Keeping online education affordable and high-quality


Katie Linder, Ph.D., Director, Ecampus Research Unit, Oregon State University

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It’s the ultimate question: how do we keep online education affordable while maintaining a high standard of quality and innovation? Over the years, institutions of higher education have needed to explore a range of financial models in order to answer this question.

In a recent edited collection, The Business of Innovating Online (Stylus, 2019), Rovy Branon of the University of Washington, Nelson Baker of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Lisa Templeton of Oregon State University share some of the key components to consider in online education financial models. 

Here’s a sneak peek at some of their suggestions for administrators who are considering making changes to the financial models of their online programs:

Get to know your institution’s financial model. Are you centralized or decentralized? What kind of budgeting is used? How transparent is the financial model? All of these factors will impact decisions that get made regarding things like financial risk, incentives and revenue sharing.

Consider financial risk. Because of all the variables involved in new online programs—some known to us and some unknown—developing these programs always involves some level of financial risk. As online organizations scale and grow, this financial risk can also increase over time as online programs become more complex.

Keep incentives in mind. Higher education institutions are at different stages of acceptance when it comes to online teaching and learning. For this reason, incentives might be needed to increase faculty and administrative buy-in to launch or sustain programs over time.

Take revenue sharing into account. Because of all the stakeholders involved in the creation of online programs (individual instructors, departments, service units and many others), it is important to consider how the revenue from online programs will be shared. This will ensure that things like overhead, marketing of programs and development of courses are all included in discussions of revenue share.

Don’t forget return on investment. As technologies rapidly change and evolve, institutions often need to make difficult decisions about where to invest their resources to stay current with trends and new developments. These decisions should consider return on investment as a variable to ensure the long-term success and viability of online programs.

Learn more from Lisa, Rovy, and Nelson’s innovative incentive and cost-saving structures for their online programs in an upcoming free webinar, Innovative Financial Models for Online Education to Encourage Stakeholder Buy-In, hosted by OSU Ecampus on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 10 a.m. PT (11am MT, 12pm CT, 1pm ET).

This webinar is part of a complimentary series highlighting authors from The Business of Innovating Online, edited by Oregon State University Ecampus and co-sponsored by OLC. (The first two webinars in the series on “Creating an Innovative Vision” and “Leading Innovation on Your Campus” are available as replays). Learn more about the series, view the replays and register for upcoming webinars today.

About the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit: The OSU Ecampus Research Unit makes research actionable through the creation of evidence-based resources related to effective online teaching, learning and program administration. The OSU Ecampus Research Unit is part of Oregon State Ecampus, the university’s top-ranked online education provider.

Dr. Katie Linder is the director of the award-winning Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit. Through conducting original research, often in collaboration with colleagues from other institutions across the U.S., the Ecampus Research Unit responds to and forecasts the needs and challenges in the field of online education. As part of her role at OSU Ecampus, Katie hosts a weekly interview-based podcast called “Research in Action.” Katie also recently edited two collections, High-Impact Practices in Online Education and The Business of Innovating Online.  Connect with Katie by email at, or on Twitter @ecresearchunit. 



One Response to “Keeping online education affordable and high-quality”

  1. Mariam Praise

    The internet has become a large part of our lives and this has caused online trends to help us in our daily activities, businesses, connecting, and so much more! I was doing some research and this got me here. I really look forward to online trends in the year 2020. With this, I say a big thanks for the relevant information that you have here.


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