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Why are online classes so expensive?

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Yikes! The online classes that I've looked at for our rising 9th grader are $500 - $675 each.  Wilson Hill, Well-Trained Mind, Memoria, Veritas, Circe, etc. No brick and mortar expenses involved, right? It looks like many of the teachers conduct classes from home.  Why so much money?

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Time.

 

Teacher preparation time. Teacher teaching time. Teacher grading time.

 

And that doesn't even mention all the time spent learning the material to teach it. It is a ton of work to become an expert in a subject and more work still to learn to teach it well.

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Yes, time.

 

Those prices are more than reasonable. In fact, they are low. These prices pay for the administration of the course and the electronic platform as well as the instructors' time to teach and prepare materials.

 

I have taught online writing courses for four years, and I have also taught quite a few high school English and History courses.

 

It takes a lot of time to create a beefy high school course. Time spent in instruction is only one part of the puzzle. The amount of prep that it takes to formulate a good course takes quite a lot of time.

 

 

 

 

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Tech support plays a role as well. Solid, dependable online classes don't just magically happen.

 

I know it's all relative, but I think the prices are quite good.

 

There are plenty of free options. One can always try those first. Keep in mind though, that many of those are only free to the user. They aren't really free. Hundreds of thousands of dollars may be pouring in from donations. (Khan Academy) Still, it would be a good way to compare what extras are offered for the fees that are charged. Often this will be office hours, grading, updates to parents, recommendations if requested, and higher expectations often resulting in highest motivation of students.

 

I'm not as concerned with how much the teacher is making, I'm usually concerned it's not enough. I think perhaps a more important question to ask is how much the class is worth to my family. In the end that's really what drives most purchase decisions, isn't it?

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We use an online platform for part of our business and access to that platform alone can run hundreds or even thousands per year for occasional usage. That is just for access to one online testing system without accounting for any of our time in administering, interpreting, etc. If we had multiple classes or tests running daily I can only imagine the cost just for the system before any of the personnel and their salaries are involved.

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I agree with you OP. Ten students at $500 each, I have a hard time believing tech support and teaching expertise is worth $5000 in total for a 60-90 minute class and occasional response to a posting board of some kind.

 

That being said, I have paid this and more. Some of the classes have been worth every penny and others I wish I could get refunded for time and money!

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If you break it down, it isn't that much at all (better than baby-sitting, worse than teaching full time)

 

10 weeks per semester (conservatively), so 20 weeks for a class like PA HS AP classes.  $500/20 = $25 per week per student  (total $250 per week)

 

Weekly class (1 hr), prep (2 hrs - assuming the class is already developed), chat room (1 hr - conservatively), grading (5 hours - 1/2 hour per essay) total 9 hrs

 

$250/9hrs is only $28/hr, before taking any out for tech support, advertising, online  hosting, internet service, etc  And all the "benefits" have to come out of that too (medical, dental, FICA, taxes, etc)

 

They aren't making a lot of money.

 

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I taught ONE high school student over the computer for one calendar year. I couldn't help but realize, on a daily basis, that our low-tech methods of Skype, Google docs, email, and a shared blog could never be utilized for an entire class. Not only could I never wrangle all of those devices and sites for more than one student -- what about the technology breakdowns?

 

Skype failed every time the wind blew hard at her house, for example. I lost internet every time the wind blew hard at my house. Some days we were just talking over the phone, trying to make do, and other days she'd manage a ride to a relative's house in search of a better connection.

 

Her essays, lab reports, and videos of her lab projects could all be posted to the blog. We could work on writing assignments together on Google docs, which served as my blackboard for real-time teaching. I created educreations videos to teach grammar and math so she could watch the lectures on her own time, and then she did her homework. I checked her grammar and math exercises by peering into my iPad as she held them up for me to see, over Skype. We discussed her history and literature over Skype, or by leaving each other messages on the blog or through email.

 

THAT is how to do it when you can't afford Blackboard or other platforms. It was OK for that limited amount of time, for one very responsible and patient student, but if I were asked to teach two or more distant students I'd not even try without the fancy schmancy technology AND reliable tech support.

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FWIW, depending on the provider, the teacher gets around 50% of the fee if they are teaching for one the providers who offer phone support, a full course management system, and a live classroom.

