Calculating the Costs - Warren Cooley and Maureen Wideman, Moderators : LUSENET : WiredDiscussion : One Thread

* Calculating the Costs: What are the fiscal realities of technology driven teaching and learning? Are they the same for K-12 as for universities? How do formulas change? In this fast driven technology world, has the formula changed much since the publishing of your book 14 months ago?

-- Anonymous, February 11, 2001


Good questions, Warren and Maureen.

First, no, the fiscal realities are not the same for K-12 as for universities. I know this because my wife teaches in an elementary school in one of the poorest parts of Vancouver (there are 90 different first languages in her school!) While there are computers in the school, they are not used strategically, they lack adequate maintenance, and they are poorly and inadequately networked. This is partly for financial reasons, and partly because they are not seen as strategic to the very immediate and specific problems of an inner city elementary school. At UBC, which is an R1 university, we do have excellent networking and computer facilities for both on-campus and distance learning, and this is linked to our strategic plan - and hence the funding. So: priorities and needs affect funding. (You may also question the use of public funds where we subsidize university students at roughly 10 times the rate of an elementary student - remembering of course that there are a lot more elementary students).

Have formulas changed? Not much, yet. We have identified that we need to cost out mainline faculty at a rate that allows for time for research, and this affects development costs. What will change formulas will be the impact of wideband Internet. If we start developing more multimedia materials to exploit the bandwidth, then development costs will escalate rapidly. That may be offset by the commercial production of 'learning objects' - small multimedia modules such as an animation or a small experiment - which can be downloaded and integrated within teaching units.

Lastly, the main fiscal reality that many institutions and departments are not facing are the hidden costs of academic time spent developing online and technology-based teaching. We are finding that it is actually cheaper to go with what initially looks more expensive, a team-based approach with instructional designers and Web designers, because of the time faculty can save working this way.

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2001

Dr. Bates, firstly I would like to personally thank you (and our innovative Professor Judith Norton) for this unique opportunity to converse with a world-renowned expert.

Secondly, I too believe the “team” approach to integrating technology and curricula would provide more balance. Historically many in the IT fields have little or no higher education, rather direct and specific skills training and certifications such as MCSE. Should we raise the bar for those who would be members of such an academic team or would people with specific skills and certifications fill in the team? Could you expand a bit more on the internal makeup of such a team (the dream team of course)? What would the background and education for each member entail? Who would be the highest paid, the lowest paid?

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2001

Dr. Bates, I, too, have to thank you for this great opportunity. It is an honor.

I agree with your statement, "...many institutions and departments are not facing are the hidden costs of academic time spent developing online and technology-based teaching. We are finding that it is actually cheaper to go with what initially looks more expensive, a team-based approach with instructional designers and Web designers, because of the time faculty can save working this way."

There have been cases where schools have jumped on the DL bandwagon without first counting the costs, and later have rued the day. If you had the task to implement online learning for the first time at a university, what would be the primary concerns that you would address? How would you incorporate staff development? And how do you recommend that they address the hidden costs that you mentioned?

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2001

Dr. Bates,

Would you INSIST that certain (or all?) departments include online methods in their course offerings? If so, I look forward to your answer to George's question about who would be included and how you would implement it. If not, how would you motivate faculty to want to learn enough about online learning to realize that it might be a good method for their courses?

Thanks, Pat

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2001

I just want to comment on your initial response, Dr. Bates. I can see that in BC, which has one of the lowest tuition rates in Canada, the provincial priority has been post-secondary education. We are seeing the reverse here in Ontario where universities now must compete with each other for provincial funding. Those that are attracting the funding are the ones that support the government's direction. Those universities that focused entirely on liberal arts were shut out of special funding. While concerns about the change in priorities in post-secondary education are being raised, it is forcing many universites to accept the implementation of higher technology in education. It is seen as a do or die sitution. Any comments on the Mike Harris approach?

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2001

Dr. Bates,

I have enjoyed reading your book in this class and thank you so much for being our guest speaker. It is an honor.

I am interested in two different statements that you made about team roles and learning objects.

I am not in education. My background is in corporate software development and technology based training. I appreciate your project management approach since this is how I have been “raised.” I have been involved in many different project management roles from business plans (strategy) for online learning, program manager, project manager, to the Lone Ranger role of instructional design, multimedia development, subject matter expert, implementation and delivery. I think good project management includes a work plan with enough resources to meet time lines and quality within the scope. I don’t think it is possible for one person to develop, design, and use the technical applications, even though I have been in this position. Do you see the future of online education using instructors as subject matter experts and technical developers to put the course online?

Regarding learning objects, do you see companies such as Microsoft partnering more with their learning objects than with complete learning portals? Thank you in advance for your response.

