Cost Analysis

A cost analysis framework employed in this subsection is adapted from a previous report authored by the evaluator (Perris, 2014b). Four stages are to be considered and are mapped according to costs, defined under two columns as: Low to Medium Costs; and High Costs. See Table 1 below.

Table 1: Cost Analysis Framework

Table 1: Cost Analysis Framework

The framework serves as a comprehensive breakdown of the processes involved with running a MOOC. The application and utility of this framework is dependent on the availability of information on a MOOC project.

In comparing the two columns in Table 1, it can be deduced that the highest costs are associated with course design and delivery. This usually falls on the shoulders of instructors, who often share some of the technical responsibilities in designing and running a course. Instructors for the MoM course shared many of the responsibilities listed in both columns. Considering there were five members in the course team and an additional eight members on the support team, it can be assumed that the aggregate number of hours devoted to the design and delivery of the MoM course was significant.

As noted in the earlier subsection on Funding, external funding for the course was derived from two primary sources:

  • CDN $15,000 from the Commonwealth of Learning
  • USD $15,000 from the Technical Education Quality Improvement Program

The funding from COL was devoted primarily to content development and to costs associated with recording and editing of video lectures. This included the costs of using a studio and hiring staff for editing and other technically related purposes. Funding from TEQIP was for the purpose of designing the mooKIT platform. The platform was to be used for the delivery of three courses, including the MoM course. The amount of USD $15,000 was dispersed across these units. Although it may be simple to divide this sum in three to calculate the share of the TEQIP funding to the MoM course, there are other factors. The first course was offered in July, three months before the launch of the MoM course in September. Further, there was another MOOC, Architecting Software for the Cloud, which was also launched in September. Therefore ascribing a dollar amount from the TEQIP funding directly to the MoM course is challenging and impractical considering how these funds were utilized.

Evaluator Comments

The cost analysis presented above is limited by the availability of data. The most reliable information as it relates to discerning the cost to design and run the MoM course is the funding provided from COL. In addition to the challenge of calculating accurate costs of the mooKIT platform to the MoM course, there is also the challenge to calculate the cost of labour.

Existing literature on MOOCs aims to ascertain hypothetical costs in design and delivery. A report on MOOCs in North America by Fiona Hollands and Devayani Trithali (2014) examined faculty time on an hourly basis to draw conclusions on the costs to design and to run a MOOC. Similar analyses have been conducted elsewhere (Colman, 2013).

Such analyses however, are highly variable. Details as granular as instructor experience in front of the camera (and therefore time devoted – or not – to re-takes and editing, for example), to designing a new platform or embedding instructor-participant interactive elements will impact time and costs. The wide discrepancies in labour costs between countries, and even within countries complicate any attempt to make generalizations. Hollands and Trithali admit that their cost analysis of a MOOC designed at a Midwest University in the US should factor, “that salary levels at this geographical location may be lower than national averages so that costs for the non-teaching personnel could be higher on a national average basis” p. 145).

In regards to the MoM course, the labour costs of the 13 individuals involved with its design and delivery were absorbed by their respective institutions and unavailable for this analysis. The matter of calculating such costs is further complicated by the fact that many of the members of the course team and the support team were simultaneously working on the MOOC, Architecting Software for the Cloud. These 13 individuals were also spread across three institutions in two countries.

The framework presented in Table 1 offers a glimpse of the numerous roles and responsibilities required to run a MOOC. It may be useful to ascertain hours of labour invested by designers and by other individuals who design and deliver their own MOOCs. Providing generalizations as has tended to surface in the literature is problematic due to the immense variation in MOOCs.

In regards to another matter regarding costs of a MOOC is a need to establish a commitment to re-use courses. Subsequent offerings of the MoM course, as well as the potential of the mooKIT platform to be used more extensively, may prove to gain efficiencies, and spread the investments of funders and personnel across a greater distribution of learning opportunities.


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