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Development of a Web-based System to Estimate the Cost of Distance Learning: A Case Study at the Jordanian Universities
Mohamed Ababneh, Mohammed Al Weshah, Abdel Karim Baareh
Abstract—Distance learning has become one of the most important and familiar education learning programs now a days. Many universities and educational centers started establishing online courses that facilitates, encourages and increase the numbers of participants, due to the time and distance saving. In this type of learning students do their work at home or office and be in touch with faculty members at the university and other class mates via e-mail, electronic forums, videoconferencing and other forms of computer communication. When establishing a distance learning education program, one of the first items needs to be considered is the cost of developing such a program. In this paper, we develop a web based cost analysis tool, which will considerably help universities; institutes and funding organization to estimate the required budget that initially allow a distance education system to be implemented. The developed web based system considered will compute the initial fixed cost and variable cost, the growth rate and analyzes the expected benefit for the organization over upcoming years. Index Terms—Distance learning, Cost Estimation, Web-Based System, On Line Education, Network Connections.




amount of time, the initial investment cost, and the growth rate expected each year which will be necessary to develop online courses. Many factors affect the distance learning approach such as the resources and the technical availability, educational knowledge, availability of content, the content types either electronic or not, faculty and developers availability, well knowing the course complicity and clearly stating the objectives and the course desired output, type of instructional strategies necessary, and programming needed.


istance learning can be defined as the delivery of education or training through electronically mediated instruction. This includes satellite, video, audio graphic, computer and multimedia technology. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) defines distance learning as educational or instructional activities in which students are separated from faculty and other students. Distance learning can also contain a variety of learning materials such as the audio, computer conferences, internet learning steps, video, disk and television equipments [1]. This means that both the classroom instructors and the learners are far from each other and separated geographically, but still connected through the different equipments that are necessary for communications [2]. Distance learning can be built in different wide ranges that all characterized by the separation of place and/or time between the learner and the instructor, and/or between learners and learning resources connected via the media equipments [3]. For a university to establish a distance learning facilities, number of factors need to be taken in consideration. A university must establish a suitable laboratories, computer systems and networks facilities such that it can provide outstanding online courses [4, 5]. Many factors make it difficult to place a simple formula on determining the



From the statistics provided by the United Nations, it was found that the internet hosts number in the developing countries is too little [6, 7]. For example, the number of internet hosts in Africa, Asia, Central America and South America are 0.2%, 7.86%, 0.4%, and 1.1% of the worldwide hosts, respectively. This leads to the fact that there is an urgent need to increase the investment in this area. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank considered Distance Learning as highly viable tool to provide the knowledge to poorest countries on the earth, while at the same time stimulating the growth of fledgling telecom infrastructures.

• M. Ababna. is with the Information Technology Department, Al-Balqa Applied University, Salt, Jordan. • M.Weshah. is with the Information Technology Department, Al-Balqa Applied University, Salt, Jordan. • A. Baareh. is with the Computer Science Department, Al-Balqa Applied University, Ajloun College, Ajloun, Jordan.



Establishing a distance learning program requires some basic infrastructure facilities. Since we have a specific concern about Jordan, we will provide some statistics about



the internet connectivity so far. Recently it was reported by the Department of Statistics (DoS) in Jordan that around a third of Jordanian households have PCs, but only 16% these are connected to the Internet. The survey, which was carried out during February and March of 2007, covered a representative sample of 3,107 families from across the country’s regions in rural and urban areas. The survey also indicated that the 64% of the Jordanian households that do not have computers cannot afford one. Half of the members of these families are computer illiterate. This is why the Government in Jordan started to develop a plan of action in order to enhance Internet penetration up to 50% of the population by 2011 from the current 12% are on track. The ministry of ICT also started a nation wide project to provide public and private university students with laptops at “competitive” prices. Around 150,000 university students will be able to purchase high-quality laptops at a price of $420 with monthly instalments of $10.



The web software tools used is classified into two categories. They are the Asynchronous web based software suites and the Synchronous web based real-time software suites [9, 10]. In the following sections we will provide few examples for both cases.



