During summers at the college, we see an interesting array of students at the library. Some are at home for the break and are taking a course or two. Others are working on projects unrelated to this particular college but need somewhere quiet and cool. Lots of people are taking online courses and need a reliable internet connection, computer and/or printer.
I'm always amused to find myself helping someone who is taking an online course. Frequently I'm not even assisting with a technology problem -- I'm helping with a library question about journals or databases. I think this type of support is left out of calculations that tally up the costs and cost-savings of online classes. Yes, online classes are asynchronous and don't require a physical classroom. But I think they end up requiring more in-person assistance than is initially obvious, and it's important to make this point as education moves online.
This is an easy thing to theorize about, but I wonder if anyone is investigating it. It would mean studying students who are taking online courses to discover their preferences and needs. Actually, this may be just the type of interdisciplinary research topic that our new discovery service ("EasySearch" on our library home page) is ideally suited for. My first few searches brought up hundreds of thousands of results, so this may take some time, but I'll post here if I find anything noteworthy.