Forward Together: Integrating Internal Design Resources With External Partners in Higher Education

Concurrent Session 1
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Educational institutions today face increasing challenges of building up capacity to expand their online programs. Some have turned to “fee for service” option as an alternative to outsourcing to an OPM. Join us as we share and discuss our experience with integrating fee for service model with our in-house resources.

Session Takeaways: Audience attending this session will be able to discuss the benefits of leveraging an internal teams with fee for service partner to course design and development. They will see how trusting outside partners could add value to the work of an in-house team. Additionally, they will be able to articulate how beneficial it is to develop long-term relationships with external partners by setting goals and working together to meet them. Lastly, they will be able to evaluate whether this approach is appropriate for their institution.

Extended Abstract

Today, adult learners, over the age of 24, make up nearly half of all college students and nearly 74% of undergraduate student falls in the “nontraditional” category. In response to this change in student demographics, as well as learner needs and expectations, higher education institution in the US have been putting more resources and offering more courses and programs online. Cumulating with the emergence of the Sixty Year Curriculum, which focuses on developing new educational models to enable individuals to reskill as needed, colleges have started to embrace lifelong learning programs. Many colleges are now providing online professional development training such as “micro-credentialing” for employees to continually upgrade their skills. This shift toward online learning poses a great challenge to college administration and staff tasked with establishing and implementing new online courses and programs quickly and effectively. In addition, recent emergency pivot to remote education has many institutions considering alternative modes to face-to-face instruction. These include online, blended and less known modes such as hyflex and blendflex. Discussions around these alternative modes have no doubt raised questions around resource allocation for serving traditional students as well. Should colleges build up internal capacity or look to partner with an Online Program Management (OPM) to meet these new challenges?

To answer those questions, there are several different models to develop online programs. Most colleges, facing budget and resource constraints, find it challenging to build up internal capacity to kickstart online programs. Institutions who are latecomers to current trends in online program development might find it beneficial to partner with an OPM. In such cases, the top priority is to accelerate development while other institutions might look to an OPM to take on the initial risk and investment of building up their online portfolio. On the other hand, plenty of institutions are also choosing to avoid the long-term lock-ins of revenue sharing that is typical of the OPM business model by going at it alone.

Among this great debate of how to grow an online program portfolio: OPM versus in-house team, there has emerged an alternative. “Fee for service,” is an alternative to the bundling of services that OPM has traditionally operated. Under this model, more institutions are choosing to work with external partners only in specific areas where resource demands are high, such as instructional design and course design production.

During the presentation, we’ll share the lessons learned from working within the fee for service model and the synergy we created between the external partner and our internal design team in the past two years. The major benefits to this approach from an instructional design/course production perspective is that we were able to shorten our development cycle from six to two months. This allowed us to work in an iterative fashion following the agile philosophy. While we kept the design within our internal team to make sure we did not compromise the quality of our courses and our learners’ needs, we were also able to learn from the strengths and expertise of our partner. Of course, using this blended approach of working with fee for service partners and building internal capacity has its own set of challenges. However, ultimately we found this model to be ideal for our institution in staying true to our core values and mission. For the next phase, we will continue to evaluate different ways to outsource areas of high resource demand and leverage these partnerships as a catalyst for innovation to help us better serve our learners.