Belawati, T. (2006) Financial Management System in Open and Distance Learning: An Example at Universitas Terbuka EduComm Asia, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 2-7

In response to my post: The cost of online learning: $12.50 an hour, Dr. Tian Belawati, the Rector of Universitas Terbuka, directed me to an article she had written in 2006 on the costs of distance education at Universitas Terbuka.

In her article, she estimates the cost per student at the equivalent of US$80 a year, or around 25% of the cost of a traditional university degree in Indonesia. The article also provides an excellent breakdown of costs and a description of the budgeting process, as well as discussion of benefits related to costs.

There are several reasons for the low cost of a UT degree: a very large number of enrolments (200,000 per year); the use of mainly print, but with a range of other learner supports, such as optional online or face-to-face tutorials, radio, etc.; and of course lower costs in terms of salaries. compared to North America.

Thus using more traditional print delivery, large economies of scale can be achieved, indicating that for developing countries, online learning is not the immediate answer to widening access or maintaining quality (see Baggaley, 2008, for further discussion of this issue), because, although there are some economies of scale with online learning, they are nothing like those that can be achieved with one-way media such as print and broadcasting.

The issue then around online learning becomes one of timing and focus: gradually introducing online learning for those groups who have access, and for those for whom the benefits will exceed the costs, for instance for professionally oriented graduate programs, for programs aimed at developing knowledge-based workers, and for informal learning for farmers and others with access to mobile phones.



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