UNO student questions distance education fee amid pandemic

The university explains why
Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 9:54 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Some students at the University of Nebraska-Omaha are finding a fee that’s new to them in their tuition this semester.

The impact on students has some students confused like senior Dallas Luckey. He will meet his instructors only through digital technology like Zoom, which is a free service to him. Luckey was unsure why he’s being charged $455 to learn from his home. A UNO spokesperson told 6 News that the distance education fee has been place for more than 15 years at the campus. More students are likely discovering this since higher numbers of students are taking courses through online, remote, or hybrid means in an effort to reduce the population on campus.

“If you’re running a secured video chat, then yeah, I could understand, because those servers are expensive,” Luckey said. While that is true for the students it is not for the university. Zoom, Canvas, VidGrid and other digital tools used for online, remote and hybrid courses are not free services and cost the university money through licensing, training, troubleshooting, and ongoing user support among other things.

The distance learning fee that a student pays covers costs associated with Zoom licensing, support, and features that make remote learning possible. Being able to host large virtual meetings with no time limits while integrating it with other systems are not free.

UNO is charging students the online fee at different amounts. A fee explanation page says the new distance learning fee is based on a student’s schedule and how their classes are delivered. There are four categories: in-person, remote, online, and hybrid. Each are charged at different rates, according to the University.

As the school aims to reduce its on campus population, housing at the Dodge and Scott campuses have reserved housing to isolate or quarantine student who contract COVID-19, according to a University spokesperson. No additional fees are charged, unlike the online fee.

“A few of my teachers have had to buy specific supplies to make online work, so I can understand where that fee is coming from,” one freshman student said. The university said faculty members are not expected to buy their own equipment for distance learning. UNO’s Office of Digital Learning has provided training and hardware support. Similar sources have been made available to students.

A University spokesperson referred 6 News back to the UNO’s fee explanation page, which says the online fee provides resources needed to develop and support courses using technologies, adding that the costs are associated with faculty training, communication, and other quality standards.

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