 

Where I live, local classes are $300-600/year, so not really that much different given that their administrative costs are less.  When I was teaching locally for that range, each family paid a $100 facility fee on top of what they paid me.

 

Also most who teach this way are independent contractors, so they pay self-employment tax and have no benefits.  You don't get rich teaching online!

 

Locally Christian schools run around $7500, and the university model school (2-3 days a week) is about half of that.  If you do a full load (5-6) of online classes, it is slightly less than the local university model school.

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Because they know that the people they want to take classes online are pressed for time and they exploit this fact. They know if you can't go to regular classes you'll have to pay their prices. Its supply and demand homes.

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Yikes! The online classes that I've looked at for our rising 9th grader are $500 - $675 each. Wilson Hill, Well-Trained Mind, Memoria, Veritas, Circe, etc. No brick and mortar expenses involved, right? It looks like many of the teachers conduct classes from home. Why so much money?

I often wonder, looking at those same prices, how classes are so cheap!
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I find it interesting that in a time when athletes, politicians, actors, and others make so much, our culture sometimes seems to be very concerned about paying too much for the people we entrust to teach our children.

 

 

Shouldn't we be more concerned that they are adequately compensated, which will prompt competition and attract the best to the profession, thus increasing teaching standards and effectiveness?

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Because they know that the people they want to take classes online are pressed for time and they exploit this fact. They know if you can't go to regular classes you'll have to pay their prices. Its supply and demand homes.

 

It's like you didn't even read the thread or think this through at all.

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Because they know that the people they want to take classes online are pressed for time and they exploit this fact. They know if you can't go to regular classes you'll have to pay their prices. Its supply and demand homes.

 

That is absolutely false. No one gets rich teaching, and they certainly do not get rich teaching online. Did you read the thread?

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I often wonder how online courses can be offered for so little. Comparing quality and price vs. a good private school in my area, online courses look like a GREAT value.

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Yikes! The online classes that I've looked at for our rising 9th grader are $500 - $675 each.  Wilson Hill, Well-Trained Mind, Memoria, Veritas, Circe, etc. No brick and mortar expenses involved, right? It looks like many of the teachers conduct classes from home.  Why so much money?

 

I assume that is for 2 semesters.  TTUISD is currently charging a total of USD $180 per course per semester, so that is $360 for 2 semesters. I suspect they will increase that, slightly, in September 2015. TTUISD Online courses are Asynchronous and almost always require one purchase a traditional textbook.  GL!

 

ETA: DD is a rising 9th grader

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I find it interesting that in a time when athletes, politicians, actors, and others make so much, our culture sometimes seems to be very concerned about paying too much for the people we entrust to teach our children.

 

 

Shouldn't we be more concerned that they are adequately compensated, which will prompt competition and attract the best to the profession, thus increasing teaching standards and effectiveness?

 

Yes, I took an M.S. when I decided to bag my dissertation because of political problems in my department in graduate school.

 

I teach part-time at two community colleges and have an additional contract with one where I teach professors how to teach online in asynchronous classes.

 

I also am finishing up teaching five classes that were live during the school year.

 

I make about what a beginning public school teacher does with no benefits and no job security, which is about 1/3 of what I could make if I went back to my pre-children field.

 

Why do I do it?  Because I love teaching and also being home with my own children.  When homeschooling is done in two years, I plan to continue in the same line of work.

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Op here. Thanks for all the responses. I understand the cost better which is exactly why I posted the question. 

 

And in the free market I can choose to enroll/pay the $ or not. Unlike the $5,000 taxes I have to pay every year to the local school district which we don't even access.

 

Thanks for your comments.

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I have found Derek Owens at $50 a month and looking forward to Jann in Texas ( for my younger kids )- her class has a cost of $30-50 per month. I think the difference is that they charge by the month . It is just so much more manageable spread over a year ( It seems so much less expensive too, though I don't do this when buying a car! I'd be broke). Rarely in life do you prepay for a service this big.

 

Edited to add: Part of the difficulty I have is trying to justify these prices at the high school level , when some of us can access great community college classes for $450, Including books with guaranteed transfer to state U.

