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How to Bring Course Development and Distribution In-House

Want to take control of your brand and manage the learner experience? Here’s how to bring course development in-house to reduce your dependence on vendors.


As online learning becomes ever more in demand, organizations are looking for ways to cut costs and take control of their course offerings. For many, this means bringing course development and distribution in-house. This transition can’t be made overnight. It takes careful planning to get the right processes, and most importantly, the right teammates in place.

Whether you’re educating students at an online university or overseeing training and development in a corporate setting, talent is the fulcrum that enables this shift. With the right people in the right roles, you can reduce your dependence on vendors and bring course development in-house. Follow these four steps to take back control of your courses.

1. Make Your Decision

This might sound like an obvious first step, but so many organizations fail at this juncture. They think it might be nice to bring course development and distribution in-house, but they don’t actually commit to the business decision. Instead they hedge their bets. They give one already-overworked staff member a shoe-string budget and a mile-long wish list with poorly defined goals. Then when the project falls apart, they say “Oh well, it’s just not going to work for us.”

That’s not a true test of the concept. If you’re going to experiment with bringing course development in-house, make sure it’s a true experiment. You’ll need to invest time, talent, and a reasonable budget. So before you do anything else, decide to give this a real chance. Research the market, establish a realistic budget, and set some big-picture goals.

Note that if you’re working with vendors on course creation, now is not the time to end the relationship. Let your vendors keep doing what they do best, while you build up your infrastructure in the background.

2. Hire a Program Manager

You might think your first hire should be a content creator or learning designer. But you’ll start your program on the right foot by hiring a program manager first. Why? Because the program manager’s role is to do just that, manage the program. They can create a plan for your course development and distribution and then bring in people and resources to fulfill that plan. Without a program manager, you may have plenty of talent, but they won’t have the guidance they need to work together toward a shared goal.

Look for a program manager who has proven experience in managing new products, professional development programs, or education programs from cradle to grave. They should be comfortable coordinating people, budgets and schedules. The best program managers balance attention to detail with an ability to keep the big picture in mind.

If you have to choose between someone with proven program management skills but no learning industry experience, and someone with an education background but little or no program management experience, choose the proven program manager.

3. Grow Your Team

Your program manager will create a plan for establishing and scaling your program. They may need to hire new teammates, but maybe not as many as you think. Consider which roles are best performed fully in-house and which can be fulfilled by contract or temporary workers.

Now you might be thinking, “Wait, the whole point of bringing course development in-house was to avoid contracting.” But that’s not really true. The point was to gain more control over your brand and the learner experience. Contracting a flexible workforce doesn’t remove your control over the program, it just minimizes the number of employees you need.

Your program manager can help you make a plan for who to hire and when. You’ll most likely be able to hire a few people at a time as they become necessary for each step in the process of course development and distribution.

4. Bring Course Development In-House

The process won’t be flawless the first time around, but if you’ve hired a skilled program manager and maintained your vendor relationships, you should be able to make a fairly smooth transition to in-house course development.

The final step is to fully transition from vendor relationships to in-house development. Getting to this step could take months or years depending on the complexity of your program. Don’t rush it. Setting the right foundation now positions you for excellence over the long-term.

For help finding a program manager and other teammates to bring your course development in-house, contact the digital learning talent placement experts at Teamed. Reach out now.

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