Экономические аспекты вынужденного перехода на дистанционное обучение, или Какую цену заплатили вузы за дистант
As Russian universities switched to distance education in March 2020 to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, self-paying students started questioning the fairness of tuition fees during this period. They filed petitions, emphasizing that distance learning could not be equated to face-to-face instruction, that educational services were not delivered to the full extent, and that educational quality had decreased. On those grounds, students required cutting the tuition fees down to the size of those in part-time or extramural education. To understand whether universities can afford making this step, we undertake to measure the price that they have paid for the transition to distance learning.
For this purpose, we use data from a survey of faculty teaching and curriculum organization practices carried out at a federal university between March 23, 2020 and June 21, 2020, which involved 4,099 faculty members, as well as financial records of some departments within that university. Findings show that teaching workload reduced by 15% with distance learning during the pandemic, and student–faculty interactions decreased 1.7 times. However, the overall amount of faculty workload increased by 50%, first of all due to a 2.5-time rise in curriculum organization activities. Therefore, transition to distance education led to a significant increase in faculty workload, student contact hours remaining at the same level. Furthermore, the university invested heavily in the transition and support for the learning process during the pandemic, in particular by financing the establishment of a new department for digitalization of learning processes.
An inference is made that distance education imposed by the pandemic is not restricted to part-time or extramural studies. Decisions about cutting tuition fees for self-paying students should be made at the institutional level, with due regard for faculty workload and digitalization costs.