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Outsourcing College Degrees

This is where we think college degrees are going. Sharp, progressive schools have long ago figured out that they can’t develop curriculum fast enough to keep up with changes in the real world, no matter the field.

Their accreditors are too stodgy. Their faculty are too territorial and entrenched.

They need an outsource solution that can move fast, provide world-class quality and accountability, and keep their students at the leading edge.

We’re working on it.

The Program Development Challenge
One of the greatest challenges facing all colleges and universities is the need to develop and deploy new degree programs. The need to do so rapidly and with extraordinary quality further complicates the issue.

Most colleges and universities are not configured to quickly develop and deploy new education programs. They are staffed by experts, and often serve under bureaucratic accreditation regimes, which slows down their ability to quickly create and offer programs.
Cost Barriers
Further, even if schools are able to quickly configure new programs, the cost to develop and deploy them is prohibitive, especially when there is no guarantee of a payback.

As a result, most schools limit themselves to the “standard” degree programs, both in the classroom and in their online and distance learning operations. In the distance education marketplace, they compete head-to-head with other schools who offer almost exactly the same product as they do.
The Dilemma
Consequently, schools such as those featured in the DETC survey results sit on the sharp tip of a dilemma: they need to differentiate themselves from the 1800 other schools offering the convenience of distance education, yet lack to ability to bring new products to market.

Partnering To Increase Enrollments
Outsource Degree Programs

Progressive institutions of higher education have begun to think in terms of outsource solutions to resolve many of their operating issues. Outsourcing degree programs is one sensible approach to solving their program development dilemmas

    Advantages of Outsourcing
    Outsourcing degree programs offers colleges and universities several important advantages:

  • Rapid Development – Often, degree programs can be tailored and launched within 30 days
  • Creative Product – Degrees are easily configured to meet innovative and unique market niches
  • Cost Effectiveness – The cost to create and deploy degrees is significantly less than the cost of doing it in-house, both in terms of time and money

Outsourcing Options
Schools may choose from several outsource degree options:

  • Turnkey Comprehensive Programs – in which schools may contract out the entire development, deployment and delivery process, including faculty
  • Content-Only Programs – in which schools may contract out the development process, but deploy and deliver the degrees themselves, employing their own faculty members
  • Blended Programs – in which schools may contract out any a portion of the overall process

Should You Outsource Degree Plans?

We outsource complete degree plans, so we often hear the question, “Should we really outsource a degree?” After all, there are accreditation concerns, faculty issues, and quality control to maintain.

These are excellent points, and great issues to consider when deciding to outsource a degree. However, in this age of intense competition for students, outsourcing a degree has many advantages.

Whether or not to outsource depends upon two major factors: 1.) whether it suits your model for innovation and 2.) whether your outsource partner understands your environment and requirements.

Opportunities in Outsourcing
There are many great reasons to consider outsourcing degree programs. By “outsourcing,” we mean contracting with a partner to provide some combination of the content, structure, and instructional process that make up an academic degree program.

Outsourcing can mean simply purchasing a program to be offered by local faculty. It can mean contracting to have a specialized degree program developed. Or it can mean entering into an agreement in which the outsource partner provides a turnkey degree solution, including program, structure, and instructional faculty.

    Although it may not seem so at first glance,
    licensing or purchasing a degree program can represent a significant savings over developing one in-house. Cost, as we are using the term, must be measured in both money and time. Developing a degree in-house can be brutally expensive by both measures. For many fields, such as Bioterror Security or Digital Media Production, change is occurring so rapidly that the average institution is simply not possible to develop an entire degree before it becomes obsolete!The other important cost measurement related to outsourcing is the risk associated with non-compliance, especially as it relates to accreditation. We work carefully with each client to make sure our programs meet their institutional profiles and accreditor’s expectations.Time To Market
    Outsourcing a program is the most efficient way to move to market quickly. Related to the cost issues discussed above, every day that a degree program is “in development” is a day it loses the opportunity to enroll students. It is also a day that competitors can use to get ahead.

