Can Online Courses Reduce the Cost of a College Education?
Credit bearing, online courses have the potential of reducing the cost of a college education. They may even be superior to in-class instruction. Courses can be designed and implemented by the best instructors available and be continually tweaked and revised. Courseware would be saved electronically and played repeatedly over time via the internet to successive groups of matriculated students. Unlike, in-class lectures, a student should be able to repeat online instruction repeatedly.
Costs savings occur because colleges will not have to compensate instructors for in-class instruction each semester. State run colleges are more likely to pass on these savings to students. Private, for profit schools may see this as an opportunity in increase their bottom line.
Instructors that design and implement these courses should receive compensation for their efforts plus royalties each time their course is taken. The sum of these royalties should be substantially less than what would be earned if taught in-class. This system would be comparable to the royalties earned by authors of textbooks. Exams should be taken in college classrooms monitored by proctors. Tests can be administered and scored via computers. However, essay type exams would have to be scored by those knowledgeable in the areas being evaluated. Economies of online instruction should be realized over a period of time.
Online instruction would probably be most suited for content heavy subjects like, science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), economics, history, etc. Lab work required in some courses would be done on site. Courses in the fine arts, literature, the theater, physical education and others where participation is emphasized would be less amenable to online instruction.
Implementing online instruction would probably not be welcome by all. Some students might need or prefer the person-to-person interaction with teachers. Preferably, they should have the option of online education or in class instruction or a combination of the two. Many instructors would resist the expected reduction in employment. In the final analysis, we must ask ourselves if a reduction in the cost of education is worth the negatives brought on by this system of education. In the long run, students may decide.