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Online colleges in Idaho can be beneficial to students seeking training and skills to enter one of the growing occupational fields in the state. With available online content areas ranging from computer software to health care to marketing, students can look to online schools in Idaho for help in pursuing a postsecondary education.

Online Colleges in Idaho

As Idaho recovers from the Great Recession, more and more jobs are expected to be created around the state. That's good news for recent college grads who may be starting in their careers as well as for adult learners looking to advance in a current career or begin a new one.

In recent years, online education in Idaho has become a hot topic of discussion statewide. The dialogue especially heated up when, in late-2011, the Idaho Board of Education (boardofed.idaho.gov) passed a rule that would require high school students to complete a minimum of two online classes in order to graduate, according to the Idaho Press-Tribune (idahopress.com). Supporters of this rule, particularly school Superintendent Tom Luna, hailed the graduation requirement as a way to broaden students' horizons by preparing them for the online environments they would inevitably encounter during college as well as in the workplace. In addition, access to online education would give Idaho students in rural areas the opportunity to take coursework that they might not normally have access to at their schools.

Opponents of the rule, however, argued that while online education may have tremendous benefits for Idaho students, the graduation requirement would come at a huge cost -- namely the jobs of many dedicated public school teachers. One year after being introduced, the online credit requirement was rejected by voters when a ballot proposition was defeated in November 2012. As a result, the Idaho Board of Education has gone back to the drawing board in order to draft an online education proposal that can help meet the needs of students and educators alike.

Trends in Online Schools in Idaho

Although the online course rule for high school students, which would have made Idaho the first state in the country to have such a graduation requirement, according to the Deseret News (www.deseretnews.com) -- is currently in limbo, that doesn't mean that Idaho students have not been able to reap the benefits of online education. In 2002, the State Legislature passed a law to create the Idaho Digital Learning Academy, or IDLA, which is an online platform designed to connect Idaho's students with a range of highly-skilled teachers. With a catalog of more than 165 courses, IDLA allows students to conveniently pursue coursework that they may not ordinarily have access to at their schools. In addition, the class schedules, which range from nine to 16 week sessions, were specifically created to accommodate students' regular school schedules, rather than conflict with them.

While IDLA works to prepare students for the online environments that they will encounter in college and beyond, iSucceed Virtual High School allows Idaho students access to both the online and offline worlds. The school sponsors a number of in-person events for students around the state, such as study groups, pizza parties, extracurricular activities, and even a prom. According to the institution's Executive Director, Monti Pittman, augmenting virtual learning with real-world social and academic events helps improve students' class performance while connecting them with their peers.

Online College Degrees in Idaho

Educators hope that exposing students to online education as early as possible will put them on the right track to succeeding in college. In Idaho, reaching this goal is imperative because statistics show that less that 25 percent of state residents aged 25 and older have completed a college degree. According to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, despite the fact that nearly 90 percent of Idaho residents have graduated from high school, only 8.3 percent of them have earned an associate's degree and 24.4 percent have earned a bachelor's degree or higher (stateimpact.npr.org). These statistics may not bode well for Idaho's economic future, since higher education is expected to increasingly play a larger part in the state's job market. In fact, the Center on Education and the Workforce of Georgetown University forecasts that by 2018, 61 percent of Idaho's jobs will require a degree.

The Idaho Department of Labor (labor.idaho.gov) has released data predicting which careers should boom in the next few years, 2008 to 2018, in the state. This includes, among others, jobs for accountants and auditors, forecast to grow by 24 percent; for computer software application engineers, expected to increase by 44 percent; for computer software systems software engineers, predicted to grow by 28 percent; and for sales managers, expected to increase by 25 percent. Online schools in Idaho may be helpful to students interested in any of these fields and may give them the training and skills they seek to enter one of these or sundry other occupations.

Online Colleges in Idaho

In order to help address the shortfall of college-educated workers that Idaho industries may need, several institutions around the state are offering online programs so that students can conveniently earn their degrees as they juggle other responsibilities. One way for prospective students to find these institutions is by logging on to the Idaho Electronic Campus, which works in conjunction with seven public colleges to offer distance learning opportunities. The portal allows students to easily search for classes by school, subject, or cost from its database of about 1,600 course offerings.

Through the eCampus at Boise State University (ecampus.boisestate.edu/programs), students can pursue degrees that can enable them to take advantage of the emerging health and technology industries in Idaho. For example, education technology, nursing, and respiratory care are among the online degrees in Idaho that students can pursue. Similarly, Idaho State University (isu.edu) has responded to the growing need for health professionals around the state by offering online master's programs in nursing -- such as nursing education, family nurse practitioner, and clinical nurse specialist degrees. The school offers online degree programs in dental hygiene, emergency management, fire services administration, and speech-language pathology.

Students who are interested in pursuing degrees in business, education, engineering, environmental science, mathematics, or psychology can find online graduate degrees and certificate programs at the University of Idaho (uidaho.edu). These programs are designed for students who are advancing in their current careers or interested in pursuing new ones.

Sources:
Boise State University
Huffington Post: Idaho Online Course Graduation Requirement Repealed By State Board Of Education, 2012
Idaho Electronic Campus
Idaho Press-Tribune: Online education finds bigger foothold in Idaho, 2011
Idaho Statesman: Our View: Idaho's online education needs to be fixed, not abandoned, 2012
Idaho State University
Idaho Digital Learning
iSucceed Virtual High School
ISU-Meridian Health Science Center
NPR: Idaho Lags Behind Nation In Percent Of People With A College Degree, 2012
The Idaho Department of Labor
University of Idaho

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