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I teach online classes, and the only way I can do it cheaper is to use Teaching Assistants to do the grading. I can do that as the subjects I teach are easy for Teaching Assistants to grade. So I spend my time creating the videos and course content. The first time I run a class (and probably the second), I am not really making much, but after that it is better. However, this wouldn't work for subjects like History and English with essays to grade. It would be hard to find TAs competent enough to do that.

 

As has been pointed out, when you take lesson prep time and grading into account - plus overheads, it isn't as much as it sounds. And from experience I can say that creating videos for classes takes a lot more time than when I stand in front of a live class at our co op. I sometimes take and hour making a 10 minute video! 

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I have found Derek Owens at $50 a month and looking forward to Jann in Texas ( for my younger kids )- her class has a cost of $30-50 per month. I think the difference is that they charge by the month . It is just so much more manageable spread over a year ( It seems so much less expensive too, though I don't do this when buying a car! I'd be broke). Rarely in life do you prepay for a service this big.

 

Edited to add: Part of the difficulty I have is trying to justify these prices at the high school level , when some of us can access great community college classes for $450, Including books with guaranteed transfer to state U.

Just wanted to add Well-Trained Mind Academy to the list of online schools with payment plans. :)

 

You make a good point about community college classes. Not everyone has a quality one nearby, though. Sometimes fitting in commuting to a cc or university for dual enrollment cuts into time for studying and extra curricular activities. Online classes are viable alternative. I'm thankful there are so many options!

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Community college classes are subsidized so the cost you pay is not the real cost of the class. Even so, we would pay about $600 plus transportation for a community college class, so online is better if equal for us.

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I have enrolled my D12 in WWSI delayed course for the fall/spring. The cost is more than I anticipated. With that being said, I am not willing to educate myself and spend the time teaching her. I wanted something I could just turn over.

 

I really feel this class will be worth it. We have to do the delayed course because she is in public school. I am been disappointed in the rigor of public school. I want the confidence to know D12 is receiving a strong writing skills foundation.

 

 

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I think the teachers of online classes probably deserve more than they make, when the tech overhead (and company overhead, for some of them) is taken into account.

 

I think we also have to take into account that they are not just for outsourcing standard subjects, but also can be opportunities to explore subjects that are not available locally at all, even in schools, like Latin for middle schoolers or maybe even high schoolers, classical writing methods, and formal logic.

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Online classes have filled an important niche for us. 

 

In my experience, the value of a live instruction class is all about the skill of the instructor. If my child is provided 3 hours of live instruction per week, with a master teacher who knows their subject inside and our, who love kids, AND who can trascend the online classroom format and provide a authentic, relationtional classroom experience, it is WELL worth the investment. 

 

We've also experienced online courses that did not meet those expectations, particularly in the area of the instructor being able to bridge the relationship gap online. And in those cases, I should have spent half the money for a self-pace, static-content course. Some instructors can reach through that web-platform and connect with students, and some just cannot. 

 

We've had great experiences with most of the Veritas Press Online Academy courses, and next year are enrolled in a couple of courses from Wilson Hill because some of the most skilled teachers we've enjoyed at VPSA are teaching courses for WH.  We've also prioritized online courses (because of financial constraints) to those that really lend to rhetorical discussion and master teaching, rather than skills instruction. For us, that means the Great Books courses such as VPSA's Omnibus and WH Great Conversation. I can find math instruction, or even science instruction, from a variety of (cheaper) online, DVD or book-based options. But having a master-mentor teacher lead my child through an in-depth study of Dante or Plato, with rich, participatory student discussion...$700 per year is a bargain. 

 

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For us, the cost of Lukeion classes has been money well spent. With the discounts for multiple courses plus early registration, I think it works out to around $500 for 32 weeks of live classes, with weekly homework and quizzes, plus the NLE/NGE. The level of instruction is exceptional, and they offer a ton of additional online resources. Greek and Latin aren't available at the CC, and the cost at the closest state uni would be much higher — plus the pace would be much faster (Wheelock's in one yr) and DS wouldn't have been able to start in middle school.

