Five at 8 – 3/3/10: Why does online cost more?

1) MPR reporter Tim Post’s story documenting the difference in costs for students who take classes online has prompted a fair amount of feedback overnight. Post reported that online classes at MnSCU schools cost an average of 19 percent more than those taught in the classroom. MnSCU schools can decide individually how much to charge per credit.

From Rochester, a person who teaches both in person and online at the community college writes:

You highlight Anoka Technical as a college without a cost differential between their in-person and their online courses but you failed to mention that this comes at a cost to Anoka online students: Anoka also has parity between in-person and online class sizes. Many of the other MNSCU schools have cost offsets built into online tuition to account for the reduction in online class sizes. Online faculty at RCTC have fought for smaller online class sizes for the sake of student learning. The reply we receive is often financial and, just as often, nonspecific.

You also mention that an online course “often requires as much interaction with students as in a classroom” as their in-person counterparts. Often? Try MORE often than not. As a MNSCU instructor who teaches both online and in-person courses and speaking as one who strives to give the same education to all of his students, I can tell you that online teaching frequently requires much more contact time per student. In-person teaching lends itself to efficiencies that are not available in an asynchronous, online learning environment.

Recent research supports my anecdotal account. It is highly unlikely that Anoka Technical online instructors are paid more per credit hour than their in-person counterparts. So, if Anoka Tech students are receiving a quality online education, which I assume they are, it is only through the dedication of seriously exploited online faculty.

Why does online cost more? Minnesota charges $1.75 “tech charge” to renew tabs online, rather than walking in and having a person — making more than $1.75 an hour — help me. The Twins — and Major League Baseball — charge me to print out tickets on my computer using my ink and my paper, so they don’t have to spend money on ticket printing, envelopes, handling, and postage. Why does that cost more?

2) Duluth. From a bicycle. In winter.

(h/t: Perfect Duluth Day)

3) An air traffic controller brought his kid to work at JFK airport and let him tell a few pilots they were cleared for takeoff. Clearly, the kid wasn’t making the decisions, he was just given the chance to say the same words Dad would’ve said. Is this a big deal? Apparently so.

Calm down, America.

Meanwhile, up at the National Guard air base in North Dakota, the “Happy Hooligans” are back. Pilots volunteering time to give sick kids a few chuckles.

4) I’m not sure how I missed this. The charming Iowa couple that played a piano duet in the atrium of the Mayo Clinic some time ago, returned for an encore on Saturday.

They’re still charming.

Keep a song in your heart and keep singing.

5) Did someone say “Internet sensation”? A rock band, OK Go, wanted to make a memorable music video for its new song. It worked. Meet your latest Internet sensation. Don’t turn the sound down, however, because the contraption plays part of the song.

And here’s how they did it:


Facebook was born six years ago. It now has more than 400 million active users, a population that would make it the third largest country on Earth. Today’s Question: How has social networking changed your life?


I’m on Morning Edition this morning at 8:25 to talk about the appliance recycling program in Minnesota and whether it made any difference toward stimulating the economy or saving energy.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Six years since its inception, Facebook is the dominant force in social media. And with 400 million users, it is changing the way we communicate. But controversies over privacy, challenges from Google, and some backlash from users could make its next six years more difficult.

Second hour: A migraine sufferer on the history of headache. Historian and migraine sufferer Andrew Levy explores the best (and worst) treatments for migraine through time and different cultures. He also explores the causes for a poorly respected disorder that afflicted great minds like Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, and Thomas Jefferson.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and DFL Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller join Midday in the studio to discuss the state budget and other issues at the Capitol.

Second hour:Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz looks at what we’ve learned from the economic downturn and how to prevent another crisis.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Mitt Romney talks about

his book, No Apologies.

Second hour: Teachers have moved to the center of the debate over how to improve American schools. But many teachers say their views are often ignored. That’s one

result of a new survey of 40,000 U.S. teachers. What teachers have to say about fixing America’s schools,

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Singer Nina Simone believed in confronting the racial divide. And she made that clear in all her performances, even if it made some in her audience uncomfortable. A new biography explores the music and the life of Nina Simone.

