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The Increased Cost of Distance Education

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is a James E. Beasley Professor of Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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4 Responses

  1. prometheefeu says:

    Here is a wild guess: university of Indiana is doing it wrong. There are a whole bunch of things that you can do with online education that you can’t do with classroom education. For instance: if a student has trouble, they have access to more peers. They can repeat a lecture. They can take longer to do the work. Those things would be expensive IRL but are effectively free online. (Or cheaper on the student because more flexible time commitments are cheaper) So on a per-student basis, you can make it cheaper, it’s just that university of Indiana hasn’t figured out how for whatever reasons. Most likely, I would guess they are “moving the classroom online” aka “just add Internet” because that is what they know how to do. The problem is that if your teaching model has been optimized over 2k years for classrooms, it’s probably poorly adapted to a completely different media and no longer optimal. Those are wild speculations based upon what I have seen some actors do in the field.

  2. Aaron says:

    I just ran across this last week while looking at IU’s MBA programs. The evening MBA program is $700 per credit hour while the online MBA (yes, IU offers an online MBA) is $1,145 per credit hour.

    I was told that “overhead” accounts for the different rate. Possibly. My guess is that some students are willing to pay extra for the convenience of online education.

  3. Ray Campbell says:

    Clayton Christensen wrote about this five or six years ago. The problem is that schools like Indiana try to duplicate the in class experience, but online. When it works, and it will, that’s not how it’s going to work. Khan Academy and MOOCs teach much of the same material that Indiana does, and for free. In most cases, those options are inferior to attending a good class in a classroom, but that’s the way disruptive innovation works. At first, it offers a good enough experience for people who can’t cough up $700 a credit hour or make time to go to a lecture hall, and over time they find ways to improve the offering.

  4. AFC says:

    Ray, the purpose of a university course is to certify the graduates, not to educate them. Khan Academy cannot do this. It does not filter through its students at all, dividing passes from fails. It’s just a video library. That’s why it’s free. But it’s no substitute for receiving credits.

    If you acquire an education through a library, you just end up having to sit through lectures on things you already know — or else you never get to use your knowledge, because nobody will acknowledge that you have it.

    The real disruption will come when the people who acquire their education through non-certified channels begin to out-compete, economically, those who go through certified channels. This will require new technologies to allow people to produce independently, without social support (as software programmers already can, because of the PC and free compiler tools).

    Only then will the university’s pretense to be the only possible source of knowledge become untenable. Along with the $700/credit hour price tag.A

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