 

For those looking for a cheaper alternative to online classes, the Teaching Company/Great Courses lectures can provide the "teaching" part, if the parent doesn't mind providing the discussion and grading. The Course Guidebooks provide plenty of essay and discussion questions, and some are practically textbooks in their own right (e.g. the Guidebook for Barbarian Empires of the Steppes is 400+ pages). Some libraries carry them, or you can get the audio versions from Audible for $10-15 (without guidebooks though), or you can buy the DVDs and resell them when you're done. And of course there's also Coursera, EdX, and various other MOOCs.

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This discussion has made me realize how grateful we should be for our local university. Whilst I'm not looking forward to paying tuition this semester ($1250) and buying books ($500), is is HALF of what I would be paying if not for DE. When the older kids were in high school, I was paying fees AND $300 a credit. Now, it's no fees and $100 a credit. 

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Community college classes are subsidized so the cost you pay is not the real cost of the class. Even so, we would pay about $600 plus transportation for a community college class, so online is better if equal for us.

yes we pay special county taxes that provide a lot of the so-called subsidized part.  I have to give the local large CC chancellor credit when the state cut out payments he lopped off 3 branch presidents that made good salaries as one of his first actions.

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Does anyone know the typical/average size class for Wilson Hill, Well-Trained Mind, Memoria, Veritas, DO, etc?  

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My kids took Well Trained Mind chemistry this past year. There were four kids in their class.

wow that is small and of course cost per pupil would be higher

 

How big are the DO classes?

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The Derek Owens classes are self paced. I have no idea how many students he has at one time. I know that he turns around assignments and test within 24 hours most of the time and I can't remember a time where it was more than 48 hours.

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Online classes are less expensive that local homeschool classes here.  High school science and math run about $75 per student per month, so about  $675 per month.   Having taught elementary and middle school co-op classes, I can attest that they are a huge amount of work.  For a 1.5 hour class each week, I would work 6-10 hours to prepare, then grade, for that class.

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We have yet to enroll in an online course, but I am certain they are in our future. Since the prices are about the same as local college prep level tutorials here, I don't think they are out of line. Actually some are a better deal since many of them meet 2x a week while our local ones are usually only 1x.

 

I think the teaching expertise, the time and the load off my plate is worth the $. It seems clear that WTMA and others like it are serious about hiring excellent teachers.

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If the classes cost $695 each, and my child enrolled in seven of them for a full year of course work (math, language arts, history, science, foreign language, theology, and some elective) it would cost $4,865. That's far, far less than the actual cost of brick and mortar schools. Private b&m schools that cost near or less than that are usually heavily subsidized by a church or other benefactors.

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Online classes have filled an important niche for us. 

 

In my experience, the value of a live instruction class is all about the skill of the instructor. If my child is provided 3 hours of live instruction per week, with a master teacher who knows their subject inside and our, who love kids, AND who can trascend the online classroom format and provide a authentic, relationtional classroom experience, it is WELL worth the investment. 

 

We've also experienced online courses that did not meet those expectations, particularly in the area of the instructor being able to bridge the relationship gap online. And in those cases, I should have spent half the money for a self-pace, static-content course. Some instructors can reach through that web-platform and connect with students, and some just cannot. 

 

We've had great experiences with most of the Veritas Press Online Academy courses, and next year are enrolled in a couple of courses from Wilson Hill because some of the most skilled teachers we've enjoyed at VPSA are teaching courses for WH.  We've also prioritized online courses (because of financial constraints) to those that really lend to rhetorical discussion and master teaching, rather than skills instruction. For us, that means the Great Books courses such as VPSA's Omnibus and WH Great Conversation. I can find math instruction, or even science instruction, from a variety of (cheaper) online, DVD or book-based options. But having a master-mentor teacher lead my child through an in-depth study of Dante or Plato, with rich, participatory student discussion...$700 per year is a bargain. 

 

The bolded is an EXCELLENT point, IMO.

 

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I find it interesting that in a time when athletes, politicians, actors, and others make so much, our culture sometimes seems to be very concerned about paying too much for the people we entrust to teach our children.

 

 

Shouldn't we be more concerned that they are adequately compensated, which will prompt competition and attract the best to the profession, thus increasing teaching standards and effectiveness?

