CHAMPAIGN – Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday visited the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to sign a law to help boost the quality of distance and online learning programs across Illinois and other states.
Quinn also signed laws to streamline higher education financial processes and to extend the Task Force on Civic Education. Friday's actions are part of Quinn's agenda to ensure that everyone in Illinois has the opportunity for a high quality education.
“Attending college online is an important educational option more people around the world are pursuing,” Quinn said. ”Illinois’ higher education institutions have found a willing and world-wide audience for these types of course offerings. This new law makes sure the educational programming offered online out of Illinois maintains the same high quality standards in order to help ensure all students receive a high quality education, regardless of where they live.”
Senate Bill 3441, sponsored by state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Crest Hill, and state Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Sycamore, authorizes the Illinois Board of Higher Education to make agreements with other states to guarantee distance learning programs maintain common standards and that completed course work is recognized by institutions in each state. The agreements will also establish a mechanism for handling complaints and refunds across states and institutions. The new law is effective Jan. 1, 2015.
"Governor Quinn's action fulfills the legislature's goal to make high-quality, affordable online higher education available to Illinois residents,” McGuire said. “This new law shows what cooperation between Democrats and Republicans and among Midwestern states can accomplish—lower costs for governments, and expanded opportunities for our 21st century workforce."
“Distance learning allows students to take courses that may not be offered where they are attending college or at times that are more convenient for them,” Pritchard said. “This legislation offers consumer protections that the courses will be recognized by institutions of higher education, and assures refunds will be made if the student takes the appropriate steps to cancel the course.”
The new law will allow Illinois to join other members of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact to make distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines while also making it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The Midwestern Compact will interact with other regional compacts across the country. Any public college, university or independent institution can participate and seek accreditation, a designation that will indicate the institution has the “seal of approval” from the participating states for its distance learning programs.
Last year through the University of Illinois, 323,857 students from around the world enrolled in online offerings through the Massive Open Online Courses including nontraditional students, professionals looking to build specific competencies and many other lifelong learners.
By providing a broad range of affordable, flexible options, online learning has great potential to help many people across Illinois meet their education and careers goals. With nearly one in ten community college students taking a class online each year, online learning is becoming an increasingly popular option.