ASSEMBLY, No. 4836

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED OCTOBER 19, 2020

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman† THOMAS P. GIBLIN

District 34 (Essex and Passaic)

Assemblyman† DANIEL R. BENSON

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman McKnight

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Establishes task force to evaluate quality, efficacy, costs, and educational outcomes of online courses offered by public and independent institutions of higher education during COVID-19 pandemic.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


An Act establishing a task force to study the quality of online education provided by public and independent institutions of higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.††† a.† There is established a task force for the purpose of examining the quality, efficacy, costs, and educational outcomes of online courses offered by public and independent institutions of higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic and providing recommendations for potential improvements in the delivery of online courses to students.†

†††† b.††† The task force shall consist of 15 members as follows:

†††† (1)†† the Secretary of Higher Education, ex officio, or a designee;

†††† (2)†† one public member appointed by the President of the Senate and one public member appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, both of whom have expertise in issues related to the delivery of online course in higher education;

†††† (3)†† one public member appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly and one public member appointed by the Minority Leader of the General Assembly, both of whom have expertise in issues related to the delivery of online courses in higher education; and

†††† (4)†† 10 members appointed by the Governor, including: the president of a public research university, or a designee; the president of a State college or university established pursuant to chapter 64 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes, or a designee; the president of a county college established pursuant to chapter 64A of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes, or a designee; the president of an independent institution of higher education, or a designee; a representative of the American Association of University Professors; a representative of the Council of New Jersey State College Locals AFT/AFL-CIO; two individuals who are chief information officers or equivalent positions, one of whom shall be employed at a four-year institution of higher education and one of whom shall be employed at a county college; and two students, one of whom shall be currently enrolled in a four-year institution of higher education and one of whom shall be currently enrolled in a county college.†

†††† c.†††† Appointments to the task force shall be made within 30 days of the effective date of this act.† Vacancies in the membership of the task force shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointments were made.† Members of the task force shall serve without compensation, but shall be reimbursed for necessary expenditures incurred in the performance of their duties as members of the task force within the limits of funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the task force for its purposes.†

†††† d.††† The task force shall organize not later than 30 days following the appointment of its members. †The task force shall choose a chairperson from among its members and shall appoint a secretary who need not be a member of the task force. †

†††† e.†††† The Office of the Secretary of Higher Education shall provide such stenographic, clerical, and other administrative assistants, and such professional staff as the task force requires to carry out its work.† The task force also shall be entitled to call to its assistance and avail itself of the services of the employees of any State, county, or municipal department, board, bureau, commission, or agency as it may require and as may be available for its purposes.†

 

†††† 2.††† a.† The task force shall study and consider issues including, but not limited to, the following:

†††† (1)†† the manner in which public and independent institutions of higher education shifted to online learning following the issuance of Executive Order No. 104 of 2020 and the methods undertaken by institutions to resume in-person courses following the issuance of Executive Order No. 155 and Executive Order No. 175 of 2020;

†††† (2)†† a description of each public and independent institutionís strategy in delivering education to students, including whether an institution offered all of its classes online, in person, or through a hybrid program of online and in-person courses;†

†††† (3)†† a description of the technology and software utilized by the institutions to provide online courses to students;†

†††† (4)†† the costs borne by institutions and students in the shift to online learning that occurred as a result of Executive Order No. 104 of 2020 and throughout the pandemic;†

†††† (5)†† a description and assessment of the efforts and policies set forth by the institutions to ensure that students had access to the technology and other resources necessary to complete online courses during the pandemic;†

†††† (6)†† the effect that offering an increased volume of online classes had on student enrollment and retention compared to the prior academic year and on the cost of attendance;†

†††† (7)†† the traditional cost of offering an online course at each institution compared to the cost of offering an in-person course, and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected that cost;†

†††† (8)†† the perceptions of students, faculty, and staff of the quality and value of online courses as compared to courses provided in person;†

†††† (9)†† a comparison of the average completion rate and average grade for students enrolled in each online course offered by each institution during the COVID-19 pandemic and the average completion rates and grades for those courses in the prior academic year.† The comparison shall indicate whether or not the courses were provided online or in person in the previous academic year;† and

†††† (10) an assessment of the policies and procedures each public and independent institution of higher education has in place to ensure that institutional support, technological support, and faculty support are provided to students enrolled in online courses to ensure a high quality educational experience.†

†††† b.††† The task force shall issue a final report of its findings and recommendations to the Governor, and to the Legislature pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), no later than two years after the task force organizes.

†††† c.†††† The task force shall expire 30 days after the issuance of its final report.†

 

†††† 3.††† This act shall take effect immediately.†

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor signed Executive Order (EO) No. 104 on March 16, 2020, which suspended in-person instruction at institutions of higher education and thus caused all classes taken by students attending college in the State to be moved online.† Subsequently, the Governor signed EO No. 155, which allowed in-person clinical, lab, and hands-on programming at institutions of higher education to resume as of July 1, 2020; then, EO No. 175 was signed on August 13, 2020, permitting institutions to resume all in-person instruction.†

†††† Despite being permitted to resume all in-person instruction, many institutions in the State opted to provide most, if not all, of their classes online for the fall 2020 semester.† While the implementation of a more expansive array of online classes is necessary to limit the transmission of COVID-19, an examination of the quality of those online classes is necessary to ensure that college students continue to receive a valuable education and that institutions are prepared to effectively provide that education in the event of future emergencies.†

†††† This bill establishes a task force to examine the quality, efficacy, costs, and educational outcomes of online courses offered by public and independent institutions of higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide recommendations for potential improvements in the delivery of online courses to students.† The task force will consist of 15 members as follows: the Secretary of Higher Education; four public members, one each appointed by the President of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the General Assembly, and the Minority Leader of the General Assembly; and 10 members appointed by the Governor, including various representatives from each sector of the public institutions of higher education, and from the independent institutions, labor groups, and students.

†††† The task force will study and develop a report on issues including: the manner in which public and independent institutions of higher education shifted to online learning during the pandemic; †a description of each institutionís strategy in delivering education to students;† a description of the technology and software utilized by the institutions to provide online courses;† the costs borne by institutions and students in the shift to online learning;† a description and assessment of efforts and policies set forth to ensure that students had access to the technology and other resources necessary to complete online courses;† the effect that offering an increased volume of online classes had on student enrollment and retention;† the traditional cost of offering an online course at each institution compared to the cost of offering an in-person course, and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected that cost;† †the perceptions of students, faculty, and staff of the quality and value of online courses;† a comparison of the average completion rate and grade for students enrolled in each online course offered by each institution during the pandemic and the average completion rates and grades for those courses in the prior academic year;† and an assessment of the policies and procedures each institution has in place to ensure that institutional, technological, and faculty support are provided to students enrolled in online courses.†

†††† The task force is required to issue a final report containing its findings and recommendations to the Governor and to the Legislature no later than two years after the task force organizes.