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The topic of budget and staffing is closely connected with the topic of funding. This section discusses the types of costs associated with operations of online learning programs where as the funding section provides information on the different ways in which online learning programs receive their financial resources. Also because the funding to begin a program is sometimes different than the ongoing funding required to operate a program, the Getting Started section has a topic dedicated to Start-Up Funding.


The cost of online learning is not a simple topic. The wide variety of online learning programs means that not all programs have the same types of costs. For example, full-time programs have costs associated with administering required state assessments, a responsibility that doesn’t exist for supplemental programs. Another difference in program costs has to do with the decision for a program to develop its own online courses vs. the decision to license course content. The former will result in some large up-front costs, while the latter will result in higher ongoing operational costs.1

In 2006, the BellSouth Foundation funded a report on the costs and funding of virtual schools. This report focused on state virtual schools and full-time online schools, but is applicable to other schools. The following excerpt identifies nine factors that have an impact on the cost of online learning.2 This study also found that the operating costs of online programs are about the same as the operating costs of operating brick-and-mortar schools.3 A number of other studies have found that online learning is less expensive than classroom instruction.4

Additional information about budget and staffing is found in the following topic pages:

Budget Categories: While many of the costs associated with running an online learning program are the same as operating a traditional school, there are differences as well. Depending on your program type [link] some cost categories may not apply to your program. This topic will help you understand the different types of expenses you will likely incur and what factors will influence whether the specific expense category will be necessary for your program. …more info

Staffing Areas: All online learning programs require program management and teachers, but what other staff is necessary for a successful program? Just as is the case in determining your budget categories, the answer to this question will vary depending on the nature of your program. This topic will help you determine the types of program staff you will need. …more info

Teacher Salaries: Depending on the size and structure of your program, you may have full-time online teachers, full-time teachers that split their responsibilities between online and traditional classroom instruction, and part-time teachers, each of which may have a different salary structure. This topic provides information on the factors that determine an appropriate salary structure for your online learning program. …more info