The demand for online learning courses continues to rise. In fact, a recent survey revealed that a whopping 74% of four-year universities said demand had increased from 2016 to 2017.
However, just 43% said they would be increasing their online learning budget in response to demand.
That second number is disheartening, but not surprising. Anyone working behind-the-scenes in higher education is used to doing more with less. Universities have no end of expenses to meet, and the budget can only flex so far.
It’s true that online courses can be more cost-effective than traditional classroom learning. But realizing those savings requires smart planning and investing.
Four Digital Learning Investments for Universities
The following four investments on an institution-wide level can help universities control some of the hidden costs of online courses, even ultimately achieving a positive return on investment. As a bonus, each can improve the student and faculty experience as well.
1. Video Capture & Conferencing
One of the chief obstacles for digital learning, from the student perspective, is a lack of interpersonal interaction with the teacher. Online instructors can be reduced to a cursor on a screen, a voice narrating a slideshow, or even just text in an email.
Equipping blended classrooms with video capabilities helps online students take a more active role in the course. It makes it easier for teachers to add video content into their course materials for differentiated learning, as well.
Adding teleconferencing capabilities can be as simple as using a service like Zoom or Vidyo along with the cameras built into laptops and smartphones. It’s easier now than ever to capture video, and it’s worth making it part of every online course.
2. Mobile Learning Experience
Gen X and Millennials in education likely still think of “online learning” as something that happens primarily on a desktop or laptop computer. Now, however, nearly half of all web traffic is on mobile devices. Incoming freshmen are more likely to use a tablet or smartphone virtually exclusively.
Making your course materials mobile compatible is a selling point for potential students. It makes it easier for them to complete coursework, and lowers a potential barrier of entry, as not every student has access to a desktop or laptop computer, but virtually all have smartphones.
3. Course Management System
Standardization and centralization are two major contributors to cost savings for online learning. If each department—or worse, each instructor—is administering their own courses, there’s a high potential for duplication of effort. Without centralization, the institution can’t find efficiencies and build economies of scale. Without standardization, students could have an inconsistent experience that doesn’t match the university’s reputation.
A course management system makes it easier for instructors to launch and manage their courses, without sacrificing efficiency or quality. It also brings together student data, making it possible to compare progress within a single course or across multiple courses.
4. Course materials
It may seem like you shouldn’t need an outside vendor for course materials. After all, teachers create their own curriculum for traditional learning courses. Why couldn’t they just convert that curriculum into an online course?
The truth is, creating an online course requires just as much technical knowledge as pedagogical. Course materials need to be specifically designed to capitalize on the advantages of online learning. Supplemental multimedia materials not only need to be created, they must also be compatible with a wide range of devices. Assignments, discussion spaces, and assessments all must be re-imagined for an online environment.
The work doesn’t stop once the course is created, either. At a minimum, courses should be refreshed every three years. That means continued investment in developing, optimizing, and implementing your online courses. Given the ongoing overhead, it’s easy to see why a third-party vendor makes financial sense.
Invest in Your Institution’s (and Student’s) Future
Digital learning has increased dramatically in the past decade, and it’s only going to become more popular with students and institutions. There are advantages to be had for both parties, provided universities are willing to make smart investments in technology and processes. With the right infrastructure in place, and the right vendor partners, universities can continue to evolve their online courses for the next freshman class and beyond.
Caduceus creates interactive, multi-dimensional health curriculum with built-in course management. Explore our courses here.