey also found that 30% of the student population took at least one online course in 2012.
“The goal has been to increase awareness of e-learning, online education, and the issues that affect it,” said Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who created the caucus with Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD). “We plan to continue to have a good schedule of briefings to bring these issues to the broadest audience of policymakers.”