Classes can be a serious strain on both your calendar and your wallet. Are they educational? Yes. Necessary? Yes. Expensive? Absolutely. Time consuming? Without a doubt. As technology improves and more courses are offered online, students are increasingly turning to web-based courses to alleviate the time constraints imposed by the traditional university structure. For out-of-state students, the benefits are seemingly twofold: not only do online courses save transit time — sometimes, they’re also half price.
At the University of Oregon, online courses follow one of two fiscal models: tuition based, or self-supporting. In accordance with the Oregon University System, tuition-based online classes differentiate in price according to residency status and credit load and are managed through individual UO departments. Self-supporting courses, however, are offered through a department in conjunction with the office of Academic Extension and follow a set fee determined by Academic Extension. This results in a set price, regardless of residency status.
In fall term of 2013, the average 12-credit undergraduate student will pay $227.19 per credit. For an out-of-state student, the price-per-credit is almost tripled at $670.18. The average price of a self-supporting online class is $230 — regardless of which state you call home.
According to Sandra Gladney, associate director of Academic Extension, the decision as to which model to follow rests in the hands of the department offering the online class. For example, all online classes offered through the economics department for the fall of 2013 will follow the traditional, residency and course load-based tuition model. In contrast, all online classes in the School of Architecture and Allied Arts will be funded through self-support.
Ian Edwards, an adjunct instructor in the department of anthropology, has taught the class Anthropology 161: Introduction to World Cultures both online and in person. As an instructor, he strives to ensure an equal educational opportunity for the students in his class, regardless of the platform with which he delivers it or how much the class costs. Although this requires making small alterations in class syllabus, online discussion boards in lieu of discussion sections for example, similar grade distributions in both of his courses leads him to believe that the caliber of education he provides is the same across the board.
“I would have to say that I strive for the best in making them comparable. That’s kind of what’s required of me,” Edwards said of his classes. “So far things are suggesting that they are.”
Trevor Smith, a junior majoring in political science, has taken six to eight online classes over his last three years at the UO. As an in-state student, he is more motivated by efficiency than finance.
“Mostly I just take them because of flexibility,” Smith said. “I can do work on my own time and I don’t have to be locked into a schedule.”
Although they may present a cheaper model of education for out-of-state students, Smith doesn’t necessarily believe that they represent an easier or less time-consuming one.
“Just like any normal class, the difficulty ranges from class to class … if you don’t manage your time well, it will really mess you up,” Smith said. “In the end, I’d say that you get basically the same education either in-class or online.”