Q&A: Offering online classes: Sometimes more is less
Question: Some schools offer a lot of online classes, but some don't offer very many at all. Others offer lots of sections of the same class. Why don't schools offer more classes online?
Answer: There are several answers to that question. The first is money. It costs money to offer any course on the college level, online or not. And if you add online classes, you need servers, software and, especially, support personnel.
After that, it may be a matter of focus. A school may have looked at their programs and made pragmatic decisions. For example, administrators pose these three questions when considering whether or not to offer a class online:
- Does the school need it (are all in-person sections full)?
- Do materials already exist (such as recorded videos or correspondence courses)?
- If they don't, how hard would it be to teach this class online?
Some of the answers boil down to money once again (the cost of developing new material, or getting rights to existing materials), but also to practicality. It's easy to take a history course and put it online, since many traditional history courses are text-only anyway. It's a lot harder to take something like dance or improv and teach it online, especially if your school is trying to teach your online classes in a standardized format.
The other reason might surprise you, though: faculty resistance. A study conducted by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies found that about 3/4 of the 180+ schools interviewed reported that faculty resistance was slowing down their attempts to develop online classes.