Cost-Effectiveness of Online
Ewha W omans University, Korea
There is a relatively large body of literature discussing the costs and benefits of distance education across technologies and in a variety of contexts. In general, the literature has shown that “distance education can be more cost-effective than face-to-face education and that costs are predominantly dependent upon student enrollment and the fixed costs of course development and delivery” (Cukier, 1997, p. 138).
Capper and Fletcher (1996) analyzed previous studies on cost-effectiveness of distance education and identified factors influencing costs in distance education. Those factors include number of courses offered (since the cost of developing a course is one of the major expenses in distance education, the most cost-efficient approach is to offer fewer courses for larger numbers of students), frequency of course revision, type of media used, type and amount of student support, and attrition rate. They concluded that even though cost-effectiveness of distance education is supported in most of the studies, costs vary substantially from one situation to another and are influenced by a number of factors. Generally cost-effectiveness of distance education increases as the number of students increase and the number of courses declines.
A substantial number of studies analyzed in Capper and Fletcher's (1996) report supported cost-effectiveness of distance education. A study that was conducted in Sri Lanka showed that distance education was by far the most cost-effective—4.5 to 6 times more cost-effective than residential training programs offered in colleges of education or in in-service teacher training programs. The main reason for this cost-effectiveness of distance education was that the teachers in the distance education programs continued with their full teaching loads, whereas the other groups did not. As appeared in this study, savings on salary costs and travel costs for program participants have been reported as one of the main sources of cost-effectiveness of distance education.
There were cost-effectiveness studies that focused more on effectiveness of distance education than on the costs and analyzed general cost-effectiveness of distance education via