The team was to launch a low-cost online degree program
My latest obsession is low cost online degree programs.
My fascination with the idea of bending the master’s cost curve is partly professional and partly personal.
Professionally, my work is focused on online learning. Most of my career in online education has been focused on quality. The guiding questions for my online work were:
- How can we create immersive, intimate and transformative learning experiences for online students?
- What does active, student-centered learning look like when translated from the physical classroom to the online classroom?
- How might we apply the integrated team-based course design and learner support model found in high quality online programs to residential courses, especially introductory and core courses?
What I have done less in my career is participating in online training initiatives that have significantly reduced the costs of these programs.
Like many in the online learning community, my mantra has always been that online education is no cheaper to create or manage than residential education. The costs are different. More instructional design and fewer buildings.
And the timing is different. Investments in online programs are at the forefront. But overall, the online degree programs I’ve participated in over the years have matched the costs of the corresponding residency degree programs.
Lately I’ve been wondering if we could do better?
I’ve been very influenced by the crazy things they seem to be doing at Georgia Tech. And the low cost master’s degrees from Illinois, BU, ASU, UC Boulder and others have captured my imagination.
Could it be possible to change the standards in higher education so that high-cost degrees are the exception rather than the rule?
Can the academic community meet the challenge of high quality / low cost diploma moonshot?
Is there an online educational path towards intimacy, rigor, immersion and large-scale transformation?
The other reason I’m curious about low cost online master’s degrees is personal. My youngest daughter is a college student studying to be a teacher. Eventually, she will need a master’s degree in education.
The idea of learning while teaching and not getting into debt while pursuing studies and master’s degrees is extremely appealing. I’m not sure what options there are currently in the world of scaled online degrees for my daughter, but I want to know.
For all of these reasons, I was delighted to check out a recent Coursera post titled Building Your Online Degree Program: The Definitive Guide.
One of the big questions I ask myself concerns internal resources. How many people does it take to create an online degree?
Are the academic resources required for a degree program that will likely have more students to make up for lower tuition fees different from traditional degrees?
Can the same people who work with professors on uncredited / non-degree courses and certificates also earn degrees?
The Coursera publication has plenty of details, information, suggestions, and tips for anyone interested in learning about the workings of online degree programs at scale. Since my school is a new Coursera partner, I have more than a passing interest in understanding what the company has learned about building an infrastructure around large-scale e-learning.
The content that I have found particularly useful is the section of the report titled Determine your resource needs (p 11). The staffing model that Coursera recommends to “design, develop and launch up to six courses every six monthshs ”includes:
- Program manager
- Advisor to students
- Admission / Recruitment Manager
- 0.3 Director of the academic program
- 0.1 Data coordinator
Instructional Design Team
- Instructional designers (1 to 3, depending on the pace of implementation)
- Instructional Design Assistant • Copy Editor
- 0.5 Technologist in apprenticeship
Video production team
- 0.5 Production manager
- 0.5 Camera operator
- Video editor
- Animated graphics editor
What do you think? Does this team size make sense to you in terms of capacity building for designing and launching online degrees? How does this team size differ (if at all) from traditional online programs?
I will dig deeper into the Building Your Online Degree Program: The Definitive Guide to help me understand the implications of starting a low-cost online degree program.
Can you recommend other resources on scope, staffing, and investments when it comes to building and managing large-scale degrees?
Are you also fascinated by the idea of leveraging large-scale online learning to bypass the cost curve of post-secondary education?