Q&A: Offering online classes: Sometimes more is less

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:

  1. Does the school need it (are all in-person sections full)?
  2. Do materials already exist (such as recorded videos or correspondence courses)?
  3. 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.

Greg BeattyGreg Beatty has a PhD in English from the University of Iowa and over twenty years experience in higher education. He’s taught everything from standardized test prep courses and freshman orientation and composition courses on up to serving on doctoral committees. He’s taught in the traditional classroom, correspondence courses, online courses, and hybrid courses. He’s developed curriculum for several colleges (sometimes as sole author, sometimes working collaboratively), and served as a textbook manuscript reviewer for Longman. He’s won grants for course development, and awards for his teaching. Greg has mentored new teachers and co-taught workshops on teaching excellence. He’s also served on a range of committees and college advisory boards, and has served as an area chair for humanities.