Universities Around the Country Turn to Outsourced Online Education

Outsourced Online Education

Students taking an introductory journalism course at Missouri State University have access to some of the most qualified professors in the field, but these teachers are not on the university’s payroll or even its campus, for that matter. The journalism professors work for Poynter Institute, a non-profit journalism training group in St. Petersburg, and teach online classes to students at Missouri State. According to Mark Biggs, head of the media, journalism, and film department at Missouri State, the teachers from Poynter are likely to have superior credentials than per-course instructors hired from the pool of professionals available locally (USA TODAY).

Why Outsourcing Is Becoming a Common Choice

Colleges and universities around the country are facing budget cuts and smaller endowments, which has led many of them to turn to outsourcing. The outsourcing of instruction to part-time and adjunct faculty members has been taking place for several decades, but it was not until recently that universities started outsourcing teaching to out-of-town instructors via the Internet.

Supporters see this practice as a way to cut costs, access bigger markets, and add expertise to classrooms, while critics think it takes away from students’ learning experiences and transforms institutions into little more than diploma mills. Some of the most vocal opponents of outsourcing are professors, who are skeptical about universities turning instruction over to entities that are thousands of miles away.

But considering the fact that state support for colleges and universities has declined significantly over the last few years, more institutions of higher education are likely to look at outsourcing to online instructors as a way to bring the costs of education down without sacrificing quality. At the very least, the outsourcing experiment is worth a shot.

Improving Instructional Quality with Outsourcing

Fox Business reports that, in Missouri State’s case, the partnership with Poynter was not sought out to cut costs. In fact, the outsourced introductory journalism course actually costs more than classes being taught by permanent professors. Missouri State decided to partner with Poynter to explore ways to improve instructional quality and incorporate a new learning approach. And seeing that the Poynter Institute is a leader in journalism education, the partnership made sense.

Students are not the only ones learning. Universities are still exploring whether utilizing outsourced distance learning courses in this manner is truly a viable alternative. Missouri State decided not to continue its relationship with Poynter, because students in the course were not writing as much as they had hoped. However, the school has not given up on outsourcing and still plans to experiment with it.