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Online Curriculum Development: Not a Turnkey Solution

Pearson Education President Dave Daniels bristles when he hears the word “outsourcing” used to describe contracts colleges and universities sign with outside vendors to develop online curriculum.

“The word ‘outsource’ to me is real pejorative,” Daniels says. “It sounds like the school is saying, ‘Here, take it and bring it back to us.’ When it really is a collaboration. People think there’s this big, bad for-profit giant coming and taking over.”

Pearson has helped to develop everything from a single professor’s course to entire online programs at 60 or 70 universities, Daniels says.

"The common thread is, it’s never a turnkey thing where the school says, ‘Hey, Pearson, we want a program in X.’ It’s always done in consultation, shoulder to shoulder with a lead faculty member, whether it’s done for a single professor, or an entire department or curriculum.”

Those working on the Pearson side are always people who have “advanced degrees, probably from a reputable public institution” and are “highly credentialed” in knowing how to design courses, Daniels says.

“The faculty member is the ultimate decision-maker at the end of the day.”

Help with curriculum development is a relatively rare request for Blackboard Education Services, says Katie Blot, president of the company’s global services business. Blackboard generally encourages schools to keep that capability in-house, except in certain circumstances.

“That’s one of the things folks feel like they have a strong handle on and want to own in-house,” she says. “When folks choose not to, it’s because they have speed issues. They don’t have confidence in their ability to rapidly get online versions of the courses up in the timeline they need. The other [reason] would be that they don’t have the scale of resources they need.”