How to calculate the real costs of developing and delivering MOOCs

Researchers at Brown and Columbia attempt to determine not just costs associated with MOOC production, but faculty time, marketing, and IT development…and if it’s all worth it.

MOOC-costs-researchIs a MOOC worth anywhere between $39,000 to $325,000 in development and delivery costs to your college or university? How do you know?

For colleges and universities already on alert thanks to uncontrollable costs associated with higher ed, the decision whether or not to spend hundreds of thousands on MOOCs should be an intimidating one.

However, according to Fiona Hollands, associate director at the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University; and Devayani Tirthali, independent researcher at Brown University, little publicly available information on MOOC costs based on rigorous analysis exits for those interested.

“It appears that lowering costs is not the highest priority for MOOC initiatives,” say the authors: “among the 140 or so institutions of higher-ed offering MOOCs in Allen and Seaman’s sample, less than ten indicated that exploring cost reducation was an objective for their MOOC initiatives.” In a separate study, Hollands and Tirthali also found that, of 29 institutions offering MOOCs, improving economics was a goal for only 38 percent.

The two authors go on to list many other recent studies showing that MOOC costs were not a high-priority issue for institutions; instead, universities were more concerned with increasing access to education, raising institutional visibility or building brand, increasing student recruitment, and improving or innovating pedagogy.

But with recent national spotlights on college affordability, as well as questions surrounding MOOCs’ effectiveness for learning, can institutions continue to turn a blind eye to the high price of MOOCs?

(Next page: How to calculate the real costs of MOOCs)