Background/Context: Online education has become an increasingly prevalent medium of instruction and the primary source of enrollment growth for colleges and universities. The well-documented growth of online education is often regarded as a response to rising costs in higher education, but the same cost-saving strategies that would allow institutions to increase their net revenue through online education may also serve to endanger the quality of student learning.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This study explores how leading universities reconcile financial and quality considerations when offering online education.
Research Design: Drawing from interviews with 22 administrators, faculty members, and instructional designers, we conduct a qualitative analysis of how to navigate financial and quality considerations pertaining to the development and delivery of online courses and exclusively online degree programs.
Findings/Results: The central finding of this study focuses on the importance and pursuit of quality as an actionable goal when offering online education. We also find emergent themes related to the business model of online education, the influence of online education on the changing faculty role, and the shift toward student-centered learning in online education.
Conclusions/Recommendations: We offer a novel conceptual model, the Model of Quality-Driven Decision-Making in Online Education, to show how universities can navigate financial and quality considerations when offering online education in higher education.