Alternative Recommendations for Course Development
This analysis was prepared for OMDE 607, Instructional
Design. It contains alternative recommendations for implementing
a course development function within an organization much like the
author's own. The recommended solution involves contracting with
a third party in order to get the function implemented more quickly.
The organization with no previous experience in this area is considering
moving into online training and has requested a recommendation regarding
the best way to accomplish this. In the following analysis, the course
development function and processes are described. Three alternative approaches
to organizing the course development function are presented with supporting
organizational charts. A recommendation is made in the summary concerning
the best alternative approach to course management to get this project
Course development incorporates five functional areas with associated
processes, all of which must be included in the course development
organizational chart to ensure effective implementation of online training:
and project management incorporates providing overall leadership
to the course development process, budgeting, developing a business plan,
hiring staff and consultants, and implementing a permanent monitoring
system to ensure objectives are being met (Boettcher, 1999; Jegede, 2001;
Logan, 1982; and O’Rourke, 1993).
Research and evaluation includes conducting need, instructional, task,
and learner analyses, and developing systems for monitoring operations
and outcomes based on information gathered about students, course materials,
costs, efficiency, and tutoring services (O’Rourke, 1993).
Course development includes instructional design, recruiting Subject
Matter Experts (SMEs), instructional designers, media specialists, production
specialists, and mentoring staff, and developing the long-range course
development plan (O’Rourke). The five traditional instructional
design (ID) stages of Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation,
and Evaluation take place in this functional area. (Kemp, 2000; Logan,
1982; Schrieber, 1999; and Seels & Glasgow, 1998). The instructional
design function is also responsible for working with technology and media
specialists to select the appropriate media to be used, and provide for
media production (O’Rourke, 1993).
Academic and student support services include tutoring learners, reviewing
assignments, marking examinations, supporting student-instructor and
student-to-student interaction, managing local student services centers
where applicable, and in general supporting the social aspect of online
learning (Denning, 1999; O’Rourke, 1993).
Administrative support incorporates logistical support, financial management,
systems support, registration and student record-keeping, providing course
materials to learners, scheduling, gathering information about student
participation and examinations, purchasing, and payroll (O’Rourke,
Option #1: Internal functional department
The first option is to establish a fully staffed internal online training
and course development function (see attached Option #1 organization
chart). Under this option, all functions described above would be provided
from within the organization by four functional managers with responsibility
for the entire range of course development, research and evaluation,
administrative support, and student services activities, under the
leadership of an internal online training manager.
This option has the clear advantage of giving the organization complete
control over the quality of course development and delivery processes
(Lent). Scarce resources are dedicated to the project (Lent, 1990). The
new department could be the basis for rapid growth, and would enable
the organization to maintain and develop its online training function
over time, thus providing support to the overall organization’s
effectiveness (Lent, 1990).
The disadvantage of this option is that it involves a great deal of
expense just to get the first course development project off the
with specific expertise would need to be hired and could prove expensive
(Lent, 1990). In addition, the organization’s lack of experience
in online training would make it difficult to establish job descriptions,
qualifications, and appropriate staff salary levels, and to estimate
the long-term expenses of supporting a course development function.
Option #2: Matrix organization
The second alternative approach to establishing an online training
and course development function is to build on the existing expertise
the organization by using a matrix approach to staffing this function
(see attached Option #2 organization chart). Under this approach, staff
from existing departments within the organization would be assigned
to the online course development project. The online training manager
would be drawn from the ranks of the organization’s product managers.
Instructional design, curriculum services, Subject Matter Experts,
and technology and media support would come from the current product
development department. The current research and evaluation and administrative
support functions would provide these services, and student support
services would be provided by the customer service department.
The primary advantage of this approach is that it would enable the
organization to get started in online training much more rapidly at
less expense, since no new staff would need to be recruited or hired.
This approach has proven to be very effective in project-driven environments,
since it enables staff to focus on the project at hand (Lent, 1990).
The primary disadvantage of this alternative is that the addition of
these new responsibilities might exceed the current staff’s capabilities.
Online training could fall to the bottom of the list of priorities. Course
development could take the place of some other of the organization’s
activities, with unintended consequences for the long-term stability
of the organization.
Option #3: External contracted function
Option #3 involves purchasing online training and course development
expertise from external consultants (see attached Option #3 organization
chart). An internal online training manager would work with three
external consulting firms on a contractual basis to obtain course
and instructional design, student support, and research and evaluation
services. Administrative support services already supplied by existing
departments in the organization would continue to be provided internally.
The primary advantage of this alternative is that it would permit
the organization to take on new online training and course development
rapidly, without jeopardizing existing operations and projects. Staff
would not need to be diverted from other projects. External contractors
would be completely focused on the required tasks (Lent, 1990). This
would result in a more rapid deployment of the new online training
The potential negative side of this alternative is that it might
be quite expensive for the organization because outside consultants
to learn about the organization (Lent, 1990). It would also build
upon outside expertise rather than encourage internal staff development.
Current employees might be reluctant to support the new function,
be provided primarily by outside consultants. This alternative
also poses a risk for the organization if the consultants selected
to be adequate to the task.
Summary and Recommendation
Until this organization gains more experience with online training,
Option #3 is the best alternative for getting started in course
development and delivery. This alternative would give the organization
to become more familiar with the various functions and processes
needed to build an effective online learning function. Current
the organization would not be jeopardized. While Option #3
be less expensive than Option #1, there is less risk in obtaining
expertise from consulting organizations with significant relevant
Over time, the organization could begin to transition out of
its reliance on outside consultants, and develop a plan for moving
the course development
and delivery function in-house. The consultants could then
serve as training
advisors, providing the organization with a route to self-sufficiency
over a more realistic time frame. This option provides the
opportunity for the organization to have experience with a successful
training implementation, and to gain from the mistakes that
others have made
in the past.
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