Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Keeping Online Courses Fresh: Valuable, but Costly

Mary Niemiec, associate vice president for distance education at the University of Nebraska, hears all the time from faculty members and others who believe online courses must cost less to produce than face-to-face classes because they can be left untouched after launch. She wants everyone who still believes that to understand why they’re wrong.

“That’s like telling a faculty member, once you develop a syllabus, don’t worry about updating it,” Niemiec said.

At the risk of a tortured analogy, maintaining online courses is like raising children: they need consistent care and attention, and plenty of grooming and upgrading as they mature. Within a few years, depending on the complexity of the course and the capacity of the institution, the cost of those efforts can outstrip the original launch cost. (To be clear, in this article we're talking about the cost of producing a course, as opposed to the price charged to take it.) Online program administrators and observers believe those investments are just as essential as the initial one -- but they don’t often come up in conversations about the cost of online production.

Some factors out of an institution’s control play a role in cost as well. Turnover among administrators or faculty members involved in online course development can lead to longer and more costly processes for keeping courses in shape, according to Vickie Cook, executive director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the Univeristy of Illinois Springfield.

Increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity infrastructure can also drive up costs for online courses as they grow, Cook said.

This article appeared in Inside Higher Ed on July 18, 2018.

Read the entire article online.