Online learning costs for K-12 schools

Several weeks ago I asked readers of this blog to add other thoughts about cost items related to online learning. I have implemented online courses in the past but they ended because the state of California does not have a mechanism by which to fund part time online courses. A s part of my recent doctoral class, I completed a review of literature about the costs of online high school in K-12 education which you can find here. I was interested in figuring out how many of the cost items are just for online schools, just for brick and mortar schools, and how many of the cost items were the same for both. K-12 online school courses have been around for about 10 years. Some researchers suggest that teaching online costs less than teaching face-to-face, while others suggest that teaching online costs about the same.

The list below represents my current thinking based on the reports and studies I read:


  • Administration
  • Teachers
  • Students
  • Professional Development
  • Student Information System
  • State Testing System
  • Textbooks
  • Courses and course outlines approved by governing Board
  • Access to computers
  • Special Education Services
  • Student Support (counseling, library)
  • Network infrastructure
  • Telephones and network


  • Buildings and Grounds maintenance
  • Security
  • Transportation
  • Energy
  • Computer and Internet access for every teacher
  • Teacher sub costs
  • Athletics
  • Music Program
  • Nursing


  • Space for offices and computer lab for students
  • Course management system
  • Course content
  • Computer and Internet access for every teacher and student
  • Mobile communication device for teachers (e.g. cell phone, Blackberry)
  • Technology support (e.g. help desk, course updating, server maintenance)
  • Marketing and advertising

The above list comes from the studies and reports completed by Florida Tax Watch (2007), Anderson et al (2006), SREB (2006), and Adsit (2004). And, the my overall review of literature regarding cost items for online schools in K-12 is here.


4 Responses to “Online learning costs for K-12 schools”

  1. 1 JackieS May 17, 2008 at 7:18 am

    Rob, this is useful information for decision makers and bottom line folk. Hope you plan to present your findings at ADEC (Alliance for Distance Education in California) and at USDLA conference.

    I’d also like to remind you of the effective tool created by West Valley College Distance Education Steve Peltz — He designed an annual report format for the different types of distance learning courses offered at the college, created a multi-departmental advisory committee, and essentially showed how much revenue the distance learning courses generated each year and over time. It was and continues to be a powerful tool. Kudos to Steve – He continues to amaze.

    See how it has grown:
    Annual report:

  1. 1 Library » Blog Archive » Online learning costs for K-12 schools Trackback on May 14, 2008 at 8:14 am
  2. 2 brick board of education Trackback on May 17, 2008 at 4:35 pm
  3. 3 UC online? Need to consider costs « California Dreamin’ by Rob Darrow Trackback on July 7, 2009 at 5:21 am

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