Small schools offer an educational experience that many students appreciate for the close-knit community. But those students can also miss out on the diversity of academic offerings available in larger schools.
Beginning in 2015 the Distance Education Task Force — facilitated by the Wyoming Department of Education — has been looking at ways to enhance the courses available to students across Wyoming, especially students in the state’s smaller, more remote schools. The idea is to use online learning technology to allow students to take courses with teachers from districts across the state and beyond.
During the 2017 session, legislators put recommendations from the task force into statute. Now, the Wyoming Department of Education is creating the regulations and standards that will guide districts in the implementation of online course offerings. Laurel Ballard with the WDE said input from the community is needed to make distance learning as effective as possible.
“We’ve been trying to work on something that provides an excellent educational opportunity,” said Ballard. “So what we’re looking for is the feedback on these rules to know that what we’re setting in place will work for everyone.”
Ballard said Wyoming teachers have already been using online tools in the classroom, and doing technology-assisted learning. The rules being formed are for classes with a teacher in a remote location.
Brent Bacon, Chief Academic Officer for the WDE said this is not about undermining brick and mortar schools, but it’s about enhancing what’s available in small communities and providing more opportunity for students.
“This is totally to enhance education across our state,” said Bacon. “So when you think about some of these smaller districts that have limited numbers of teachers and programs available to students, this boosts that.”
The public comment period is open until February 18. The proposed rules and comment form are available here.