Computer revolution is the main power and the important magic stick that affected positively in human life in this century. Computer technology covers different fields such as computer networks, processing power of personal computers, and the improvement in the magnetic storage technology. This improvement accelerated and encouraged the distance learning to overcome the difficulty of distance and time to reach the learners. Computer applications for distance education fall into four broad categories as provided in [8]: 1. Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI): In this approach the computer is used as a self-contained teaching machine to present separate lessons to achieve specific educational objectives. There are a number of CAI modes, counting: tutorial, simulations and games, and problem-solving. 2. Computer Managed Instruction (CMI): In this approach the computer’s branching, storage, and retrieval capabilities is used to organize instruction and track student records and progress. The CAI is combined with CMI. 3. Computer Mediated Communication (CMC): In this approach the computer applications is used to facilitate the communication between various parties involved in the system. For instance electronic mail, computer conferencing, and electronic bulletin boards. 4. Computer-based Multimedia HyperCard, hypermedia: In this approach the multimedia is used to integrate the various elements (voice, video, movement) and computer technologies into a single, easily accessible delivery system. It is one of the most important and powerful tool in handling, directing and controlling the distance learning now a days.

5.1 Blackboard's product Blackboard is one of the Asynchronous Web Based Software Suites. It has a number of levels to consider. The Blackboard Level 1 is a classic course management system based on templates which is available for both UNIX and NT servers. The Blackboard product suite does not provide significant internal content development/authoring tools, but has important features from many stand-alone content development tools. Blackboard Level 2 adds some community building features (essentially pages to provide links to institutional web sites and discussion boards for student and community interest groups) around course management and calls their portal product internally [9]. Blackboard Level 3, which markets itself as a scalable, robust enterprise-class system capable of connecting to college's student information systems (SIS) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. Blackboard Enterprise requires very significant custom programming and consulting from Blackboard to integrate into a tightly integrated campus wide tool. 5.2 Edutorium Edutorium is an integrated e-learning and knowledge share platform with 3D interfaces and user friendly frontend and back-end tools. It was defined as one of the Synchronous Web Based Real-time Software suites. It has a number of modules. They include learning management system, content management system and knowledge sharing facilities. It was scaled to run on normal 56.6k modems. Its streaming technology enables extensive use of animations and sound to increase interaction with the user and thereby stimulate the learning process by supporting various learning styles. Edutorium was advertised to be compliant to the international standards for elearning and can integrate internally developed content as well as third party content. It is offered as a fully hosted solution and can also be installed on the customer's own internal IT network.

There are two types of cost affect distance education [11]. They are the fixed costs and variable costs.

6.1 Fixed costs Regarding the fixed cost, it can be divided into seven different categories as mentioned down. 1. Internet Connection 2. Collocation Hosting 3. Headquarter Office 4. Operating Costs & Fixed Equipment Costs



5. 6. 7.

Preparation Costs Personnel’s Salaries & Wages Amortizations

TABLE 3 HEADQUARTER OFFICE COSTS Component Workstations LAN cards Printers Scanners CD-R CD-RW Office Staff Laser Toners Paper for Printers & FAX/year TOTAL Cost 15000 JD 100 JD 400 JD 100 JD 40 JD 100 JD 300 JD 150 JD 100 JD 16290 JD

These seven items will be the basis for computing the fixed cost of the DL of our system. In the following section, we provide detailed description of each item individually.

6.1.1 LAN & Internet Connection Cost The headquarters offices require a LAN to connect the personnel’s workstations. Therefore we need a switch, a router, an ADSL from the Telecommunications Provider, access to internet through an ADSL Internet provider, a Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) and of course (UTP) cable which is given to us for free by the Telecommunication Provider who sets up our Local Area Network (LAN) as shown in Table 1.
TABLE 1 LAN & INTERNET CONNECTION COSTS Component Switch Router ADSL (Rent Line per year) ADSL leased line (per year) UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) UTP TOTAL Cost 400 JD 1000 JD 2000 JD 85000 JD 2000 JD 100 JD 90500 JD

