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Online Driver’s Ed Courses Would Expand Under Proposal

Private Driving Schools Could Join School Districts In Offering Digital Courses

sciondriver (CC-BY-NC-ND)

More teenage students could end up taking driving school online if proposed legislation passes.

The bill would allow driving schools to offer classes for new drivers via the Internet and not just in physical classrooms. Students would still have to complete behind-the-wheel instruction in person.

All-American Driver Training owner Robert Kemp has been waiting for a state statute to change so he can launch his online class for new, teenage drivers. He said extending his Portage-based company beyond the brick-and-mortar classroom could help homeschooled students and families that live in rural areas.

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Kemp said safeguards will be in place to try and cut down on cheating, like requiring tests at the end of each section.

“With the online course, a student is restricted. They can’t go any faster than, let’s say, five minutes a page. But they can spend as much time on that page as they need to to absorb the material that’s on it,” Kemp explained.

Some high schools in Wisconsin can offer online courses, but private schools, like Kemp’s, cannot.

Kurt Schultz helped developed CESA2’s online driver education program based out of southeast Wisconsin school districts. The Department of Transportation approved the program, but the Department of Public Instruction was also involved. Schultz, who still directs the program, said each of his 12 online instructors are licensed teachers and interact with students and parents online.

Schultz said it’s a great idea to allow more companies to offer online education, but he said the state has to develop better course standards, which, he said, would eliminate a number of “junk” courses and make sure students have access to their teachers.

There are some driving school instructors in the state that are skeptical of the quality of online courses, but bill sponsor Sen. Luther Olsen said taking an online class is not any riskier than taking on in a classroom.

“You can take online chemistry classes, you can take just about any classes. In fact there’s even phys-ed classes you can take now, if you can imagine that, and they work relatively well. So online education is really here, and it’s growing every day. Why not do it in the driver’s ed department?” Olsen said.

However, Wisconsin Professional Driving School Association’s Kris Engebretson said they worry some students may zoom through lessons and not actually take the tests.

“Yeah, they could easily look up the answers. Or our concern is, too, are there several people sitting there taking the test than just the person that’s supposed to be taking it?” said Engebretson.

He said he’s also concerned about job losses and smaller companies that can’t provide online classes taking a financial hit.

State Senate and Assembly committees will be taking up versions of the bill soon.