It’s Harlem. And it’s 1969…

  • John O.

    I can sympathize with the instructor saying that working with a student through e-mail, instant messaging, whatever can take longer versus in-person.

    A few other points merit mention, however:

    – On the plus side, students who choose online courses have the luxury (if you want to call it that) of doing their coursework at their pace (e.g. a stay at home parent with young children) at times that are perhaps more convenient for them.

    – The online student who lives in a rural area does not have the added expense (and time) of commuting to and from classes as often.

    – On the other hand, depending on the class, students lose the interaction between their peers and the instructor. Instead of having to answer the same question multiple times, those present hear the same answer in the same context at the same time.

    I think it is fair to say that the convenience of an online class for some learners makes sense. Whether that convenience should come at a premium price or not is, however, debatable.

  • bsimon

    Seems like the potential cost benefits for online classes can only be realized if you can cut your fixed costs of maintaining school buildings. If you’re still maintaining buildings full of classrooms & adding online classes, it is no surprise that there aren’t cost savings.

  • Alison

    \\Why does online cost more? Minnesota charges $1.75 “tech charge” to renew tabs online, rather than walking in and having a person — making more than $1.75 an hour — help me.

    I was surprised to see they are doing that again. They quit doing online tab renewal a few years back after a data security problem. It only took them a couple of years to figure out how to accept online payments securely. Good thing they’re not in buisiness.

  • John

    “Why does that cost more?”

    Businesses justify charges for new technology at first by pointing to the money spent on equipment. But that is quickly made up for by the avoiding fixed costs like the building they don’t have to build, the salaries and benefits they don’t have to pay, the wastebaskets they don’t have to empty, the parking space the don’t have to provide, and on and on. Once the startup costs are paid, computers are dirt cheap.

    After that, it’s like any other pricing decision. It has little to do with the cost, and everything to do with what the traffic will bear.

  • Ron

    “Why does that cost more?”

    Simple. It costs more to produce and maintain.

    Unless, of course, it is a school were the model is to simply create canned materials (in whatever format) and distribute these semester-after-semester with automated assessments to recoup the development costs (some schools do this, but they tend to be the same which allow their faculty to take this same ineffective, non-interactive approach to teaching).

    But still, there are ongoing expenses even with that poor instructional model for online courses which are simply not there for face-to-face instruction (course management systems, servers on the materials side and staff costs for student support, faculty guidance and administration).

    To create and maintain online courses in which students truly learn (not just memorize facts for the test), it takes more resources – people and technology – to have effective, active and real learning. This is true for good face-to-face instruction, as well. But it takes a bit more for online (and for those schools charging the same tuition – students are still paying, just in other areas).

    An added benefit of online courses is that many times, it gives an instructor the opportunity to re-think how they teach a course and re-build it into something better. And they take that knowledge with them to their face-to-face sections as well. For some, developing an online course is the first time in their teaching careers where they have had the opportunity to work with instructional designers and specialists who spend their careers studying how people learn and applying that to course development.

    Colleges and universities operate in a marketplace. Students are shopping, but in doing so are looking for what fits their needs, not just looking at cost. That is why places like Capella, Phoenix and Walden continue to grow (and profit) during this downturn in the economy.

    Online will not replace face-to-face education. But it (and hybrid) is the reality for today’s students.

  • Kim E

    I love the new OK GO video! So cool! I don’t imagine it will be as easy to recreate with friends and post on youtube as some of their other videos.

  • BJ

    My online school works great,

    Cost is very low. So far been very happy with faculty, resources and mentor.

  • Steve

    I wish OK GO would put the same kind of effort and creativity into their songwriting as they do into their videos. Pretty bland stuff.

  • JP

    My wife is a full time online student at LSC. I have been to a school or four myself over the years, and I think the quality of her education stacks up very well or better than what I got at my small, spendy private colleges or other places. But the flexibility, mobility and portability are the true gems. They are what makes it possible for her to succeed – she made the Dean’s list (again) going to school full time and full-time parenting a new baby. So it is definitely quality, and valuable, online education.

    Still, I was surprised to see that it costs more. Good reporting.