6.1.4 Collocation Operating Costs & Fixed Equipment Costs Operating and Fixed Equipment costs include all the costs needed for an enterprise to run properly, these costs can be shown in Table 4 and Table 5.
TABLE 4 ANNUAL OPERATIONAL COST Equipment Rent /year Electricity supply /year Telephone /year Water supply /year TOTAL (1) Cost 12000 JD 310 JD 1000 JD 100 JD 13410 JD

6.1.2 Collocation Hosting Cost To find out the hosting requirement and our enterprise needs, we ended up to the solution of Collocation Hosting, which offers many advantages and helping us in saving a huge amount on installation costs.
TABLE 2 COLLOCATION HOSTING COSTS Component Server Operating System Collocation Hosting (per year) Educational Software's licenses TOTAL Cost 5000 JD 500 JD 3000 JD 40000 JD 48500 JD

TABLE 5 FIXED EQUIPMENT COST Equipment Desks Desk Chairs Chairs Bookshelves Fax, Copier TOTAL (2) TOTAL (1)+(2) Cost 1000 JD 1000 JD 500 JD 500 JD 500 JD 3500 JD 16910 JD

6.1.5 Preparation Costs In the preparatory period, the tutors and the technician administrator are being trained. During this period, the software is also installed. The costs of the above elements are shown in Table 6. TABLE 6 PREPARATION COST
Element Pedagogical & Administrative Training Installation on a dedicated server Technician's Training TOTAL Cost 2000 JD 1000 JD 1000 JD 4000 JD

6.1.3 Headquarter office The Headquarter office costs include all the equipment costs from the workstations to the consumable such as the papers, toners etc. The workstations are under annual amortization, as shown in Table 3.



6.1.6 Salaries & Wages We have 16 people in the minimum needs to establish the job, the Chairman, the Financial Manager, the Marketing Manager, the Financial Services employee, a secretary, 10 tutors, one technical administrator and one accountant. The Salaries for these 16 people is shown in Table 7.
TABLE 7 SALARIES AND W EDGES Position Chairman /year Financial Manager /year Marketing Manager /year Technical Administrator /year Financial Services Employee /year Help Desk Employee /year Accountant /year Total Cost 20000 JD 15000 JD 15000 JD 15000 JD 10000 JD 8000 JD 5000 JD 88000 JD

1. 2.



5. 6. 7.

The numbers of students enrolling at your institution during the current Year. For example 1000. Numbers of online courses will your institution be offering during its first Semester, For example offered 30 courses as initial. Number of students do you plan on enrolling in each of your online courses Enter your answer to the nearest integer, For example average 35.1 students per course, so you would enter 35. The stipend amount that will be paid for developing each online course For example: pays a stipend on average of 1500 JD per course The flat rate stipend is for teaching an online course For example: averages 600 JD per course. The tuition rate is for online courses (per credit hour) For example: tuition rate is 40 JD. The estimate that the percentage of growth rate in the number of courses offered will be for online courses at your institution For example: 20%.

6.1.7 Amortizations The Amortizations consists of two main parts. The first part type takes into the account Furniture and the rest Fixed Equipment, and the second part type considers the Hardware. We assumed that the first part is amortize over a five years and allow a 20% interest rate and second part is also amortize over a three years and allow a 35% interest rate. The final summarized total cost is shown in table 9. TABLE 8 AMORTIZATION (ANNUAL)
Amortization Furniture & Fixed Equipment Hardware Total Cost 2000 JD 6000 JD 8000 JD



Oracle JDeveloper 10g J2EE Edition complements the features of the Java Edition with an arsenal of rich coding and visual development tools for J2EE and Web services developers. Highlights include support for the latest J2EE standards (J2EE 1.4) and Web services standards (WS-I, WS-Reliability, WS-Security, JAX-RPC, etc); visual WYSIWYG editors for HTML, JavaServer Pages (JSP) and JavaServer Faces (JSF); visual page flow diagramming for Struts and JSF; integrated TopLink O/R mapping for EJB and POJO; an embedded application server for rapid editcompile-test cycles; and productive database schema development [12, 13, 14].



