Why Are Online Classes More Expensive? (6 Reasons!)

Online classes have fast become the norm over the past decade, especially during the global pandemic that happened not long ago. Interestingly enough, many online classes are more expensive than those conducted face-to-face. But why is that?

Related: Why College Tuition Is Actually Higher For Online Programs

Online classes are more expensive because they cost more than in-person ones. Those costs include curriculum development, hiring specialized staff, and paying for infrastructure like software and systems to conduct the classes. Besides that, maintenance and upgrade costs also add to the expense. At the same time, prices can increase if they’re in-demand classes from prestigious institutions.

Read this guide to dive deeper into why online classes are more expensive than in-person ones. By the end, you’ll understand why they cost more and can decide whether they’re worth it.

Why Are Online Classes More Expensive?

Why Are Online Classes More Expensive?

The high costs associated with online classes might be confusing at first glance, but they’re high for several reasons. Those reasons make a lot more sense once you understand what goes into carrying out an online class.

Here are 6 reasons online classes are more expensive:

1) Curriculum Development Costs

Why Are Online Classes More Expensive?

Why Are Online Classes More Expensive?
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Any class, regardless of whether it’s online or in-person, requires a curriculum that spells out precisely what a student is going to learn from it. However, many people don’t realize that the teacher delivering the class isn’t the only person involved in putting that curriculum together.

While a teacher might specialize in delivering the class, the curriculum also needs input from subject matter experts and course designers, to name a couple.

More interactive courses, such as those delivered online, will also require people like multimedia specialists and instructional technologists to ensure that the class is as engaging for students as possible.

By involving those different experts, the overall cost to develop an online class becomes higher than a conventional, in-person one.

2) Specialized Staff

Why Are Online Classes More Expensive?

An online class curriculum only needs to be developed only once before it’s rolled out to students many times afterward. Once the class is ongoing, another group of staff and administrators will be required to ensure that it goes smoothly throughout the semester or whatever period it runs.

Earlier, you read about how a teacher or facilitator is necessary for the development stage. That’s also true once the online class has started.


But aside from them, there will also need to be other support staff who ensure the online class goes as smoothly as possible.

Those staff members will support students by:

  • Troubleshooting any technical issues.
  • Administer online assessments.
  • Make teaching materials available for students.
  • Any other support students might require.

Not only are these specialized staff members required for when the class starts, but they’re also required throughout the semester. 

Depending on the online class, that could mean several days, weeks, or even months, adding to the class’ operating costs.

3) Infrastructure Costs

Why Are Online Classes More Expensive?

An online class doesn’t require a classroom or lecture hall to happen. However, it still needs the proper infrastructure to make it possible for students to learn.

While an in-person class requires tables and chairs, online courses need online platforms, digital education systems, and more.

Of course, those platforms and systems need a place to run, which means the class also requires servers to host all the data. Those servers make the online class possible and store everything from teaching materials, assessments, grades, and other necessary files.

On top of that, they also require tech support to ensure students can access the system and receive the education they’ve paid for.

There are plenty of online education systems, so prices are competitive. Still, the best systems cost money, which is passed on to the students through the fees they pay.

4) Technical Upgrades and Maintenance

Why Are Online Classes More Expensive?

At this point, you’ve seen how online classes rely heavily on various forms of technology like software and platforms. That heavy reliance comes with plenty of benefits, but it also brings a significant downside.

For example, relying so heavily on technology means any disruptions in the system will negatively affect the online class. The class could suffer delays and fail to finish on time.

Or worse yet, students won’t have enough time to cover the full online class curriculum, thereby missing out on important learning opportunities.

Because of all those potential problems, the people who run online classes must invest a lot of money in maintaining the systems they use and upgrading them occasionally.

Related: 7 Keys For Successfully Updating Online Courses

Paying for maintenance and upgrades is the only way to minimize any potential downtime so that students can receive their online education with little or no interruptions.

Otherwise, students might question why they pay such expensive fees for an online class that doesn’t run smoothly.

These upgrades and maintenance costs will increase if the online class becomes larger.

Remember: having more students means placing a heavier burden on the infrastructure used to run the class. The more students enroll in the class, the more data must be stored and processed.

5) Licensing Fees

Why Are Online Classes More Expensive?

licensing fees
Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Here’s something that most people aren’t aware of, even if they understand the technological infrastructure supporting online classes: there’s also a price to pay for licensing and copyright.

Related: Online Education Costs More, Not Less

Online classes use a lot of proprietary information and resources. For example, the class might share private research information, videos, or other recordings owned by someone else.

These materials are subject to copyright law, which means anyone wanting to use them must get permission from their rightful owners and likely pay a fee for doing so.

Unfortunately, those fees also add to the online class’ overall operational cost. And as you read earlier, those costs are passed to students through higher prices.

6) Prestige and High Demand

Why Are Online Classes More Expensive?

Prestige and High Demand
Photo by Tianyi Ma on Unsplash

Last but certainly not least, many online classes are significantly more expensive simply because they are in high demand. The people running those classes will want to maximize their profits, especially when they know many want to sign up.

That’s especially true with online classes from prestigious institutions around the world.

For example, an online class from an Ivy League university will charge higher fees because they know that people are willing to pay a premium to access their lessons.

Aside from the quality of the online class, people are willing to pay extra for that opportunity to earn a prestigious qualification from that university.

Of course, the expensive fees aren’t just about making a profit. Instead, it’s also about filtering out students who aren’t serious about the course, thereby maintaining the prestige and reputation of the course.

Raising the price of an online class helps ensure that students signing up won’t take the class lightly.in

Final Thoughts

So, let’s answer why Are Online Classes More Expensive?

Online classes are more expensive because of the high costs necessary to design and facilitate them. Those costs include hiring people with specialized knowledge and paying for the technology and software required to conduct those classes.

Besides that, the expensive costs also come from occasionally maintaining and upgrading that technology and software. Lastly, costs can also be high because of the prestige and high demand associated with the class, such as those from well-known institutions.

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