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Costing and learner support The analysis of costs and its implications for supporting the learner Thomas Hülsmann Workshop at the Central Chinese Radio.

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Presentation on theme: "Costing and learner support The analysis of costs and its implications for supporting the learner Thomas Hülsmann Workshop at the Central Chinese Radio."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Costing and learner support The analysis of costs and its implications for supporting the learner Thomas Hülsmann Workshop at the Central Chinese Radio and Television University (CCRTVU), Beijing, China.

3 SLIDE / 15 1 Overview Part I: Basic concepts - This part introduces the core concepts of cost-analysis by walking you through a case study of traditional distance education. - It summarizes the traditional cost-effectiveness argument in favor of distance education Part II: Impact of ICT - This part discusses the impact of the information and communication technologies on distance education; - It picks up the case of this morning walking you for a second time through the development of a case study Part III: Application to learner support - This part draws together observations form cost analysis relevant for learner support - It develops the economic case for learner support Costing and learner support

4 SLIDE / 15 2 A minimalist definition: Distance education is education at a distance, i.e. a form of education where the teacher and the learner are geographically separated for most of the time of the teaching and learning process. What is distance education? Back to the basics … Peters’ ‘industrialization formula’ (1967) 1. Distance Education is the most industrialized mode of Teaching and Learning Characterized by Rationalization and division of labor; Mass production through mechanization and automation; Systematic planning and organization; Formalization and product standardization. 2. Distance education is a form of education ‘sui generis’ Costing and learner support: Part I … back to the basics

5 SLIDE / 15 3 What is teaching? Constitutive elements For conventional education it holds that in teaching - content presentation (p) and - interaction with the teacher (i) are intricately interrelated; In distance education it holds that for teaching - content presentation (p) and interaction with the tutor* (i) had to be separated and - level of interaction with the tutor (i) had to be reduced. The reason was that, at the time, there responsive real interaction at a distance was not available as a technology! Costing and learner support: Part I … back to the basics

6 SLIDE / 15 4 In (1st and 2nd generation) distance education the two modes of presentation (p) and (real) interaction (i) have to be separated. In conventional education the modes of presentation (p) and (real) interaction (i) are 'interleafed'. The teacher can seamlessly move from presentation to interaction. Terminology: following Holmberg we distinguish real and simulated interaction; real interaction can be mediated or non-mediated (f2f); 1st and 2nd generation DE knows no responsive real interaction at a distance. Due to the lack of responsive real interaction at a distance 1st and 2nd generation had to shift the focus of teaching from real interaction to simulated interaction. Interaction was designed into the content. Costing and learner support: Part I … back to the basics

7 SLIDE / 15 5 Simulated interaction e.g. COL/PREST Simulated interaction works. We know that. But can it compensate for real interaction? Most educators think it cannot. Interactivity is designed into the text as, for example, - in-text question or - in-text activity: New forms of simulated interactions are available in digital learning environments !! Costing and learner support: Part I … back to the basics

8 SLIDE / 15 6 There are two main subsystems in distance education: - the materials subsystem - the student support subsystem "To be absolutely clear, where learning materials are produced for numbers of student..., this is regarded as the academic teaching and is considered to be outside the framework of learner support." (Mills, 2003, p. 104) The teaching function was unbundled. In a break with mainstream understanding teaching was seen as course development rather than frontline interaction with students! Distance education as a system Costing and learner support: Part I … back to the basics

9 SLIDE / 15 7 Basic parameters of the scenario OUUK case study A second level undergraduate course offered by the School of Health and Social Welfare of the Open University/United Kingdom Try to get some information of the basic parameters such as: Credit points Course duration Student workload Shelf life of the course Expected number of students Class size (if applicable) Use of media/technologies The credit transfer point systems and modularization make course offerings more comparable! Costing and learner support: Part I … cost analysis

10 SLIDE / 15 8 Listing ingredients and specifying their quantities In principle you need to look at all sorts of cost drivers such as: Human resources Premises and accommodation Equipment and furniture Stocks supplies consumables and expenses In practice it depends on the purpose of the costing exercise what you will include and the level of detail. It is most important to be aware of the main cost drivers ! OUUK case study (continued) Costing and learner support: Part I … cost analysis