TABLE 9 TOTAL COMPUTED COSTS Category LAN & INTERNET Connection Collocation Hosting Headquarter Offices Salaries and Wedges Operation Cost and Fixed Equipment Amortizations (1st year) Preparation Costs Total Total Cost 188100 JD 58600 JD 16990 JD 23670 JD 9000 JD 117000 JD 11000 JD 424360 JD

The main objective of the developed web site is to guide the user during the process of filling the forms and answering questions about their institution. The site was build using Java scripting language (JDeveloper) to store a user’s answers, perform calculations, and format the results returned to a user’s web browser. In Fig 1 to Fig 6 we show number of screen shots for the proposed web based Web Based Cost Analysis Tool. Using the set of proposed values as inputs to our system we obtain the results given in Fig 7. As shown in Table 11, we get the following cost values: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. The total cost of the Internet Connection is 90500 The total of Collocation Hosting is 48500 The total of Headquarters Offices is 16290 The total of Operating & Equipment Costs is 16910 The total of Preparation Costs is 4000 The Salary Costs is 88000 The Amortization Costs is 8000 The total fixed Costs is 272200 The Capital costs are the summation of Internet Connection and Salary Costs, the Hiding Cost is Amortization costs.

6.2 Computing Variable Costs Regarding the variable cost, we divided into seven different categories. These categories are as follows: 1. Size of Institution 2. Number of Courses For Initial Offering 3. Average Number Per Student Per Course 4. Stipend For Development Courses 5. Amount of Stipend For Teaching Courses 6. Tuition Rate For Online Courses 7. Estimate Growth Rate Assume that:



Fig1: Screen shots for the Web based Tool of cost estimation for Internet Connection.

Fig2: Screen shots for the Web based Tool of cost estimation for Collection Hosting.



Fig 3: Screen shots for the Web based Tool of cost estimation for Headquarter Office.

Fig 4: Screen shots for the Web based Tool of cost estimation for Operating & Fixed Equipment.



Fig 5: Screen shots for the Web based Tool of cost estimation for Preparation.

Fig 6: Screen shots for the Web based Tool of cost estimation for Personnel’s Salaries & Wages.



Fig 7: Total Fixed Cost Distribution

Fig 8: Total Variable Cost Distribution

TABLE 10 Estimated Fixed cost for DL in Jordan

Category Size Of institution (Student/year) Number Of Courses Avg. Number of Students/Course Stipend For Development Courses Amount Of Stipend For Teaching Courses Tuition Rate For Online Courses/Hour Estimate Growth Rate Total (1st Year) Total (2st Year) Total (3st Year) Total (4st Year) Total (5st Year) Total (6st Year) Total (7st Year) TABLE 11

Mount 1000 (#) 30 (#) 35 (#) 1500 (JD) 600 (JD) 40 (JD) 20 (%) 58200.0 196800.0 298500.0 399600.0 499800.0 514800.0 514800.0

Using the set of proposed values as inputs to our system we obtain the results given in Fig 8. As shown in Table 11, the size of institution in the first year is 1000 this mean the number of student in the four year is 4000. The number of courses in first year is 30 which mean that the number in the second year is increased by 20% as a Growth Rate inputs. The average number of student in the classes is 35 students. The stipends of development courses are 1500 JD. The amount of stipends for teaching courses is 600JD and the Tuition for online Courses per Hour is 40JD.



Estimated Variable cost for DL in Jordan Category Lan & internet Cnnection Collection Hosting Headquarters Offices Operating Cost & Fixed Equipment Costs Preparation Costs Salaries & Wages Amortizations(1st Year) Total Cost 90500 48500 16290 16910 4000 88000 8000 272200.0

From the developed results we can compute the expected revenue of the implementation of DL in a university from our developed system. It was found that the distribution of the income over years is given as follows: 1. The first year is 58200JD 2. The second year is 196800JD 3. The third is 298500 4. The fourth is 399600 5. The fifth is 499800JD 6. The sixth is 514800 and 7. The seventh is 514800. In Fig 9, we show the distribution of the expected fixed, variable cost and the revenue of DL at the university level.



