Technology Costing Methodology
Introduction- The modern university paradigm is extremely complex, requiring a balance between student enrolment, staffing, procedures, stakeholder expectations and budgets. The modern educational professional must realize that the position of budgets and fiscal responsibility is tied to costs and expenditures — which have tended towards exponential increases over the last decade. This has, in effect, caused a situation of continual multiple horizontal priorities. The situation is such that even a simple schedule change or purchase of a broken machine can have dire effects upon the overall budget for the organization. Moreover, modern education is a labor-intensive industry. Fiscal dollars spent on human resource management constitute a large portion of the organization’s budget; staff forms a large percentage of that budget. Each employee hour, improperly managed, has the potential of upwards of $80-150 when taken in full consideration of time, training, taxes, delays, etc. Consider if each department simply made this type of error once per week in an organization with only 25 departments; the figure would quickly add up to over $150K per annum with only a minimal mistake, and certainly no positive affectations on the individual client (McCarthy, J., et al., 2008).
Technology Costing Methodology — An interview was conducted in early October 2013 with Ms. X for Y University, Ms. X has been Assistant Controller for the past 4 years, and holds a BA in Accounting and an MBA in fiscal management. She notes that her background has been in managerial accounting, which in many ways has proven to be inadequate for the challenges faced by modern institutions within the 20t1st century. She noted that managerial accounting has evolved within the modern business paradigm with several methods in use, depending on the type of organization and challenges therein. The gist of managerial accounting is to use information to make informed business decisions that will positively and proactively impact the organization. Some of these methods like Activity Based Accounting, Lean Accounting, Resource Consumption Accounting and Throughput Account. While she is somewhat familiar with Technology Cost Methodologies, the university has not yet adopted them as part of their standard operating procedures or best practice scenarios (Jones R., 2013).
Traditional accounting methods are over five decades old, and have not changed much in those years. Since modern organizations are different, and resources used are quite different, Ms. X agrees that new methods that look at the way resources are managed are necessary. Technology Costing Methods, for instance, focus both on the way the organization uses technology and ways to more efficiently use technology in a more efficient manner. This method models technology and the process of using technology at a basic level and then looks at ways to ensure more efficiency (for instance in cost of instruction, use of resources per student, or issues that contrast one professor and a group of TAs teaching large classes (Howard, R., et al., 2008). This method, TCM, is a simulation method that compares the costs of two approaches to institutional expansion and/or efficiency — for example, more face-to-face classes vs. more distance classes (Moore, M., et al., eds., 2008). In a real sense, then, the TCM method is not a set of accounting protocols used only as a cost/benefit analysis, but more of a decision making tool to create models that look at different ways instruction can take place and the overall longer term benefits that may be realized by academic institutions (Jones D., 2004).
Example and Analysis — University X, for instance, offers both undergrad and graduate programs. For the past few years, off campus students have been provided access to field-based and online programs through the Department of Continuing education in conjunction with specific faculty issues in various programs. One example under review is the Library Media Endorsement Program and concurrent faculty involvement based on the question of whether online or in person delivery was more efficient, filled the educational needs of the student better, and its impact on faculty. The question was if this course delivery method was more efficient and more cost effective in the long run, and how it affected faculty activities such as driving to remote locations for course delivery and advising or whether using the Internet to deliver the entire academic experience was best.
Using traditional accounting methods we find that each course loses about $15/student per credit hour. However, when using a TCM, we find that the online course costs $100 more per credit hour, but traveling to remote locations to offer the course material to those in other towns, even with a minimum of 15 students, costs nearly six times more per credit hour. The caveats were the generation of revenue per student for all types of classes and what educational benefits and features are provided from a face-to-face remote class vs. online. TCM found that it was more efficient cost wise to provide one course in a massive lecture hall that housed 500-1000 students than even online; but online is preferable to smaller distance courses at a remote location. In this case, resources are already in place for the lecture hall, staffing, etc., and therefore economies of scale are found. However, softer issues that fit more with the university’s mission of reaching out to larger populations without access to the main campus would thus hold that dual offerings of distance online courses and large lectures might be appropriate for some basic courses required in individual majors (See Appendix A) (Boeke, 2001).
In general, technology mediated delivery is more expensive than face-to-face instruction, largely due to resource allocation, faculty time and focus, and scale. The smaller the course, the more cost effective it might be to develop an online version (under 25 students), but once the infrastructure for appropriate electronic delivery is met, many courses could substantially be revamped to move to electronic delivery based on a TCM model.
Appendix A (hypothetical numbers)
Traditional view when looking at a sampling of programs:
Overview using TCM Model Templates that found distance education was not as efficient, but might be appropriate for non-fiscal reasons:
Savings using TCM Model as a predictor:
Live Vs. Satellite Location
Live Vs. EdNet
Live Vs. Online Delivery
Average Live Vs. Other Methods
(Source: Boeke; National Institute of Health, 2010).
Boeke, M. (2001, June). Technology Costing Methodology Project Casebook. Retrieved October 2013, from cs.trinity.edu: http://www.cs.trinity.edu/rjensen / EdTech/Miscellaneous/TCM_Casebook_Final.pdf
Howard, R., et al. (2008). THe Handbook of Institutional Research. New York: John Wiley.
Jones, D. (2004, June). Technology Costing Methodology Handbook. Retrieved October 2013, from wcet.wiche.edu: http://wcet.wiche.edu/wcet/docs / tcm/TCM_Handbook.pdf
McCarthy, J., et al. (2008). Financial and Accounting Guide for Not-for-Profit Organizations. New York: John Wiley.
Moore, M., et al., eds. (2008). Handbook of Distance Education. New York: Taylor and Francis.
National Institute of Health. (2010, April). Cost Analysis Methods. Retrieved from nlm.nih.gov: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/nichsr/hta101/ta10106.html
X, M. (2013, October 1). Assistant Controller University Y. (SLB, Interviewer)
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