Like a lot of professors whose field of study is higher education, Jeffrey C. Sun frequently gets asked by administrators at his institution to weigh in on thorny issues they’re debating. When his bosses at the University of Louisville were considering how best to expand their online learning offerings, they asked Sun, a Distinguished University Scholar, for his thoughts on whether the university should hire an online program management (OPM) company or build the in-house expertise itself.“I realized there was not a guide for the field about what to consider, and rather than moving blindly into this world of outsourcing, particularly for a core academic function, I wanted to make sure they had something to work with,” said Sun. So he set about to create just such a guide.
The result, “In-House or Outsource?,” was published this month by Louisville and UPCEA, an association that focuses on professional, online and continuing education. Sun and his co-author, Heather A. Turner, an adjunct assistant professor and Sun’s colleague at Louisville’s SKILLS Collaborative, worked with UPCEA to survey chief online learning officers, quantitatively and qualitatively, about why their institutions did (or didn’t) use outside providers to deliver virtual learning—and their experiences if they did.
The report isn’t the first to examine the role OPMs—or online enablement firms, as some call them—play in the postsecondary ecosystem, but most of the …