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Congressional E-Learning Caucus Taking Shape

Last October, U.S. Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Jared Polis (D-CO) announced the formation of the Congressional E-Learning Caucus. This body is intended to serve as a community within the U.S. House of Representatives interested in better understanding and advancing federal policy in relation to e-learning; collectively, the caucus would also stand as a knowledge resource on e-learning for the House as a whole. EDUCAUSE recently joined with a number of other educational associations and organizations to meet with Reps. Noem and Polis’s lead staffers for the caucus to discuss the range of issues it might consider addressing in its initial agenda, as well as the status of efforts to recruit additional caucus members.

Meeting participants proposed a variety of topics for the caucus to explore following its formal, public launch later this year. Chief among them were recent regulatory efforts by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in relation to state authorization of online learning programs, calculating the last date of attendance of online students for possible refunds of student aid to ED, and other Higher Education Act Title IV “program integrity” regulations. However, the need for greater research support regarding the efficacy of online learning and the development of competency-based/performance-based assessment was also central to the discussion, as was the potential impact of technology issues and policies, such as national broadband development and network neutrality, on the progress of e-learning.

The congressional staffers indicated that recruitment efforts for the caucus remain in the early stages given the relative proximity of its announcement to Congress’s 2011 holiday recess. They have subsequently re-issued the invitation to House members to join (please see below). They also encouraged meeting participants to highlight for their communities the emergence of the Congressional E-Learning Caucus as a way of building support within Congress for representatives’ active participation in it.


Join the Congressional E-Learning Caucus

Dear Colleague:          

The Internet and the information technology revolution have made the delivery of education more efficient and more cost effective.  Providers of E-Learning hail from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.  Students at every educational level benefit from expanded access to high-quality courses and instructors anywhere, anytime, whether accessing the classroom in a blended format or entirely online.  E-Learning is removing barriers for rural and inner city students who can now experience a fuller range of education and training opportunities.  The Department of Defense uses E-Learning to train troops deployed in war zones and on submarines, enabling service members to further their education – even earn degrees – while deployed.  Businesses everywhere use E-Learning for on-the-job training and continuing education of their employees.    

To encourage the development of E-Learning in the United States, we are pleased to announce the formation of the Congressional E-Learning Caucus.  The Caucus will serve as a resource in Congress on using technology to enable all learners – from preschool to high school, from college to the workplace – to have access to the highest quality instructional materials and best-in-class instructors regardless of location or income level.  Our goals in forming the E-Learning Caucus are to promote increased understanding on Capitol Hill about the pivotal role E-Learning plays in our education system, to promote research on successes and failures in E-Learning so that federal education funds are used prudently, and to ensure that policy is aligned with practice. 

Please consider joining the Congressional E-Learning Caucus.           

Recent data illustrate the need for the Caucus: 

  • Over 5.6 million college students (or nearly 30% of all college students) took at least one online course in 2009.
  • Approximately 1 million post-baccalaureate students (or about 22% of the total) took at least one online course in 2007-2008, with 9% taking their entire program online.
  • Women disproportionately take postsecondary E-Learning courses.
  • More than 4 million K-12 students participated in formal online learning courses in 2010, up from just 45,000 students in 2000, with an annual growth rate of 43% for pre-K students.
  • Three quarters of public school districts offer online or blended courses.

We anticipate even more online education growth in the future.  Some researchers estimate that half of high school classes will be online by 2020.  In addition to improving educational opportunities, E-Learning represents a potentially significant export for the United States, enabling our institutions to serve a global student body.  

We both have first-hand, personal experiences that have demonstrated to us the positive effect that E-Learning can have in peoples’ lives.  We encourage you to join the E-Learning Caucus to support innovative educational delivery to all Americans.  


Kristi Noem

Member of Congress

Co-Chair, Congressional E-Learning Caucus


Jared Polis

Member of Congress

Co-Chair, Congressional E-Learning Caucus