11 SLIDE / 15 9 Categorization of costs Capital costs value lasts beyond financial year under consideration Operating costs value consumed during financial year under consideration; operating costs can be: - recurrent - non recurrent) Fixed cost - server - development of study guide Recurrent: - salary of project manager Non-recurrent: - consumables (paper, office stocks) - expenses (conference visits) Variable cost per student - printing cost of study guide - software license - experimental kits Recurrent: - marking of assignment Non-recurrent: - survey interviews Among the most important cost drivers are the recurrent costs, such as salaries of academic staff! Costing and learner support: Part I … cost analysis

12 SLIDE / What contributes to fixed costs? - development costs of teaching material (e.g. writing a study guide); substantial amounts of costs that arise in the ‘materials subsystem‘ are fixed. What contributes to variable cost per student? - production costs (e.g. printing the study guide) - tutoring an assessment costs (most costs in the student support system are contributing to variable cost per student) - many if not most of the costs related to student support (including teaching and counseling) contribute to the variable cost per student Fixed costs (F) are those costs which do not change with 'volume of activities'. The main activity of a distance education institution is teaching students. Hence fixed costs are invariant against student numbers. Variable costs (VxN) vary with student numbers (as their definition VxN already implies). V stands for variable cost per student! The total cost equation Costing and learner support: Part I … cost analysis

13 SLIDE / Average costs are total costs divided by numbers of students. Unlike the total cost function the resultant function is not a linear (straight) function. Expanding student numbers raises total costs but diminishes average costs. Note that for bigger N the contribution of the term F/N diminishes and the value of AC approaches V. This effect we refer to as economies of scale. Remember what cost items contribute to the variable cost per student : production of study guide, tutor marked assessments. The aggregate variable cost per student we call unit costs. To the extent the cost functions are complete V represents the unit costs. A quick test for cost-efficiency consists of estimating the unit costs of various strategies. If V DE > V CE scale economies can do nothing. The lesson for the manager: Keep an eye on unit costs! And since especially costs related to student support contribute to V: keep an eye on the student support costs! The average cost equation Costing and learner support: Part I … cost analysis

14 SLIDE / TC(N) = F + V x N TC DE (N) = F DE +V DE x N F F DE Economies of scale: total costs Costing and learner support: Part I … cost analysis

15 SLIDE / V V DE Economies of scale: Average costs Costing and learner support: Part I … cost analysis

16 SLIDE / listing the ingredients and their costs and - classifying them according to the appropriate cost categories allows - modeling the cost functions and - depicting the correspondent graphs From listing ingredients to modeling costs … Costing and learner support: Part I … cost analysis

17 SLIDE / From modeling costs to graphing the cost functions … The break even point bp = F/(V-I) - is the point beyond which revenue is bigger than cost - it is calculated by dividing the fixed costs by the difference of unit cost and student fee Costing and learner support: Part I … cost analysis

18 SLIDE / Perraton’s Cost-Effectiveness Cube The formula: TC(N) = F + V*N can be related to Perraton’s cube: - Media sophistication tends to increase fixed costs (F) - Student-teacher interactivity contributes to raising variable cost per student (V) - Number of students ( N) allow to distribute fixed costs over many shoulders (scale economies) Caveats : (i) though average costs fall total costs rise; i.e. the most cost-efficient system might not be affordable (ii) While the planner can influence F and V, he cannot determine N since enrollment levels depend on the market The cube and the formula: Costing and learner support: Part I … first conclusions

19 SLIDE / Daniel’s Triangles Ideally, Distance Education could be regarded as a major strategy to expanding access raising quality while lowering (average) costs But these expectations depend to a large extent on the use of mass media. This often comes together with lack of responsive teacher learner (and peer) interactivity lack of scope in course offerings Historically responsive interaction at a distance became only possible with the emerging Information and Communication technologies (ICT) and the Internet. They allow new educational scenarios but have a fundamental impact on the organization of distance education. Costing and learner support: Part I … cost analysis

20 SLIDE / ICT stands for Information AND Communication Technologies. This means that ICT opens two distinct lines of development for distance education: The Impact of ICT on Distance Education Costing and learner support: Part II … impact of ICT Type-i systems exploit the information processing aspect of ICT: programming & simulation, processing, storing, searching, retrieving data bases etc. New levels of sophistication for simulated interaction!! Type-c online systems sustain communication at a distance either in - synchronous mode (e.g. videoconferencing) or - asynchronous mode (CMC, Virtual Seminars). In type-c systems there is little potential for scale economies. Possible economies of scope. This type drives horses through traditional distance education !! Main cost drivers: not technology but teaching costs !!

