There is little surprise that the students at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts are upset. As on-campus classes for the $58,552-a-year degree program have moved onto the Internet, a good many of them are asking why they should have to pay full tuition when they’re not getting what they actually agreed to paid for. More than 2,200 Tisch students have already signed an online petition asking for some of their tuition money back.
Colleges and universities all over the world that have or will start their spring terms using simple teleconferencing tools can expect more of the same. A new survey by PoetsandQuants.com shows that 43% of MBA candidates who have been admitted to the top 20 business schools believe tuition fees should be cutback by an average of 37.5% if the first part of their MBA program is shifted online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Why? It’s largely because remote instruction does not even begin to replace even well designed online coursework, never mind a fully immersive, on-campus experience. This is especially so at the best graduate-level business schools where the majority of the learning occurs when students share their experiences and perspectives with each other, where networking is a major reason to get an MBA degree, and where co-curricular activities allow students to flex their leadership muscles.
Given the extraordinary circumstances today, it is understandable for schools to switch to Internet classes for a few weeks. But to begin full terms or even start a program via teleconferencing is not what students expect, especially when they are paying more than a quarter of a million dollars in tuition, fees and opportunity costs to attend a two-year MBA program.
Remote instruction via Zoom is no equal to a real online course. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, which launched an online MBA program last fall, knows the difference. Each professor invested between 100 and 200 hours to redesign their online courses, insuring that all the synchronous and asynchronous coursework lead to tangible learning objectives. Those courses are created to insure maximum engagement from students, with real quizzes, assignments, and exams to insure academic rigor.
John Katzman, founder of 2U, the publicly traded online education company, and Noodle Partners, makes the point clearly that instruction via Zoom is not the equivalent of a well-designed online course. “I’d think of it as half the experience,” he says. “Sure, you can just come to class, and let’s assume you know how to use Zoom well, and that’s it. But you’d be missing out the other part of the online experience — the asynchronous experience— that, together with live video conferencing, provides the greatest potential for learning. And we know that from the research. The other aspect of the Zoom question is that it is just a tool, although a good one, and it depends on the training of the faculty member.
“One can get better at it, and what most faculty who are transitioning right now don’t have is time to practice, reflect, and get better,” adds Katzman. “So we do our best to brief and onboard faculty as efficiently as possible during this time. And yes, if you lean entirely on Zoom sessions, you are missing the other tools and the advantages, and the opportunity to have students practice and prepare using those asynchronous tools, and then using the live sessions to extend that learning and apply what they’ve learned. Using just zoom is labor intensive for both faculty and students.”
If the crisis extends into the fall, a likelihood given predictions that a second wave will develop, administrators need to plan now to deliver the kind of experience that is more of a replacement for what can never be fully replaced. And even then, they need to adjust tuition rates to offset what students will be giving up.