Distance education classes deliver subpar instruction for additional fees

CODE classes may well be the worst scam on campus

There’s no reason why an online class should cost more than an in-person one Photo courtesy of helloquence via Unsplash

By: Mishaa Khan, Peak Associate

I have taken two classes through the Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE) over the course of my degree, and I don’t intend on taking any more. The quality of instruction was poor, there was little help available, and overall they did not justify the additional costs associated with the courses. All told, the CODE classes did not meet my expectations.

In my first CODE class, we ended up having to figure out the material ourselves. Each week, we covered two very detailed chapters of the textbook and the only “teaching” we were provided were 20–30 minute lecture videos on Canvas which consisted of diagrams from the textbook. On top of that, we could only purchase the latest edition of the book because the page ranges we were told to read were based on the latest edition. There was no way to even save money buying used books.

During my second experience with CODE, my tutor marker was unavailable to meet in person (claiming it wouldn’t be fair to other students) and the class recordings were out of date. Additionally, the class required the mandatory purchase of an online access code in order to pass, which cost about $50 USD. Without it, I would have failed the course as it was a requirement to take the quizzes. All of these things made the class not worth the price I had to pay.

According to the SFU website, CODE charges a $40 supplementary fee for each course offered. When asked what this fee covered, Kanthi Jayasundera, CODE’s acting director, cited online course development, software licenses, copyright fees, and technical support.

CODE classes should not cost more than regular classes. Instead, they should cost the same because of the lack of support available from instructors/TMs who “teach” CODE courses. With all the extra expenses in mandatory textbooks and online access codes, as well as how outdated the material is, having to pay basic administrative costs as well is irritating.  

If I am going to be teaching myself without any support from the tutor marker or instructor, I don’t want to be paying more than I would for a regular class where these services are provided. I want to be taught just as well as in-person classes by being provided more lecture material, resources, and up-to-date information. I want free optional videos and readings for complex topics. I want my instructor or TM to actually be available at some point in the week if we need extra help. In short, I want my money’s worth!

Most students take distance education courses to make their lives easier, but CODE classes make our lives harder with the additional expenses and lack of resource support.  

The university recently voted to increase tuition, adding to the financial burden of students. If SFU is going to raise the price of our education, they need to be conscientious of whether they are delivering the education we are paying for.

As it stands, CODE classes are way too overpriced for the services we’re actually getting.