Online Higher Education Receives Support from Senate Bill 520, as reported by OnlineSchool.com

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Democratic senator Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, California has introduced Senate Bill 520, which is designed to help advance the viability of online higher education as a whole due to ongoing research that shows online courses can significantly lower failure rates of students enrolled in entry-level courses as well as prevent “bottleneck” conditions that may inhibit the ability of students to take certain classes that are necessary for obtaining a degree.

Senator Steinberg is especially interested in advancing the viability of online higher education.

Democratic senator Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, California has introduced Senate Bill 520, which is designed to augment two other bills he offered in 2012 that intends to establish a statewide system designed to implement the availability of lower level courses and student access to high-quality, digital textbooks for first and second year courses credited by the University of California, the California Community Colleges and California State University. Senator Steinberg is especially interested in advancing the viability of online higher education as a whole due to ongoing research that shows online courses can significantly lower failure rates of students enrolled in entry-level courses as well as prevent “bottleneck” conditions that may inhibit the ability of students to take certain classes that are necessary for obtaining a degree.

According to OnlineSchool.com, the bill proposes that providers of online courses have the ability to propose selected courses to a specialized committee where these courses can be approved for submission to a clearinghouse at the state level. There, students who need these courses but previously experienced problems getting into the courses can enroll in them and receive college credit from UC, CSU or California Community Colleges. With passage of this bill, Steinberg hopes to remedy California's skyrocketing demand for higher education and remove obstacles that threaten to devastate the state's ability to provide higher education in a timely manner to all who desire it.

Key points of the bill include:

1. Providing a list of lower-division classes that are considered over-subscribed and difficult to access
2. Allowing students to enroll online in these courses when such courses are unavailable from a traditional college or university
3. Offering students access to a state-level pool of approved courses that would provide full academic credit at CCC, UC or CSU

OnlineSchool.com also reports that the passage of Senator Steinberg's Senate Bill 520 in California may pave the way for other states to take a deeper interest in the burgeoning popularity of traditional and online universities that offer two, four and six-year degree programs. Implementation of SB 520 will also help create standards for other states to follow regarding the use of an elected council comprised of education professionals who are familiar with academic and student-oriented problems commonly affecting distance learning programs. Additional goals of such a council would be to initiate a statewide framework of policies and resolutions designed to eliminate inconsistencies existing among campus systems.

Additionally, SB 520 would also demand that the council consider a wide variety of issues relevant to the online education experience, such as the depth of student/faculty interaction involved in suggested online courses and ways to reduce the possibility of compromised examinations given online. SB 520 further recommends that student completion rates, retention rates and enrollment figures are tracked for each school that offers online courses in order to facilitate continuous assessment of the bill in regards to the success of students seeking higher education degrees.

By following this council-managed, structured process of creating and acknowledging in-demand, online courses provided by public universities and colleges, California represents the exemplar for other states to begin taking proactive approaches to regulating online education in order to avert low-quality, unaccredited “diploma mill”-type schools from cheapening the rapid increase in the number of online colleges and universities. For more information about earning a degree online, visit Onlineschool.com for articles, resources, degree descriptions and helpful suggestions concerning the distance learning experience.

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Benjamin Evans
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