Edited by Geraint Johnes, Jill Johnes, Tommaso Agasisti and Laura López-Torres
Chapter 17: The economics of distance education
Distance education in a variety of forms has a long history and the number of students enrolled has become enormous. But, compared with studies of traditional face-to-face education, the studies on economics of distance education are rather fewer and have not attracted much attention from the scholars of the economics of education. This chapter introduces and analyses the existing empirical studies on the economics of distance education from the perspectives of cost, efficiency, the private and social benefits, social capital and dropout. The empirical results support that distance education has its own distinctive features, such as cost advantages and economies of scale and scope, the separation of teachers and learners, the separation among learners, social capital disadvantages and high dropout rate. Meanwhile, the empirical results show that like traditional face-to-face education, distance education can not only bring significant private benefits but also a series of social benefits and social capital can improve distance education learners’ performance and benefits. Finally, with the development of the Internet and information technology, especially the explosive growth of MOOCs, this chapter predicts that distance education will become a common approach to study for ordinary people in the near future. Then this chapter offers some prospects and suggestions referring to studies of the economics of distance education in the future.
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