Want Hands-On Instruction? Going to School Online Could Be Your Best Option
For years, many American colleges and universities have been applying strategies to save money by changing the way courses are taught. Here are some of the approaches they have used . . .
- Lecture courses. Let’s face it, it one professor can deliver instruction to 250 students in one hour, that’s a lot more cost-effective than having that prof teach only 15 students in a small seminar.
- Adjunct faculty. This has been going on for years. The use of adjuncts – independent teachers who come to teach at a school for only a few hours a week – makes a lot of financial sense. If you’re a college with only 12 students who want to study Portuguese, for example, you’re not going to hire a full-time professor of that language. You are going to bring in a specialist teacher for a few hours a week. You are going to save money on benefits, and you are not going to have to offer tenure to that instructor and keep him or her on the payroll for decades.
- Computer labs. Computerized courses are very cost-effective. You don’t have to pay them salaries or even update them every year. If you can have your students use your computer lab instead of teaching assistants for their breakout sessions, for example, that can result in significant payroll savings.
“What’s Driving College Costs Higher,” a program recently aired on National Public Radio (NPR), reports that “College campuses may be expanding but that doesn't necessarily mean their teaching staffs are growing . . . the number of full-time professors has shrunk across the country — and that less than 40 percent of students are now taught by tenure or tenure-track professors.”
Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation, told NPR, “In fact, the percentage of all students taught by non-tenure-track professors — adjuncts, teaching assistants — has gone up and up and up.” The program also explored the fact that universities are generally hiring more administrators than professors these days.
Those trends – and current realities – raise some interesting questions. If you are a college student, it has become increasingly important to be a good customer of the educational “product” you are buying. Is it best to pay $25,000, $49,000 or more to spend only a few hours a week with a bona fide professor? Or is it wiser to complete your core curricular courses online at a reasonable cost (at StraighterLine, perhaps), transfer your credits to a regular college, and then work closely with specialist professors after you have declared a major?
Plus, there’s the fact that many online courses offer you more direct contact with instructors than regular colleges are offering today.
Those are trends that are worth considering as you decide where to spend your dollars on an educational “product.”