The COVID-19 pandemic marked a turning point for higher ed, and universities felt it right away. After all, they had to complete an enormous task quickly — moving their courses online overnight.
This experience pulled back the curtain on how complex well-designed online courses can be. It also motivated many universities to seek outside help from education services partners. Now, those partnerships are giving universities the expertise and market insights to do more than weather the pandemic — they’re better positioned to expand their footprint in online education.
Of course, success in online learning doesn’t depend on signing a lengthy contract. It’s why our partnerships emphasize flexibility. One model won’t work for every university, so we tailor our support to each partner’s needs.
As the University of Wyoming and Winthrop University learned last year, even short-term projects offer long-term benefits to learners and faculty.
Starting a partnership with a single project
The University of Wyoming (UW) strived to provide the best possible experience for faculty and students when the pandemic began. But the sudden transition to virtual learning taxed UW’s resources and left little time to design high-quality online courses.
“We needed more hands on deck to support our faculty and deliver remote instruction during a very unprecedented time,” said Dr. Benjamin Cook, UW’s Interim Vice Provost for Digital, Distance, and Online Education.
UW sought a partner to expand their online learning expertise and personnel. After considering many options, they decided partnering with us on a fee-for-service project was the best choice.
What is a fee-for-service project? It’s an agreement for a defined set of services for a pre-determined fee that will help a university achieve a specific goal. In UW’s case, we provided resources to foster a smooth transition to online instruction. We also collaborated with their faculty to:
- Design more than 130 online courses
- Evaluate the quality of 200 online courses
- Establish flexible models for collaborating on instructional design
- Audit 75 courses for accessibility compliance
Christina Anderson, our Director of Learner Experience, said we got to work quickly, deploying the expertise and personnel where UW needed it most. “These efforts gave UW great confidence in the quality of the online experience for students and faculty as they shifted courses to the virtual environment,” she said.
Getting access to our resources was a tremendous benefit in Dr. Cook’s eyes. “This partnership really worked for us because we defined success as getting more resources on board and providing those resources to our faculty,” he said.
The partnership also made it easier to move courses online. At the same time, we focused on ways for UW to elevate the quality of online courses.
Elevating course quality is something Todd Zipper is passionate about. As EVP and GM of Wiley University Services and Talent Development, he is eager to help universities offer engaging, outcomes-focused online courses. That’s vastly different from what learners would experience from a lecture given through Zoom.
“Successful online programs are not developed overnight,” Zipper said. “The best online programs are carefully crafted over several months by faculty and course designers. And they follow best practices for organizing courses, presenting content, empowering faculty, and driving successful student outcomes.”
Dr. Cook said that’s the type of support we brought to UW’s fee-for-service project. For instance, our learning designers helped UW’s faculty unlock ways to make online courses more accessible, including meeting ADA compliance standards. What’s more, we helped UW tailor coursework for how online learners work through a curriculum.
Now that Dr. Cook has experienced a fee-for-service partnership, he believes many universities could benefit from them. “These shorter-term partnerships allow you to tailor the engagement for your needs without a long-term investment. It allows you to test and to vet how this would fit into your institution,” he said.
“Wiley has been a critical partner in educating us on what an online program can look like and helping us understand how students actually work through a curriculum.”
Dr. Benjamin Cook, the University of Wyoming
Adding projects to a current partnership
As a career-connected education services partner, we’re always ready to help universities innovate, pursue new goals, and overcome unexpected obstacles. That’s even true when our current higher ed partners need support beyond the terms of our original agreement.
Winthrop University (WU) was already partnered with us to provide online program support when campuses closed in March 2020. Most of their courses were online at the time, and their faculty had completed training on designing, developing, and facilitating online courses.
In other words, WU was ahead of the curve when it came to meeting online learners’ needs. And Dr. Kimarie Whetstone, WU’s Director of Online Learning, wanted to make the university’s online courses even better.
Dr. Whetstone began exploring how to conduct a quality audit of the online courses that WU moved online during the pandemic, which were outside the scope of our partnership. She set a goal to improve courses in time for the Summer 2020 semester. But she had little time to complete the work, and the pandemic was stretching her team’s resources to the limit.
Despite these challenges, Dr. Whetstone’s team didn’t scrap the project. Instead, they came to us for help.
“We worked with Wiley to take our existing course development checklist and adapt it to become a quality assurance checklist,” Dr. Whetstone said. This work didn’t fit into the terms of WU’s established partnership, but that was no problem, as we offered support through a new fee-for-service project.
Dr. Whetstone said the checklists we helped develop proved invaluable for informing her team’s course revision process. We also assisted with tightening up assignment instructions and found opportunities for making courses stronger in the future.
“It was something that we would not have been able to do on our own, and we truly appreciate having Wiley’s support,” Dr. Whetstone said.
“Wiley became an extension of our university and did a lot of the heavy lifting for our faculty through their academic services team, learning designers, and learning technologists.”
Dr. Kimarie Whetstone, Winthrop University
Three best practices for fee-for-service projects
Collaboration boosts the impact of each university’s partnership with an education services company. When faculty and administrators have a team mindset, they can make the most of their partner’s expertise and resources.
Dr. Whetstone likes the collaborative nature of fee-for-service partnerships. She has identified three best practices for universities to follow when working with a new partner:
- Welcome outside feedback
Dr. Whetstone encourages you to listen when your education services partner offers advice. Their perspective may help you see things anew — a key ingredient for innovation.
- Establish your internal team when the project begins
Include faculty members and administrators from each department that will “touch” the new or updated online program. It’s also necessary to define processes and procedures for collaborating on the work.
- Talk with your partner regularly
Smooth projects start with an open dialog. Asking timely questions will help you understand your partner’s role. Plus, sharing details about your mission will help your partner contribute to it.
Dr. Cook agrees that these practices make partnerships more impactful. “It’s called a partnership for a reason. You will have new resources to help you, so making sure your team is ready to go will help you stay on schedule and on budget,” he said.
Get the right support to grow on your terms
Higher ed is much different today than in early 2020. Back then, some universities saw online education only as an emergency-response tool. But now, many learners have adapted to online learning — and they want more chances to learn online, according to Inside Higher Ed.
“Outside education providers like Wiley are a solution for a lot of universities and colleges, fueling demand for our various types of partnership,” Zipper said. “Wiley has and will continue to innovate to meet the needs of universities and learners as they evolve.”
We’re positioned to meet evolving needs because our expertise sits at the intersection where higher ed, employers, and learners meet. We give universities a breadth and depth of expertise across undergraduate and graduate programs, which is uncommon across most other providers.
As a result, we’re more than an online program management provider. We’re a true partner offering decades of online education experience, highly attuned market expertise, and responsiveness. These traits enable us to deliver flexible services for advancing your mission. And with our fee-for-service model, we can provide real-time support as your goals change over time.