21 SLIDE / Type-i applications are compatible with the cost-structure of traditional distance education. But the enhanced options of simulated interaction in digitized learning environments can enhance simulated interaction albeit at high upfront fixed costs - Type-i applications allow for the first time responsive interaction at a distance albeit at increased variable cost per student The core issue is the trade-off between responsive real interaction at a distance and cost-effectiveness. Responsive real interaction at a distance sacrifices scale economies. The cost-effectiveness argument for distance education as such did depend on scale economies. The challenges of ICT We need to regain the lost efficiencies! Learning objects facilitate course adaptation and repurposing of developed materials. They allow depreciating development costs not only over the shelf-life of a course but also across different courses. (Issues: tagging metadata; levels of granularization; context) Cooperation allows efficiency gains through creating synergies. Though distance education requires a number of functions to work, they need not all be housed at the same institution. Often it is more appropriate to outsource functions or seek alliances with partners. A combination of both. Governments and private donors can encourage the development of open educational resources (OER) and sharing them. Costing and learner support: Part II … impact of ICT

22 SLIDE / Annual budget of a niche market program: the top athletes … Recurrent costs such as: the project coordinator and teaching / tutoring costs are the main cost drivers; NOT course development or technical infrastructure Costing and learner support: Part II … back to costing

23 SLIDE / c Recurrent costs such as: the project coordinator and teaching / tutoring costs are the main cost drivers; NOT course development or technical infrastructure … back to the ‘top athletes’ Costing and learner support: Part II … back to costing

24 SLIDE / Learner support and the efficiency chase There are efficiency reasons to keep V (variable cost per students) low: - V determines the gradient of the total cost function (the lockstep relation between cost and volume) - determine the limit for any economies of scale Is the Perraton cube the pave to smash the ‘greenhouse of student support’? Most student support costs contribute to variable costs per student. Costing and learner support: Part III … conclusions revisited

25 SLIDE / Types of learner support, costs, and what you can do about it … teaching and tutoring (content related) course development incl. the production, distribution, dissemination of content counseling and advising (non-content related) tutoring communication between learner and teacher counseling and advising (non-content related) administrative and technical support Costing and learner support: Part III … conclusions revisited

26 SLIDE / Efficiency gained … effectiveness lost? Downsizing student support may help in terms of cost per student (at least at short term) but may be contra-productive in terms of demanding performance measures. The very measures which make you do better in cost per students may produce inferior outcomes in terms of cost per graduates. The question is: to which extent performance measures do have economic consequences (e.g. in terms of funding, fee generated revenues)? Costing and learner support: Part III … economic case for learner support

27 SLIDE / An economic argument for retention Loosing a student means incurring costs: opportunity costs of lost income in terms of fees and grants (institutions want to be open to the charge to live on drop out money : hence they have a refund policy; grants are often tied to competed course rather than enrollments) additional recruitment costs for a new student Costing and learner support: Part III … economic case for learner support

28 SLIDE / Measures for retention: varying costs varying benefits Some measures seem to be employer support and monitoring assignment submission Others seem costly but less effective, notably Pre-start online discussion Costing and learner support: Part III … economic case for learner support Source: Based on Simpson (2003, p. 137) Institutional research is required to identify the most cost-effective measures in your own context.

29 SLIDE / Costs, outcomes and ethics … We have seen that Costs will depend on socially agreed outcome / performance measures; - government funding policy can lead to cost/benefit implications of student support - the market may play a role: learners will migrate to Costs will depend on institutional ethics you may know from research the student’s probability to succeed (pts): what consequences you will draw depend on the mission of your institution: - provide extra support for students in danger? or - to ‘counsel away’ students? Costing and learner support: Part III … economic case for learner support It depends on policies, institutional and government policies to assure that the efficiency pave is not used to break the learner support greenhouse. Thank you!


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