I’ve noticed that the term “outsourcing” has gained an unfavorable reputation. Rather than being a neutral word that describes the act of leveraging outside help for an aspect of one’s business, it’s become synonymous with “something bad.”
Much has been written on the topic in general, so I’d like to focus specifically on what outsourcing really means to the field of education. (As an aside, there are two great blogs posted by About.com that contrast the two opposing views: “Top 7 Outsourcing Advantages” and “Top 6 Outsourcing Disadvantages.”)
In education, outsourcing can appear in many different forms. From basic structural maintenance services—food, janitorial and landscaping—to course delivery systems used by instructors, to the core IT foundation, and so on. My area of expertise is in managed hosting services so I’m going to focus on the ways I believe “outsourcing” improves the quality of the overall educational experience from a technology perspective:
- Frees up staff to focus on your core mission. Outsourcing the management of your server environment enables your institution to focus valuable resources on activities that grow and support enrollments, including expanding online and blended learning programs. For example, in a recent case study of Blendedschools.net, it meant being able to focus on curriculum and professional development.
- Leaves the “technology arms race” to the experts. Technology evolution moves at an incredible pace. Keeping up with and managing technology is a time- and resource-consuming effort –one often better suited to an outside team of experts whose sole job is to manage technology. Overburdened IT staff at educational institutions often wear many hats; they simply don’t have the resources to focus on cutting-edge technology solutions the way an outside vendor would.
- Ensures business continuity and risk management. If or when a disaster strikes, your institution has the peace of mind that redundant datacenters and resources with depth of bench are in place around the globe to help minimize the impact of service to your learners.
- Improves the quality of the overall educational experience. When your online and blended learning programs run well, word travels fast. Satisfied learners enhance the reputation of your institution—and that will likely translate into future enrollments.
At Blackboard Managed Hosting, our job is built around deploying the latest and greatest technologies to service our customers. We have an entire team and a funded roadmap dedicated to “outsourcing” the challenges associated with staying ahead of the technology curve.
While I’ll admit that managed hosting may not be right for every institution, I believe the benefits of it will yield a high value on investment when you choose the right partner to work with. “Outsourcing” can and should be a “friend” to educational institutions around the world.