Handbook of Contemporary Education Economics
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Handbook of Contemporary Education Economics

Edited by Geraint Johnes, Jill Johnes, Tommaso Agasisti and Laura López-Torres

This Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of the modern economics of education literature, bringing together a series of original contributions by globally renowned experts in their fields. Covering a wide variety of topics, each chapter assesses the most recent research with an emphasis on skills, evaluation and data analytics.
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Chapter 17: The economics of distance education

Fengliang Li


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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