Professors typically don’t worry about what price point a course will sell at, or what amenities might attract a student to pick one course over another. But a new online platform, Professor Direct, lets instructors determine not only how much to charge for such courses, but also how much time they want to devote to services like office hours, online tutorials, and responding to students’ e-mails.
The new service is run by StraighterLine, a company that offers online, self-paced introductory courses. Unlike massive open online courses, or MOOC’s, StraighterLine’s courses aren’t free. But tuition is lower than what traditional colleges typically charge—the company calls its pricing “ultra-affordable.” A handful of colleges accept StraighterLine courses for transfer credit.
Instructors who offer courses on Professor Direct will be able to essentially set their own sticker prices, as long as they are higher than the company’s base price. One professor teaching an online mathematics course with a base price of $49, for example, plans to charge $99. For each student who signs up, the company will pocket the $49 base price, and the professor gets the remaining $50.
The instructor in that math course is Dan Gryboski, who has previously taught as an adjunct at the University of Colorado but is taking the year off from traditional teaching so he can stay home and take care of his three young children. He views Professor Direct as a way to keep up his teaching within the time windows he now has for professional work.
It’s also up to each professor using Professor Direct to decide what services to offer students in addition to a core set of materials prepared by the company. Mr. Gryboski says he is promising students who sign up for his two math courses that he will quickly respond to any e-mail questions they have about the material, that he will be available for online office hours for two hours a week, and that he will create additional tutorial videos to supplement the existing materials for the courses. <Read more.>