Outsourcing has become a standard component of a free market system today, with companies heading to outside sources for everything from customer service to health care support
. Now community colleges appear to be a part of the outsourcing model, with schools using alternative resources for instruction, curriculum and even grading papers!
Pros and Cons of Outsourcing
A research report from Stanford University
, titled "Outsourcing of Instruction at Community Colleges," lists many of the advantages and drawbacks of using outside sources for educating college students. Some of the benefits of the practice include:
- Outsourcing can lead to a more efficient and higher quality education.
- Standardized curriculum offers consistency in quality.
- A competitive market usually means higher quality of product and service.
- There are cost savings between hiring additional faculty and outsourcing teaching services.
By the same token, opponents of the outsourcing concept cite some of the drawbacks to the practice:
- Profit-making industries present conflict of interest with public goals of colleges.
- Outsourcing could undermine tenure-based employment system.
- Quality of teaching could be lower.
- There is lack of control by faculty over curriculum and course design.
While the jury appears to still be out on whether outsourcing is a good idea for community colleges, many schools and companies are proceeding with plans to broaden the scope of higher education through sources outside the mainstream educational sector.
Remedial Courses from the Private Sector
A recent article on Inside Higher Ed
reports that remedial courses that are common amongst many community colleges today may now be offered by for-profit companies that are outsourced for their services.
Two companies in particular, Blackboard and K12, Inc., are teaming up with some community colleges across the country to offer remedial courses
in English and math
that numerous community college students require. These companies have been offering online educational resources to primary and secondary teachers for some time, and now want to bring their services to the community college realm as well.
While many college educators have traditionally shunned giving up any control of the educational process, the low pass rates and general distastefulness of remedial course work may change the minds of some college administrators and faculty. Blackboard and K12 are counting on the fact that college professors do not have a burning desire to teach high school math and English and are more than happy to let another company cut in on their territory for this specific need.
The concept is still in the developmental stage, with both companies sending out feelers to community colleges in hopes of discovering what type of curriculum and teaching style would meet the needs of students best.
Online Universities to Handle the Overflow
Many community colleges, thanks to rising enrollment
and state budget cuts
, simply don't have the resources to offer sufficient courses to students enrolled in their programs. Students may become frustrated when they can't get the courses
they need to finish their degrees in a timely fashion.
To help with some of the overflow, online universities like Kaplan
have offered to provide the necessary courses, allowing students to complete degrees online and still get credit through their local community college.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times
, this is precisely what Kaplan is offering to California community colleges to help frustrated students there complete their two-year degrees. However, there is a catch for this service; students will need to pay the Kaplan tuition rate, which may be hundreds of dollars more for a class than what they would pay through the local community college. There is also no guarantee that the Kaplan class would be transferred to a four-year university if the student decided to continue his education with another institution.
Grading Going Overseas
Companies have used contractors in India for everything from reading x-rays to writing computer scripts. Now, some community college professors are hiring a company in India to grade their papers for them!
For $12 a paper, a grad student overseas will assign the paper a letter grade and add comments for the benefit of the student. According to an article on Inside Higher Ed
, the practice saves the community college both time and money, since instructors can spend more time instructing rather than grading, and class sizes can enlarge without worry over keeping up with student performance.
Outsourcing has become a popular way to save money and expand some businesses today. Now, community colleges are hopping onboard the outsourcing bandwagon to broaden the courses and services available to students.