ICASIT Develops Cost Model for Distance Learning

Posted: January 30, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Elena Barbre

The School of Public Policy’s International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology (ICASIT) has partnered with researchers from the University of Virginia to develop a model that can be used at universities throughout the country to deliver an accurate assessment of the costs of distance learning. Developed under a $400,000 ICASIT grant from the Mellon Foundation, the model uses data available in a university’s normal accounting system and other administrative sources to compare the costs of distance learning with that of traditional delivery approaches.

Stephen Ruth, director of ICASIT, says the model is a milestone in that it combines the best attributes of two important cost assessment schemes–micro-costing and activity-based costing. “This is very important methodology,” he says. “It is the first model to truly show what distance learning costs.”

John Milam, associate research professor in the University of Virginia’s School of Education, was responsible for the model’s design and integration and has given presentations about the model across the country.

The “GMU Model” is now included in the Flashlight Cost Analysis Handbook, a publication used at many U.S. universities to guide decisions about education expenditures, and the researchers hope to extend their results to regional clusters of universities in Virginia and beyond.

“This is not only a big deal in the world of education costing, but it also is a solid partnership between George Mason University and the University of Virginia that we hope will continue,” says Ruth. “This model has immense potential benefits for universities across the country.”

See the full story in the March issue of the Mason Gazette.

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