Fig 9: Total Fixed & Variable Cost Distribution and the Revenues.

Computers and the Internet have become an integral part of the higher education in the world. It is a big challenge for decision makers to appreciate that effective distance education can delivered via modern technologies. In this paper, we provided a guide ine to gain a better understanding of distance learning costs required before starting distance learning education system. We defined the key cost drivers. We developed a web site which can be used by practitioner to perform the required calculation to estimate the cost of DL. The recommendation we concluded is that universities and colleges should combine the use of distance learning technologies with traditional classroom courses. This will significantly help in reducing the cost of traditional education methodologies. The Ministry of Higher Education should establish a department or society that handles distance education in both public and private universities. This can be done only after knowing the real demands and the requirements for such types of programs.

stitute for Literacy, Learners-February 14, 2000 [4] P. Malgorzata, “Value development at online distance learning university”, Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 28-41, 2006. [5] H. M. El-Bakry, “Realization of E-University for distance learning”, Proc. of the 8th WSEAS international conference on Distance learning and web engineering (DIWEB'08), pp. 17-31, 2008. [6] F. Barbara, “Distance Education in Africa: New Technologies and New Opportunities,” JICA report, February 23rd, 2000. [7] T. Chen, “37 YEARS OF INTERNET, 12 YEARS OF ISPRS ONLINE”, International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Science, Vol. XXXVI, Part 6, Tokyo Japan 2006. [8] B. Willis, “Distance Education at A Glance Guide, Computers in Distance Education”, University of Idaho Engineering Outreach, 2005. [9] EduTools, Wiche’s Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET), vol. 1, no. 9, 2002. [10] C. Rattanavijai, S. Sharma, “Learning Outcomes in Web Based Synchronous and A Synchronous Learning Envirnments – Acmparitive Anylises, Information Technology and Organizations, pp. 1070 – 1072, Idea Group publishing 2003. [11] S. L., “Issues in Distance Learning”, International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, University of Colorado at Denver, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 337-365, 1996. [12] M. Rosenblum, P. Dorsey, Oracle PL/SQL Dor Dummies, Published by Wiley Publishing, Inc, June 2006. [13] J. Casteel, Oracle 10g Developer: PL/SQL Programming, Course Technology, August 2007. [14] M. Mclaughlin, J. Harper, Oracle Database 11g PL/SQL Programming Workbook, Oracle Press, Jan 2010. Mohammad F. Ababneh received his Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from Cairo University, Egypt. Currently he is Associate Professor with the Computer Science Department and the Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology, Al-Balqa Applied University, Jordan. His research interest includes Artificial Intelligence, Computer Network, Virtual Reality, and Image Processing. Dr. Ababneh has been a program committee member for many national and international conferences. He is an active member for many national computer science societies. Mohammed Al Weshah received his Msc in Computer Science from Al-Balqa Applied University, Jordan in 2005. He is a Lecturer with the Informatin Technolgy Department, Al-Balqa Applied University, Jordan. Currently he is a Phd student with the computer science Department in Malesia. His research interest includes Neural Networks, Database design, E-Learning and Software Engeneering.

[1] R. Discenza, C. Howard, K. Schenk, “The design and management of effective distance learning programs”, IGI Publishing Hershey, PA, USA, 2002. W. E. Souder., “The Effectiveness of Traditional vs. Satellite Delivery in three Management of Technology”, Master's Degree Programs in the American Journal of Distance Education, 1993. J. Polster, J. Fleischman, D. Porter, “How States are Implementing Distance Education for Adult”, NIFL National In-

Abdel Karim Baareh received his Ph.D. in Informatics from
Damascus University, Syria in 2008. Currently, Dr. Baareh is a faculty member with the Computer Science Department, Al-Balqa Applied University, Ajloun College, Jordan. He is the Chairman of the Applied Science Department at Ajloun College since 2009. His research interest includes Neural Networks, Fuzzy Logic, Image Processing and Genetic Algorithms.



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