A Comparison of Online Delivery
Costs with Some Alternative
Distance Delivery Methods
Victoria University ofTechnology
There is a great deal of interest, both within institutions and within the higher education sector generally, in how the costs of online delivery compare with the costs of well-established methods of delivery. This is apparent from the number of studies being carried out at the institutional level and within the sector (Bacsich et al., 1999; Bartolic-Zlomislic & Bates, 1999a, 1999b; Inglis, 1999; Jewett, 1998; Morgan, 2000).
Understandably, institutions should be interested in the impact that the shift to online delivery is going to have on costs, given the pace at which that change is occurring. However, coming to an understanding of how the costs of the new methods of delivery compare to the costs of existing methods of delivery involves more than keeping account of actual costs. It involves gaining an understanding of the factors that have the capacity to have a major impact on cost relativities and understanding the extent of that impact. Through achieving such an understanding it is then possible to anticipate how particular changes in a delivery model are likely to impact overall costs of delivery and therefore the viability of programs. Without that understanding, detailed information on the actual costs of individual programs may simply lead to greater confusion.
The importance that educational institutions are placing on developments in the areas of online learning, at least at the higher education level, is indicated by the degree of interest that has been shown in the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII) that has been sponsored and promoted by EDUCAUSE (formerly EDUCOM). The rationale for the NLII was initially set out in a white paper that explained the necessity for taking a more systemwide approach to use of new learning technologies in terms of the economic imperatives facing educational authorities (Twigg, 1994).