Ohio Distance Learning Clearinghouse to Shut Down at End of Year

(Photo: Crew, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Crew, Creative Commons)

For almost a decade, an online clearinghouse has assisted Ohio educators in choosing well-designed online lessons from a wide marketplace of free digital products. Next year, however, this online shopping center, known as Distance Learning Clearinghouse, will end.

The clearinghouse’s website can be found here, and it describes itself as a “comprehensive e-learning platform.” Its features help “ensure that Ohio students have access to high-quality online courses. The statewide platform includes a searchable repository of standards-aligned educational content (courses and digital resources), an e-commerce marketplace, and a learning management system to facilitate the delivery of course content from multiple providers to various end users.”

The clearinghouse’s source of funding through the state Education and Higher Education departments will run out after the conclusion of this academic year. Ohio lawmakers chose not to renew the funds, saying that the clearinghouse has not lived up to expectations.

More than 475,000 users have visited the clearinghouse this year, and the word has just begun to spread throughout the Ohio school system that the program is winding down after this year. Philp Wagner, superintendent of Licking Heights School District, called the shutdown a “crisis.” “We have limited resources, and it [the clearinghouse] has enabled us to scale up our program,” he said.

A document provided by the College of Education at Ohio State reported that 82% of Ohio’s school districts have used the online resource in some way since its inception. The clearinghouse includes more than 12,000 lessons in critical subject areas, more than 950 reviews of online courses, and more than 1,000 professional-development lessons for teachers.

A math professor at the University of Dayton, Janet Herrelko, helped supply the clearinghouse with math lessons. She knows how many inadequate math lessons exist and is worried by the prospect of educators sifting through these substandard programs on their own. “They’ll have to go to Google and try to do their own review. It will take a lot longer for them to understand it.” Professor Herrelko used the clearinghouse as a way to streamline some of the more quality lessons and material.

Mary Mogan Edwards of The Columbus Dispatch writes that Ohio State University has been operating the clearinghouse with a budget of $1 million since July 2010 and June 2014. This last year, it stopped adding new lessons in November and has done minimal maintenance, and its budget has also been slashed to $500,000.

Interestingly, the clearinghouse made news outside education circles in Ohio recently thanks to Governor John Kasich, who is one of the few remaining Republican presidential contenders. A liberal advocacy group, ProgressOhio, charged officials in the Kasich administration of using the program to steer a contract to William Lager, the founder of Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow charter school and a major Republican donor. Another tech company owned by Lager was hired to provide an online interface for the program.

Ironically, the online education platform is being slashed by Ohio’s Republican-controlled state legislature while at the same time being employed to enrich one of Ohio’s major Republican-backers.