To give more learning opportunities to its students, when a college or university decides to establish online educational programs, you will definitely ask the questions: How can we evaluate its planning costs?
When you get the answer of this specific question, it naturally follows other different questions, which include:
Does an online learning cause more work for teachers?
Is online learning much more costly than traditional learning environment?
What investments are required to get education online?
and few other questions in this sense.
In fact, every situation is different.
So, an imperative way is to establish a model appropriate operation on the basis of your institution’s unique needs and wants. Nevertheless, you now possess an adequate amount of research experience that not only assists you understand what drives the learning cost, but also lets you to understand how these costs vary from those of traditional learning.
Types of costs
Cost of planning
Compared to the in-campus educational setting, online education does not lead cost planning. To be approved, your new courses must be subjected to a variety of different processes. However, it is projected that online courses require enough time, as at the initial level, they tend to generate more controversy.
In practice, nevertheless, we do not consider these costs in the program’s development, although it is costly in terms of time that teachers spend. We consider these costs as ‘sunk’ costs or not calculated. But, if you are aiming to develop a program in line with full cost recovery or profit, you have to estimate the specific costs and comprise them in your budget, whether it is a program made on campus or online.
Cost of design and development
You choose and prepare the material content, student activities, assessment questions, etc. It is in this area that is the huge difference between the in-campus education cost and those of online learning. Although in both types of services you have to choose and prepare the contents, those of learning are stored forever and can be reproduced easily. Progressively, it is possible to have free access in the form of open content: specifically, they are available on the Internet for free, or as open educational resources designed specially.
Put simply, online education gives you opportunities to accomplish economies of scale. Once you have established an online program, you can provide content for a majority of students across the world, and devoid of any increase in the costs of developing content.
Cost of delivery
Obviously, you have to deliver the content of the course to students. Nevertheless, education involves much more than simply providing content. Indeed, you should also facilitate students with their learning needs and assess the outcomes of students’ learning. The modern educational theory proposes that they demonstrate better performance when they learn as active learners, partake in discussions and receive feedback promptly and on the regular basis.
It is feasible to minimise these costs in many different means, comprising the following:
- Enhance the proportion of ‘training staff-student’, which may be possible by automating training staff-students interactions or by transferring tasks to (like, group work, peer review, etc.)
- Use the auxiliary training staff paid less for delivery of program (such as, the professor makes the program delivery to the first section of thirty students, then each following section is taught by the auxiliary).
Nevertheless, there are certainly opportunities to enhance productivity in the online learning delivery. In particular, the marginal cost for each student in online courses begins to minimise over the increase in numbers of participants if the programs are well designed and assistants are enrolled and trained to teach well on the Internet.
This category comprises costs that are not directly related to online learning. They are costs that the institution must regain it. For many online credited programs, such costs could be disregarded in the same potholder that indirect costs are not allocated to courses on campus.
Nevertheless, it makes possible for the online course to produce a full cost recovery or make a profit, it is essential to compute indirect costs.
One of the more important aspects is that we must not overlook that this is related to its indirect costs that an institution can attain its major cost savings. In a majority of the institutions that offer in-campus education, expenses not related to education, specifically for maintenance of buildings and grounds, utilities, marketing, public relations services to past students, financial services, etc. represent nearly half of the operational cost. Some indirect costs, like the office expenditures, IT related cost, telecommunications, and so on.
However, if an institute wants to enhance the number of enrolments, the cost of new capital projects, comprising the new classroom setting, extra laboratories, etc. should be compared to the costs required to absorb additional entries through the increase of learning. Reorganisation is a basic requirement in this area, by which the number of enrolment will be enhanced in online programs.
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