    With our programs, “time to market” is literally days, usually 60 to 90 at most. We use those days to configure our degree programs to your specifications, make any necessary customizations, and load them into your online learning platform, if needed.

    In many cases, clients can be offering their new degree plans for the following semester.

    The degree development process makes it difficult for most institutions to develop truly innovative degree programs. Sometimes there are “too many cooks” working to brew up a new degree plan, and the process gets bogged down. Other times, there are too few reality checks, so well-meaning faculty committees produce implausible or unmarketable degree product.

    We test our degree programs across a broad spectrum of variables, including current trends in education, emerging trends in industry, and profound shifts in areas such as national security or health practice.

    Perhaps most important, we test our ideas across a wide spectrum of institutions and providers. The feedback we receive from you and your competitors is invaluable in helping us shape the degree plans we offer today, and the ones we will introduce tomorrow.

Issues in Outsourcing
Just as there are outstanding opportunities in outsourcing degrees, so there are important issues and potential landmines to understand as well. It is crucial that your outsourcing projects be structured so that they do not detract from your overall mission or erode your base of credibility.

    Maintaining Institutional Control
    We are careful to be sure that every program is tailored to match our client’s institutional profile and to fit within their span of institutional control. The client’s situation and accreditation relationships drive decisions such as program level (ie., certificate only, bachelors, masters), assessment measures, and faculty deployments, among others.
    We are aware of the importance of institutional control, especially for accredited institutions. Our programs are tailored to meet institutional control standards for each client.
    Reporting Systems and Relationships
    With an outsource program, it is important to establish clear and mutually agreeable reporting relationships at the outset. Arrangements such as revenue sharing, traffic sharing, and content sharing can be confusing and cause irritation to the outsource relationship.
    All of our programs are offered for either license or purchase. Our license fees are due on a monthly basis. Sales arrangements are made up front. With either arrangement, clients are welcome to enroll as many students as they wish, serve the courses in as many platforms or formats as they wish, and integrate the programs into as many offerings as they wish.

    Learning Management Systems
    Especially in the online environment, a “gap” can emerge between the format in which the courses are designed and the format required by the client’s learning management system.

    In the academic environment, this “gap” can be addressed by instructional technologists or support staff members. In an outsource environment, it can become difficult to decide who should handle converting and adapting materials to the client’s learning management system.

    We believe it is our obligation to provide programs that are ready to serve. With our client’s permission, we offer to convert and upload all program content into their learning management system (“permission” refers to the occasional desire for clients to keep their LMS private).

How to Outsource
If you have never purchased curriculum or outsourced a program before, it may be a challenge to envision the process. There are several ways to structure an outsourcing arrangement, including license and purchase options. There are also multiple ways to arrange for instruction of an outsourced program.

    With a license agreement, clients pay a monthly fee for the use of our degree programs (36 month minimum commitment). They are entitled to unlimited upgrades as the program content is updated to reflect changes in the environment or technology. The client’s right to offer the programs ends at the close of the license period.
    With a purchase agreement, clients pay a single fee for unlimited use of our programs at their own discretion. They are entitled to unlimited upgrades for the first six months after purchase.
    Outsource Courses – Insource Faculty
    Clients can handle the instruction of outsource courses by matching the courses with their own faculty members.
    Oursource Courses – Outsource Faculty
    Clients can handle the instruction of oursource courses by contracting with us for a
    turnkey solution, which includes qualified, pre-approved faculty members for each course. (Turnkey solutions priced separately from purchase or license agreements.)

The Future of Oursourcing
The benefits and opportunities associated with outsourcing degree programs make the outsource model highly attractive. Especially in an age of cost sensitivity, cash-flow demand, and constant rapid change, it makes sense for some institutions to pursue outsource arrangements for some of their programs.

We believe our programs will greatly benefit those institutions.