- A research project from Arizona State University's EdPlus Action Lab is seeking to consider whether schools are overpaying for the online learning they offer, and whether the sustainability of online courses in higher ed could be better assured if those courses were scaled, according to Campus Technology.
- Though the research report is not yet finalized, principle researcher Lou Pugliese shared some initial findings, including a drastic change in the definition of who learns online to include a far more diverse student population than the conventional four-year undergraduate student earning a degree.
- Pugliese stressed that it is important for colleges and universities is to consider moving from a decentralized to a centralized approach for digital learning operating models, noting there is more quality control and a greater opportunity for strong professional development, which will help to cut costs over time.
Scalability of online courses should prove to offer a larger return on investment than scaling in-person classes, which could demand additional scheduled classes or staff. Some online courses can be taught to hundreds or thousands, as the success of massive open online courses has made clear. MOOC providers are increasingly partnering with colleges and universities in an attempt to assist them in getting their own courses and degrees online, and working with a third-party provider like Coursera in lieu of attempting the launch of an online learning degree or program in-house could also save colleges and universities in the long run, even if the online course or degree comes at a reduced rate.
The initial findings of the report do stress the need for strong professional development, something that could help allay anxieties and concerns of educators unfamiliar with how online learning can benefit instruction. In a recent whitepaper, faculty members who were surveyed worried that online learning would lead to less satisfactory learning outcomes for students, and that staff support would not be available. Partnering with a third party to create a uniform process of online learning professional development and application could allay these concerns. It could also help higher ed institutions that are concerned about doubling up their staff with tech assistance solely dedicated to assisting educators with online learning. If they learn themselves, the programs could flourish with the concerns of instruction still remaining paramount.