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2001

I appreciate your response to the fiscal realities of K - 12 technology programs. I am a K - 12 teacher, and on a daily basis I witness the lack of support, maintance, and concern that is held toward technology - no wonder the financial backing does not exist, the interst level for technology program falls at the bottom of the barrell. Many school districts rather put money into programs that advance extracurricular activities (which don't get me wrong are needed) than the advancement of technology.

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2001

First, let me say what a pleasure it is to participate in this discussion. I have caused problems for the organisers (my apologies) because of technical requirements at my end, so 'threading' comments as in WebCT or Blackboard forums is not going to be possible, I understand. So please forgive me if I jump about a bit in responding to several people at once.

Who would be in the dream team? Well, good subject experts/teachers, of course. We also make heavy use of what we call course developers. These are people with a formal instructional design background, often with a masters or Ph.D. in education, and with project management training (which is usually provided after appointment). More recently, this has also included knowledge of how to develop business plans. I even have two who have learned to speak Spanish for our international programs! We have five of these course developers in our unit at the moment, and they work closely and directly with the subject expert/teacher. Course design results basically from an ongoing dialogue between these two. They are supported by a Web designer for all our online distance courses, and the course developer can also call on specialist video or multimedia production, if really necessary. Each course developer manages the maintenance of about 15-20 existing courses and develops about four or five new courses each year. In addition they are supported by two managers (myself and Mark Bullen). We tend to deal with initial enquiries and 'screen' larger or unusual projects before passing them over to the course developerst. Good course developers are hard to find as they have to combine good management and instructional design skills with very highly tuned personal communication skills. Whatever we pay them is not enough but they average between $50,000-$60,000 a year plus benefits. Web designers tend to be paid less, around $45,000. We have three at the moment, including our webmaster. This arrangement is fine for a big research university with lots of distance or online courses. It wouldn't work in a school setting.

I'll answer other questions in a separate message.

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2001

If you where working with an establishment that was in the process of developing online course through their institute and their organization was based on the "Fordist" model, what suggestions would you have for them in their endeavors.

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2001

May I, too, add my thanks to you for taking your time to participate in these discussions.

I enjoyed your book, Managing Technological Change, and my question comes from Chapter 6. Your final sentence of that chapter states, "What we need are.....more studies on the costs and benefits of both face-to-face and technology-based teaching." Since publication have there been additional studies done that would support the theory that online or technology-based learning is more cost effective than traditional face-to-face teaching?

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2001

I am enjoying the discussion on the dream team as I work freelance with a group of educators who develop educational web sites. In our situation we are all teachers but specialize in art, technical design, research and Spanish translation. This is a rewarding and productive arrangement, but impractical, as you have said, for K-12 because of the investment. The process takes a tremendous amount of time (which we don't count).

My concern is in regards to the effect of broadband on the Internet development community. With larger pipes,greater production costs and higher production values, energetic and talented educators may be shut out of the process and large organizations, that will own the creative material, may dominate.

At this time, the narrow pipes level the playing field. One of the greatest benefits of the Internet has been the ability of many people to participate in the publication of materials and the mass distribution of ideas.

In the future, do you believe the Internet and online learning in particular will be dominated by several large publishing corporations and online universities and others will be downgraded to a "lower level" Internet comprised of the work of amateurs with little audience?

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2001

Thank you Tony for the opportunity to converse with you. I am currently trying to sway my institution to begin offering online courses. The administration at my school however is in fear of the costs associated with this venture. We currently have a computer lab with ~ 45 computers for 600 students, which is only being used for students to get email. Would you have any recommendations on # of computers per student for the lab to get started and if you think this would be a feasible way to get started offering online classes? Sherry McAllister

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2001

Dr. Bates, Thanks you for this opportunity. It might interest you to know that to the extent possible your book is being used as a model and reference for the planning and development of our online program. At least I find myself often saying, “according to Bates”. You mentioned in your initial response, your wife’s situation in a K12 public school system. I work in a large K12 district and our situations are similar. However, the leadership of our district is committed to online education. Our three-year old program has been recognized for its capacity to respond to the needs and barriers confronting our student population. The commitment exists but the program continues to develop only and always in response to critical circumstances. Strategic planning does not seem to be part of the political process that drives much of the decision-making. Several of my colleague and I believe the best way to make our case for a longer-range approach to planning online education is to begin to talk about cost-effectiveness. Your book seems to indicate that this point of view does the best job of justifying first time costs and illustrating value. It would be most helpful if you would put forward the top three or four most powerful arguments for the cost-effectiveness of technology-based education.

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2001

Hola Dr. Bates – It is an honor to “converse” with you

On page 96 of your book in the section titled "What Drives Faculty Behavior?" you discuss the relationship between teaching and research, tenure and tenure track positions in research universities and colleges, specifically how this system impacts technology in education. You have already posted an answer to the fiscal realities of K-12 as compared to universities. But do you have an opinion on the relationship between teaching and technology in education at the community college and K12 levels since they do not tend to have the same fiscal resources?

