Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The magic bullet? Reducing costs with online courses in Canada

There’s no magic bullet. Nope. None. Stop looking for one. The simple fact that a course is offered online, or at a distance, does not equate with automatic cost savings when compared to the cost of developing and delivering a traditional onsite course in a higher education setting. Being an online course is not a magic bullet to cost reduction.

In Canada, several reports have been issued in the last decade which examine this subject. The fine folks at Contact North / Contact Nord recently released a interesting survey of the existing literature in Canada. It’s a very useful annotated bibliography-style of presentation that walks you through the salient pieces of literature and supplies some useful quotes. Read it in detail here.

I have never done research on this subject, but I have been closely related to the development and delivery of online courses in Canada for a long time. My feeling is largely in agreement with what you’ll read in the Contact North report. I feel that costs savings are not directly associated with the simple existence of online courses per se. Instead, offering a mixture of online and classroom-based courses offers choices for students, enhances student flexibility and enriches the suite of products that an institution can offer to learners. There can be some indirect cost reduction. For example, colleges and universities that are space constrained may find that offering online courses alleviates scheduling conflict nightmares, the need to find large classrooms for growing class sizes, and/or the need to build new campus buildings.

Lastly, I believe online courses can increase a revenue stream by providing access to learners that might otherwise not be able to come to your school. This factor could be very important to those schools offering niche programming - especially those with a solid marketing plan (Hint: one that involves intelligent social media strategies!)

Do you have any ideas on this subject? Share them with a comment below.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Quality Matters is Cool

The university that I work at just purchased an institutional membership to the Quality Matters (QM) Program.  If you are not familiar with QM, it's basically a quality assurance program for online courses that is faculty-centered, grounded in research and rubric-based.

As someone who has been working in online education for a dozen years, I am excited!  I quickly registered for and completed their first foundational workshop called: Applying the QM Rubric (APPQMR).  It was a great.  It is a 2-week asynchronous workshop that is very task oriented.  The eight modules walk participants through using the QM Rubric by assigning a variety of tasks including giving feedback on an actual online course that went through the QM Review process.  It was a very nice learning opportunity because some activities centered around examining the sample online course before it went to review, while other activities asked participants to comment on improvements that were found in the same sample course after it was reviewed, etc.  The workshop is discounted from $300 to $200/person since my university is an institutional member.  However, it's well worth the $300 even if your university doesn't participate.  As advertised, I can confirm that it takes about 8-10hrs/week to completed so make sure you block time in your schedule if you choose to do this workshop. I enjoyed the training so much, I’ll be moving to the next level and completing the training to become a Certified QM Peer Reviewer.

If you need more information on the Higher Education Professional Development Opportunities for QM, you can find it here.

If you have any questions, let me know with a comment below.