As reported by East Tennessean writer Alexia Stewart on Feb. 9, the online course fee at ETSU ranges from $25-$100 per undergraduate course and $35-$140 per graduate course. In Stewart’s report, Chief Operating Officer Myra Jones explained the way the online course fee is used.
From the report: “There is an additional fee for online courses that helps support the infrastructure required to offer online and distance education courses. … The online course fee is used for a variety of services and software that support faculty and students in distance education courses. … These funds are returned to the college annually. They can be used in whatever way best support the college and/or faculty needs.”
If we assume that online courses use additional technology resources and require additional time from the instructor, this fee seems reasonable. The university and its instructors deserve to be fairly compensated for services rendered.
During my time at ETSU, I have completed three online courses, and I am currently enrolled in one. For all of these courses, the only software which I used, and which the online course fee supposedly pays for, was D2L. Asking students enrolled in online courses to pay an additional fee to use D2L does not make sense. I am given access to D2L for my other classes without this fee.
However, I was required to purchase additional software which the online course fee does not cover. And this software was always in addition to the textbook that was required for the class.
For my current class, all of our homework is on Cengage Learning’s MindTap. The only resources available on D2L are the syllabus, the prompts for our essays, study guides for the test, and our assessments. There are no notes available to us, no additional resources to enhance our learning experience and no video lectures to watch.
Compared to some of my traditional classes, my online class offers fewer resources on the D2L website, and I will most likely complete this course without interacting with the instructor in any way.
Asking students enrolled in online courses to pay an additional fee for resources which are not being used more heavily by online instructors does not make sense. If the university wants to continue to charge this fee, then the funds should be redirected to the software students do use: MindTap, MyMathLab, MHPractice, etc.
The burden of maintaining the university’s software should not be placed on online students, who must purchase additional software to complete their coursework.