Hmmm . Well, first I am not entrusting my children to anybody. I am sitting with them as they watch a computer screen of a live or recorded lecture.😃

I love my teacher friends and the sentiment expressed, but we live in a free market economy. Why don't teachers get paid more? Too many people want to and can teach. We also have very few ways of distinuishing super star teachers from mediocre. Information is cheap and plentiful, so we don't need teachers to inform, we need them to teach concepts.

Lastly, because it is optional. If we have homeschooled to the highschool level, many / all of us are very capable of reviewing/ self-educating to teach all subjects ourselves. It can be a great option, but we can still use the WTM method and teach our own especially with friends who have different skill sets than ourselves.

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Hmmm . Well, first I am not entrusting my children to anybody. I am sitting with them as they watch a computer screen of a live or recorded lecture.😃

 

I guess it depends on what we mean by entrusting and whether we are speaking in general terms about education or about issues more specific to distance learning.

 

 

I love my teacher friends and the sentiment expressed, but we live in a free market economy. Why don't teachers get paid more? Too many people want to and can teach. We also have very few ways of distinuishing super star teachers from mediocre. Information is cheap and plentiful, so we don't need teachers to inform, we need them to teach concepts.

 

My post was more than a greeting card sentiment. I disagree with the bolded. Once again, we would need to define terms and determine if we are dealing with generalities or specific circumstances.

 

Lastly, because it is optional. If we have homeschooled to the highschool level, many / all of us are very capable of reviewing/ self-educating to teach all subjects ourselves. It can be a great option, but we can still use the WTM method and teach our own especially with friends who have different skill sets than ourselves.

 

I strongly disagree with this. I imagine our situations, students, expectations, and goals are dramatically different. Capable and best have different meanings... Someone who has an advanced degree, decades of experience in a field, and a passion for teaching is far better than someone spending a few months researching and reading about a subject. Very few people have extensive education and experience in several diverse subjects.  I'm happy to spend my time and money finding and paying people who have advanced degrees in the subject at hand. (Some may even continue to work in the fields they are teaching.)  YMMV. :)

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We have been extremely happy with Landry Academy classes. The retail prices for the classes are comparable to the prices you shared in the original post. But if you get on Landry's email list they offer huge discounts once a year.

I just paid $58 per semester for "generic" classes. I bought them a year and a half in advance but the beauty is you can determine which classes they will be at a much later date. The discount is steep but they are a year and a half away! It's a wonderful option!

 

Elise in NC

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So for us there are two sides of this debate. I have considered teaching online classes and I just can't justify spending the time for such low pay in spite of the flexibility and the fact I love to teach. I recognize that online class providers really can't make money and charge less.

 

On the other hand, for us CC classes are much cheaper than online classes. Homeschoolers get no discount for live classes at the CC, but tuition is only $98/credit hour. You tack on some fees and still stay well below $500 for a 3 credit class. For online classes homeschoolers do get a discount and those are only about $40/credit hour. All that and we aren't dependent on taking an exam at the end in order to receive college credit (or having no credit option at all). CC is subsidized by the state and school districts. It is a public school we are happy to take advantage of. 

 

My kids did very few online classes. They were just too expensive to justify. With the few we have done, some have ended up feeling "worth it" and some haven't. I would never claim that they are overpriced, but I would say they aren't always a good value for families.

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As the availability of online classes grows, individuals who would have otherwise not been able to get an education are earning the degree that they want. Flexible hours and a work-at-your-own-pace atmosphere, online courses are heavensent for those with family, jobs, or other commitments. But with all the conveniences that go along with online courses, they are quite a bit more expensive than on campus classes.

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What I find particularly painful is that often times these sorts of classes don't lead to any recognized credit.  Our local CCs charge less and one can get credit.  I'd rather spend the money there. 

 

 

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Yikes! The online classes that I've looked at for our rising 9th grader are $500 - $675 each. Wilson Hill, Well-Trained Mind, Memoria, Veritas, Circe, etc. No brick and mortar expenses involved, right? It looks like many of the teachers conduct classes from home. Why so much money?

You still pay for infrastructure. It's just electronic infrastructure.

 

And I pay WAY more for health care that I don't get, not to mention giving tax breaks to churches that I don't use, than anyone is paying for public schools. So I don't really buy that complaint. You can't get civilized society a la carte. I don't mean it isn't offered. I mean it doesn't and cannot work that way.

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