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Schools Saying No Thanks to External Online Course Design Help

Although the in-house work in preparing traditional classes to be taught online can be overwhelming, the vast majority of colleges and universities do not to use third-party vendors for online course development. Ottawa University, based in Kansas but with locations across the country, has its own curriculum design studio, says Brian Messer, vice president of online.

“We made sure the curriculum and the heart and soul of the institution remains part of the institution,” he says, adding that the school is entering into an agreement with Blackboard Education Services for other online services. “As we work closely with Blackboard and establish a deeper trust, we could utilize them in some capacity there. But for the foreseeable future, the curriculum development piece will stay with us.”

Marlboro College Graduate School (Vt.) also has no plans to use third-party companies for curriculum development, says Caleb Clark, director of the educational technology program. “It’s not something we would consider. I don’t think an outside company knows our school, and they don’t know the teacher. The teacher’s personality can get somewhat lost. Your tone and manner would get lost.”

Outsourcing is likely to remain rare, says Richard Garrett, vice president and principal analyst for online higher education at Eduventures. “There’s actually a tension. The model may start to break down if too many schools are working with [vendors] because they will start to have multiple programs of a similar kind. They might need to set programmatic or geographic boundaries. There may be an upper limit.”