Universities that are investing in distance education will eventually earn back funds through such unrelated areas as decreased traffic congestion and freed-up classroom space, a Canadian researcher has claimed.
Tony Bates, director of distance education and technology at the University of British Columbia, is studying the costs and benefits of online learning.
He says indirect cost savings will account for half of all the financial benefits gained by a university that sets up new learning technologies.
“Half of all teaching costs are indirect costs such as car parking and libraries. With online education, many of these indirect costs fall away,” Dr Bates said.
Dr Bates is author of Managing Technological Change and a 30-year scholar of distance education. He was commissioned by the government-run Office of Learning Technologies to conduct a three-year study that aims to provide managers with an accurate method of assessing the cost of new technologies.
He said that one reason faculty have been slow to embrace new technologies was the lack of instructional design. “Traditionally, we have had an apprenticeship model. You do what your professor did. You cannot introduce technology with that model.”
He said professors needed time to adapt their curriculum to the technology, which might mean teaching fewer classes.
The study will seek successful managing strategies and will describe the conditions needed to implement learning technologies successfully.