College & Workforce Readiness

E-Learning Requirement Could Hurt Idaho Students Without Internet

By The Associated Press — February 08, 2011 3 min read
Idaho residents listen to public testimony at the Statehouse in Boise last month on education proposals before the state legislature. One plan would require students to take online courses.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A lack of technological infrastructure in northern Idaho will put students there at a disadvantage under proposed state education reforms that call for students to take online classes every year to graduate, school officials say.

“Applying this plan to the school district will be a considerable challenge,” Dick Cvitanich, the superintendent of the 3,700-student Lake Pend Oreille school district, told a local newspaper, the Bonner County Daily Bee. “Many of our students don’t have Internet access, and many others only have access to dial-up. Speaking as a former user of dial-up, I know that’s not ideal.”

Students in other regions with high-speed Internet access at home would have an advantage over students without such access at home, forcing them to set their schedules around when they could use school computers, he said.

A small number of states already have similar online-course requirements in place, said Mathew J. Wicks, the vice president of strategy and organizational development at the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL, based in Vienna, Va. Both Michigan and Alabama make an online-learning experience one of the criteria for high school graduation. New Mexico has a similar requirement, but Mr. Wicks said it includes a way to opt out and meet the criteria without using online educational experiences.

Mr. Wicks said he believes more states will be moving to add an online-course requirement for high school graduation, particularly as such requirements are revised, forcing those states to deal with the equity issues Idaho is now facing.

But he said those concerns shouldn’t hold states back from trying to give students the online-learning experiences they need to prepare them for the future.

There are several ways to address issues of inequity in which, for example, some students may have their own computers and Internet access and others either don’t or have only dial-up rather than high-speed options, Mr. Wicks said.

Providing students with the option of working at school before or after regular hours, or having students work at home on aspects of a course that don’t need video or graphics—such as participating in online, asynchronous discussion boards—may help relieve such problems.

“I get concerned if we’re saying we can only do things to the lowest common denominator,” Mr. Wicks said. “Those issues are real and you can’t ignore them, but they’re also going away more and more.”

‘The Intended Effect’

Michigan remains concerned about equity issues, said Bruce Umpstead, the state director of educational technology and data coordination at the Michigan Department of Education. But the state’s requirement that students have a 20-hour online-learning experience leaves the door open for a wide variety of methods to meet the criteria, he said.

In addition, students can satisfy the requirement any time between grades 6 and 12, providing even more flexibility. “It was really meant to be a signal that online learning is a major part of the future,” Mr. Umpstead said. “It has had the intended effect, signaling to schools that they need to look for other options for delivering educational experiences.”

Though Mr. Umpstead said the state has struggled to track exactly how students are fulfilling the online-learning requirement, he said many students are taking full-blown online courses from the state’s Michigan Virtual University. Others are using an online component of the state’s required Educational Development Plan, which every student must craft to encourage thinking about future education and careers.

In Idaho, meanwhile, state schools chief Tom Luna outlined an aggressive overhaul in education last month as he called for more technology in the classroom and a pay-for-performance plan for educators.

The plan includes supplying 9th graders with laptop computers and requiring them to take two online courses a year. The proposal also includes increasing the student-per-classroom ratio from 18.2 to 19.8 over the next five years.

Officials with the Bonner County Economic Development Corp., in Idaho, want a fiber-optic network this year, but said it likely won’t reach students outside more densely populated areas.

Education Week Digital Directions Senior Writer Michelle R. Davis contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared in the February 09, 2011 edition of Education Week as E-Course Plan Raises Equity Concerns


Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Photo Essay PHOTOS: Cars, Canines, and Cosmetology—All in a Day's Work
EdWeek photographer Morgan Lieberman reflects on her day with Dean McGee, a 2023 Leaders To Learn From honoree.
2 min read
Students Fernando Castro and Eric Geye’s, part of the Auto Technology class, show Dean McGee the vehicle they are working on at the Regional Occupational Center on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Bakersfield, Calif.
Dean McGee takes a look under a vehicle alongside students from the auto technology class at the Regional Occupational Center, in Bakersfield, Calif.
Morgan Lieberman for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness Leader To Learn From Building Skills for Independent Lives: A Leader's Vision for Students With Disabilities
Dean McGee of Kern High School District in California draws on his personal experience to improve and expand career-technical education.
7 min read
Dean McGee pets Sydney while visiting the Veterinary Technology program at the Regional Occupation Center on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Bakersfield, Calif.
Dean McGee, deputy superintendent of educational services and innovative programs in the Kern High School District, pets Sydney while visiting the veterinary technology program at the Regional Occupation Center in Bakersfield, Calif.
Morgan Lieberman for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness Q&A How a California Leader Expanded Career and Technical Ed.
Dean McGee pushes career readiness in Bakersfield, Calif., where more than half of adults have a high school education or less.
3 min read
Dean McGee visits the grooming sector while visiting the Veterinary Technology program at the Regional Occupation Center on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Bakersfield, Calif.
Dean McGee, the deputy superintendent of educational services and innovative programs in the Kern High School District in Bakersfield, Calif., visits the grooming center, part of the district's veterinary technology program.
Morgan Lieberman for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness Many Students Don't Fill Out the FAFSA. Here's One Practice That Could Help
New data suggests that meeting with a school counselor could make a difference.
4 min read
Young man writing college or university application form with laptop with scholarship document on desk next to him.