“Higher Education in the Digital Age”

Source: Princeton University Press website, Feb 2013

In this short and incisive book, William G. Bowen, one of the foremost experts on the intersection of education and economics, explains why, despite his earlier skepticism, he now believes technology has the potential to help rein in costs without negatively affecting student learning. As a former president of Princeton University, an economist, and author of many books on education, including the acclaimed bestseller The Shape of the River, Bowen speaks with unique expertise on the subject.

Fullscreen capture 05-Mar-13 82016 AM.bmp

Note: None of the differences between traditional and hybrid courses was statistically
significant at the 10 percent level.

We conceptualized the research question not as “How much will institutions save right now by shifting to hybrid learning?” but rather as “Under what assumptions will cost savings be realized, over time, by shifting to a hybrid format, and how large are those savings likely to be?” 

The crude models we employed (which ignore entirely the “joint products” issue that grows out of the practice of supporting graduate students as teaching assistants) suggest savings in compensation costs alone ranging from 36 percent to 57 percent when the traditional teaching mode relies on multiple sections.  Of course, this simulation underestimates substantially the potential savings from moving toward a hybrid model because it does not account for space costs, which, in many instances, can dominate cost calculations. 

Also highly relevant are the potentially profound effects of simplifi cations in scheduling and easier acceptance of transfer credits and evidence of prior learning. These could well lead, for many students, to an accelerated fl ow through the system, and thus to reduced time-to-degree and higher completion rates. If more students can be educated and if time-to-degree can be reduced, all without commensurate increases in costs, productivity could increase substantially via this avenue of impact.


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