By Logan Garrett, Staff Writer –
For every online class at UTC, students are charged a $56 online support fee per credit hour, but it may surprise students and faculty alike with how this money is actually spent.
Considering UTC offered 332 online courses in the Spring semester alone, this fee has generated a substantial amount of money for online courses; however, the university has amassed a surplus from this fund.
“There has been some accumulation of dollars of the online fee,” said Robert Dooley, the Interim Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor. “We’re going to need to use this to support our faculty, both in terms of supporting them through the [Quality Matters] process and incentivizing faculty through Walker Learning.”
Historically, the university has used this revenue to support multiple programs, including Quality Matters, which is intended to standardize learning objectives and assist educators with administering online courses, and Camtasia, a screen-recording and editing application that allows professors to post their lectures online.
These programs are operated by the Walker Center for Teaching and Learning, which receives 10 percent of the revenue from the online course fee.
The largest portion of the revenue, 42 percent, goes to each college, and the deans of those colleges allocate that money how they see fit.
“Some colleges keep it in college, and then others distribute it to the departments that earned the fee by offering the courses,” said Dr. Dawn Ford, the Assistant Provost and Director of the Walker Center. “In the past, the provost has given guidelines by which the money can be spent, and the deans are the ones who make sure that happens.”
Some colleges have developed incentive programs that encourage professors to teach these classes along with other initiatives which benefit online courses.
However, some educators feel like this money is not being properly utilized within all colleges and departments.
“I don’t believe they’re being consistently allocated,” said Katherine Winters, an online
professor for the Computer Science Department. “Some department professors get more money for teaching an online class, and other department professors, like mine, get nothing. Now that’s an inconsistency.”
At the next faculty senate meeting on April 19, Dooley and Richard Brown, the vice
chancellor of finance and administration, will present a document to the senate illuminating exactly how this revenue is used.
Brown would like to coordinate with students as well as faculty about how this money will be spent.
“We’re not going to fail to talk to students about this,” said Brown. “I think we’re going to ask students ‘how do we grow this’ and ‘what do students really want out of this?’”
The administration is confident that their collaboration with the deans, faculty and students will provide the best route as to how to spend the surpluses.
Maddi Thompson, a sophomore from Franklin, Tennessee, would like to see these funds directly benefit online programs.
“I have taken online courses, and I’ve really enjoyed them,” said Thompson. “I would like to see the online course fees to be used to improve the technology of online courses. That’s why I paid them, right?”