In advice aimed at governments mulling how to fund higher education in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also cautioned that online teaching was just as expensive as in-person instruction.
“There are no easy ways” to save money, said Simon Roy, lead analyst in the organisation’s higher education policy team, and one of the authors of Resourcing Higher Education: Challenges, Choices and Consequences.
Despite a trend towards the “casualisation” of the academic workforce, studies stretching back to 2004 suggest that temporarily employed lecturers lead to a drop in student retention, the report says. “On balance, research suggests that the increased use of temporary part-time academics has some negative consequences for the quality of teaching and learning,” it cautions.
Despite hopes in some quarters that the sudden shift online will allow mass-scale, cheap online teaching, the OECD cautions that “systematic evidence on the cost effects of digitalising course development, delivery, assessment and credentialing is limited – and, for many, disappointing.”
The report cites evidence from a study last year at the University of North Carolina, where it was found that developing digital courses was actually slightly more expensive than creating on-campus ones.
Online courses failed to scale up, because lecturers needed smaller class sizes than on campus to keep students engaged.