Cost Analysis and Student Survey Results of Library Support for Distance Education
Rodman, Ruey L., Journal of the Medical Library Association
This paper describes the costs associated with providing library support for a series of distance-education courses at The Ohio State University (OSU). These courses are designed as a pilot program offered by the OSU Office of Geriatrics and Gerontology. Costs to the library are analyzed for document delivery, electronic reserves, reference services, and librarian activities. Also included are the results of a student evaluation survey. The students are full-time working professionals who cannot attend regularly scheduled classes on campus. Conclusions extrapolate costs for each course, student, and service.
In January 2001, the Ohio State University (OSU) Prior Health Sciences Library (PHSL) began planning to participate in a pilot program of a series of distance-education courses offered by the OSU Office of Geriatrics and Gerontology (OGG). The courses were titled "The Series in Applied Gerontology Education (S.A.G.E.)" and were offered March through November 2001. These classes were designed as a special nine-credit-hour program intended to provide continuing education and training in the field of aging. The students were full-time working professionals who could not attend regularly scheduled classes on campus.
OSU uses WebCT, a course authoring software, to organize class materials on the Web. Students have access twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to readings, calendars, syllabi, discussion groups or chat, email, and other Internet resources. Creating a "library" presence in WebCT, so library resources would be readily available when students are logged in to their Web courses, is the service goal of this project.
The research goal of the study is an attempt to assign a per-course cost or a per-student cost for library support of the S.A.G.E. program. Abels, Kantor, and Saracevic state,
Libraries are moving from being print-centered to electronic-centered; from collecting to accessing; and from serving primarily in-house users to serving both in-house and remote users. Information managers face many difficult decisions regarding which electronic sources to make available, which services to offer that support the use of electronic sources, how to differentiate among user groups to be served, and how to charge for access to these sources and services. 
As stated above, this study on library costs for distance education should support fiscal decisions for costing virtual library access for all students, researchers, faculty members, clinicians, or staff members, no matter where they are located.
The S.A.G.E. series was developed collaboratively by the OGG, The School of Public Health, and the Office of Continuing Education. The classes offered were "Introduction to Applied Gerontology" (Health Services Management & Policy 693), "case Studies in Applied Gerontology-The Team Approach" (Allied Medicine 791), and "Issues and Trends in Aging" (Health Services Management & Policy 693). A program manager in the OGG coordinated the efforts of three teaching faculty, a librarian, and the WebCT software support manager. The S.A.G.E. program manager also served as the "problem" contact person for issues concerning library services or the WebCT program.
OSU is located in the central part of the State of Ohio. The OGG received approximately 100 applications and accepted twenty students into the program. Of these students, fifteen lived in the central Ohio area; two near Cincinnati, Ohio; two in Cleveland, Ohio; and one in central Pennsylvania. Tuition was paid directly to the OGG. Because these students were not part of a regular registration process, special arrangements were made for an OSU email account to access the campus network, and a library patron record was created for using library services.
A daylong orientation session was held the weekend before the first day of class. All participants, including the librarian, attended this session, except the student from Pennsylvania who received orientation materials and additional instructions via email. …