Online learning has become more prevalent since COVID-19 infiltrated our lives more than two years ago, and Pennsylvania may have a statewide catalog of online courses for high school students. by fall 2024 if a bill sponsored by State Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Cecil, eventually becomes law.
The measure was approved by the state House of Representatives and sent to the Senate for consideration. As currently envisioned, the course catalog would begin with courses for students in grades 9 through 12 and then include students in lower grades. The online catalog would also contain professional development courses for teachers. It would cost about $2.5 million to launch and be run by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Making an online course catalog available in the Commonwealth has long been a goal of Ortitay, who graduated from the Avella Area School District, a district with limited offerings in its curriculum due to its relatively small size. Ortitay must have taken a class, he recalls, watching tapes on a VCR. Ortitay says an online course catalog will expand learning opportunities for all students in Pennsylvania, but especially those in small districts with limited resources.
“It’s a matter of fairness across the state,” Ortitay said.
Ortitay introduced measures to have an online course catalog during each of the eight years he spent at Harrisburg. The difference in crossing the finish line in the House this time was working with Sherri Smith, the assistant secretary for education, on the wording of the bill, Ortitay said. The Pennsylvania State Education Association, the union that represents teachers and other school staff, did not raise an objection to the measure, Ortitay said.
The online course catalog would be available to public and private schools, home-schooled students and the general public. School attendance will be voluntary. Students could receive course credit for their work, although districts have some flexibility in where and when students take classes. There would be no charge if a student from a public school takes an online course offered by another public institution.