Top 10 Mistakes in Working with Third-Party Vendors for Online Programs

Tips on Structuring Partnerships to Protect Revenue and Minimize Risk

Topics: Administration and Finance, Third Party Partnerships, Outsourcing, Administrative Service Delivery Models, Academic Affairs, Online Education, Regulations and Legislation, Online Strategies, Online Course Quality

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Colleges and universities of all types are expanding their online education efforts for many reasons, such as boosting retention, cutting costs, and increasing flexibility. This brief focuses on helping schools who are launching fully online degree programs to grow enrollments and generate revenue.

Major Investments Required to Grow Online

Administrators are finding that expanding online and hybrid programs requires new infrastructure, staff, policies, and institutional competencies. Specifically, institutions face two kinds of challenges:

  • Lack of upfront capital: Institutions or deans may find it difficult to raise funds or hire staff at the rate or quantity desired
  • Lack of in-house expertise: If not managed well, programs can suffer from delayed launch, slow enrollment growth, and weakened competitiveness

In the past two decades, a variety of private sector solutions has emerged to help institutions implement online program offerings. Some of these vendors provide "turnkey" service—a full suite of supports including everything from instructional design and market research to recruiting and retention services. Other vendors provide services within a specific niche, such as online branding, and often operate on a fee-for-service model.

We've discovered 10 mistakes that institutions commonly make when partnering with a vendor to launch their online program, detailed below.