THE BOTTOM LINE FOR ONLINE. AN ANALYSIS OF THE FINANCIAL COSTS OF ONLINE LEARNING

C. Garbett

Leeds Metropolitan University (UNITED KINGDOM)
Across Europe and, indeed, further afield, restrictions on funding are posing one of, if not the, biggest challenges to Higher Education. At the same time, access to the Internet is becoming both cheaper and more ubiquitous. Students entering Higher Education are readily familiar with Internet applications from, school, social networks, and the workplace. They enter Higher Education already with expectations about the use of technology. Meeting these high expectations is a further challenge to Higher Education.
The increased application of Information Technology to the delivery of courses offers the potential of meeting both, the challenge of changed student expectations, and the challenge of the driver for reducing costs. One barrier to increased take-up of new technology, and the online delivery of courses, has been the perceived costs of developing and delivering these courses.
This presentation seeks to dispel some of the misconceptions around the costs of online delivery. Whilst acknowledging that the costs of developing some online courses are extremely high, particularly where broadcast TV quality programmes are produced; alternative, cheaper, options can be used. The cheaper options do not compromise quality of the learning, or the student experience. In many ways the application of Information Technology can enhance the quality of the learning experience, when compared to more traditional forms of delivery.
Using a case study, the author has undertaken a detailed Activity Based Costing analysis of the costs of developing a new course for online delivery. Utilising readily available online material such as; Reusable Learning Objects, YouTube videos, and authoritative websites, the cost of developing this course is far less than might have been expected. The analysis of the full cost of developing the course will be presented.
Similarly, the costs of delivering courses via face-to-face, blended, and distance learning have again been subject to an Activity Based Costing analysis. Unsurprisingly, the costs of delivering online courses are far lower than the costs of more traditional face-to-face courses.
By applying both the cost of developing and delivering the course, a full Life Cycle Cost analysis of online courses can be readily produced. This paper demonstrates such a model using actual real-life costs. The spreadsheet model used will be made available to participants on request.