Thank You for Your Time – Mario :)

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2001

Warren, you mentioned that, "The commitment exists but the program continues to develop only and always in response to critical circumstances." Sounds similar to crisis management, but what are these " critical circumstances" that you speak of?

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2001

Sloan Foundation is sponsoring a series of studies in which colleges are exploring both the costs and the potential profitability of distance education. The director, Frank Mayadas, had a conversation online this afternoon and made these points that are relevant to our questions.

He mentioned that: 1) After the initial development cost of courses is out of the way then the cost of delivering online courses will be lower than f2f.

2) In his opinion the cost of instructor led courses online will be similar to the campus course delivery costs

"I don't think it needs to cost more to educate students online. It all depends on how you approach the courses. There's also the cost of kicking off the program, and then the cost of delivery. A lot of universities have been able to find the money to fund faculty members to create courses. They got the money through grants and so on. Once they have that, the ongoing cost of delivery doesn't have to be much higher than on-campus education. In time, it should get lower, though not by a lot. . . Over time, I think it will resemble the experience of the continuing education schools."

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2001

Matt asked "In the future, do you believe the Internet and online

learning in particular will be dominated by several large publishing

corporations and online universities and others will be downgraded to

a "lower level" Internet comprised of the work of amateurs with little

audience? " It seems to me that yes, Internet and online learning

will be dominated by powerhouses (large corporations and online

universities). At the same time, many institutions (like CSUH) will

continue to develop and maintain high quality online courses,

programs, and departments. These programs/departments will operate

side-by-side with f2f courses and other distance learning options.

Also, the faculty (ideally one of Bates' dream teams), administrators

for these programs/departements with be far more than amateurs - many

of them are already in the pipeline and they're very good (and getting

better) at what they do.

Patricia Guthrie

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2001

Datta, Exactly a crisis management mode that has a changing dynamic. For example, the current rush is to reduce the drop out rate (currently 8.7% to the state average 6.6%) Counselors with credit deficient seniors discovered our online altenative curriculum as a potential solution. Students are directed to us for services. We are being asked to render services by providing online packet type vendor purchased curriculum. The objective is not education or even good quality online instruction. It is to reduce the drop out rate. Our efforts to tend this fire interrupt, at least in part, efforts to develop and teach online courses in the way they should be taught. In fact, corrupting to one degree or another, the integrity and potential of online education. It is preceived as something other then what we in the online program are trying to make it. However, at the same time it increases the value of the online program, hence the importance of its administrators, to the district. It is a very tangled web with a dynamic of political elements that you can probably imagine, but is beyond explanation here. The big question, what do you do?

-- Anonymous, February 15, 2001

Tony, Could you tell us your thoughts on 'outsourcing' the technology. I understand you use WebCT and for good reason. I am not really satisfied with eCollege however it does have a 'full package' deal. Do you see the future for online learning doing more outsourcing or creating institutional systems such as WebCT?

-- Anonymous, February 15, 2001

Dr. Bates:

In answer to the demands of the new economic forces, we are starting to witness moves in vocational education towards a lifelong just-in- time provision. In response to this we are also beginning to see the marketing by commercial companies of learning objects to match aspects of these requirements. Will it in fact be easier and cheaper for educational instutions to buy/license these as required assembling and re-assembling them for the different purposes in hand rather than attempting to continuing to finance learning materials design, development and production completely by themselves?

Geoff Goolnik

-- Anonymous, February 15, 2001

Datta, I also enjoyed the Sloan Foundation's ALN Online Discussion. Since I read Judith's Chronicle article on the comparison of online costs among various institutions, I was concerned about the inequality of the comparisons. One of the questions to Frank Mayadas was, is anyone is trying to standardize accounting procedures so valid comparisons can be made. Mayadas said that ALN is going to work on it.

I spent many years in the hospitality industry and comparisons were an important part of financial management. We were able to do it because of standardize systems of accounting for revenues and expenses.

-- Anonymous, February 15, 2001

Dr. Bates, I enjoyed reading your description of the modified project management approach to course creation that you use at UBC. It sounds similar to the approach used by the Open University that I read in your book and other texts. I completely agree that the use of professional designers for online courses is important to ensure the quality of instruction. Many subject experts design courses like they would develop a powerpoint presentation without important elements such as objectives, assessment, evaluation etc. How were most of the colleges and universities you researched developing their online courses ?

-- Anonymous, February 16, 2001

Here's some good news in the teacher training area. This Senate bill described "would provide up to $150 million a year for five years to train teachers to use technology and to develop innovative ways to employ technology in the classroom." The full article can be found at

-- Anonymous, February 16, 2001

Moderation questions? read the FAQ