November 22, 2016

CSU's e-learning fees cover related extras

What sends a student to an e-learning class over a traditional one, and why does it cost $25 more?

   “The online classes I’ve taken were electives for my major,” Harkins said. “I considered taking the in-person options that were offered for them, but the online options fit my schedule best.”

“For example, I took one online class over the summer,” she continued. “I liked the option to take a Web-based course so that I didn’t have to commit to being on campus for several weeks during the summer. I was able to spend more time at home with my family while doing my work for the class on my own time.”

 Harkins is one of the many students that has taken, or is taking, an online class at Cleveland State.

Cleveland State students are charged an extra $25 fee if they take an online course. This fee is not completely explained on students’ bills, but does say that it is for e-Learning.

The average additional fee on an online course in college is $30 to $50, according to U.S. News and World Report. That puts Cleveland State below average as far as how much they charge students for choosing an e-learning class.

Caryn Lanzo, the director of e-learning at Cleveland State, said the fee goes to the upkeep of the platform which online courses are offered on as well as many other tools that the university offers for e-Learning.

“The fee covers pretty much anything related to online learning, so it covers technology infrastructure, which is Blackboard, but then also we have some complimentary products like lecture capture products, Web conferencing products and things like that,” Lanzo said. “We also use it for some other smaller, less expensive tools like Respondus, which allows you to lockdown browsers at certain points for students and different things like that.”

Lanzo also explained that the fee also goes toward the 24/7 tech support that Cleveland State offers through Blackboard. The fee can also go toward different types of training for professors that teach online classes, she said.

While students who take online classes have an extra fee that helps pay for Cleveland State’s subscription to Blackboard, every student pays toward the licensing fee through the technology fee so it can be offered to all students, not just students in online classes, according to Lanzo.

“You don’t want one population of students paying for something that a lot of people are using at one point or another,” she said.

Amit K. Ghosh, interim chair and professor of marketing at Cleveland State, said he doesn’t use too many of the extra features when he teaches an online class, but he is concerned with the secure testing environment of online classes.

“[We] try our best to ensure that student graduation is not delayed,” he said. “One of the implicit solutions seem to be offering online courses that reduce the probability of time conflicts.”

“My graduate students seem to be happy -- they can come down to campus on fewer days, avoid parking challenges and charges and take a larger number of courses. [This] seems to be a win-win situation for them,” he continued. “So, from a cost-benefit perspective, $25 may be a small price to pay for some.  However, I do worry about the pedagogical impact of some of the online courses.”

Ghosh said he believes some courses may not be taught best online, resulting in a lack of the teacher’s impact.

“What I mean is whether online is the right type of system for a certain course is,” Ghosh said. “Some of the concepts become clearer through student-teacher interaction, which could be hard to mimic through discussion boards. Also, when courses require a lot of critical thinking and application, online courses may not be the best.”



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