There are plenty of consultants and management providers willing to advise institutions on the best ways to start an online learning program. Those experts are probably wrong, according to Joshua Kim, director of digital learning initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning.
Kim offered some unconventional advice in his recent Insider Higher Ed blog, starting with the notion that online programs should not be considered a revenue source, but that the classes should be able to cover their costs.
He also suggested that online programs need to be created in areas that differentiate the institution from others rather than simply offering courses that are in demand. Small classes featuring personal attention and quality are the best way to begin.
“The reasons that small online programs have a good chance of achieving economic sustainability have to do with the cost structure of online learning,” Kim wrote. “Colleges and universities can add more (tuition-paying) students without large fixed-cost investments. No need to build new classrooms or dorms. Almost all the costs will be variable costs—and therefore can rise with enrollment.”
Finally, Kim said online courses should be about learning for everyone involved.
“Thinking of a new online learning program as a disciplined experiment will open everyone up to a growth and learning mindset,” he wrote. “Failures (and there will be many) will be opportunities to learn and improve.”