Monitoring Off-shore Outsourcing Projects
Category of Work
First Draft Submission*
Final Draft Submission*
Convert Course to Blueprint
Develop Unit One (3-5 lessons)
Approx. 5-10 p.
Approx. 60-80 p.
July 1, 2006
July 15, 2006
July 10, 2006
Aug. 15, 2006
July 15, 2006
Oct. 1, 2006
Develop Unit Two (3-5 lessons)
Develop Unit Three (3-5 lessons)
Approx. 60-80 p.
Approx. 60-80 p.
Aug. 15, 2006
Sep. 15, 2006
Sep. 15, 2006
Oct. 14, 2006
Nov. 1, 2006
Dec. 1, 2006
Develop Unit Four (3-5 lessons)
Develop Unit Five (3-5 lessons)
Approx. 60-80 p
Approx. 60-80 p.
Oct. 14, 2006
Nov. 15, 2006
Nov. 15, 2006
Dec. 15, 2006
Dec. 31, 2006
Feb. 1, 2007
Course Guide, Specimen Examination Paper, Answer Key and Marking Schemes, Assignment Files, PowerPoint Slides for each unit etc.
Approx. 50-100 p.
Dec. 15, 2006
Jan. 15, 2007
Mar. 1, 2007
Categories of works are listed clearly in the Annexure of the contract, which specifies the work relevant to the development of the course.
WOU respects and observes the Intellectual Property Rights of all individuals. As such, copyright is strictly observed in the University. The course developer is responsible and liable to identify and obtain all items that require copyright clearance. If the course developer is unable to obtain the copyright clearance, the university shall endeavour to seek clearances for such items identified. If copyright is unobtainable, these materials have to be omitted and replaced with others by the course developer.
The monitoring mechanism used in the learning resources development is a crucial component in the success of the outsourcing project. From the start of the project, the WOU ensures that the developers have been trained in WOU house style (definition) as a one of the crucial preparatory activities. Besides that, an ECA will be identified so that he/she as an expert will grant the initial design of the course. The initial design of the course will be stated in the course blueprint.
In the course blueprint, the course team leader and the course developer collaborate to setup deadlines. Every unit will go through several revision processes involving WOU course team members. Submission of each unit is tracked by individual course as depicted in the progress report in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Sample progress report for individual course development.
Usually, a developer requires about one month to develop a unit. Revision takes longer as the course team needs to discuss issues such as the accuracy of content, design of instruction, presentation of the academic content, and compliance with the WOU’s house style. The course team will hold rigorous meetings in order to ensure the units have gone through a maximum internal quality assurance process. Information related to improvement of the unit is recorded in specific report, the Course Team Report (CTR).
Every single unit must be assessed by the ECA in terms of its organisation, flow and accuracy of the content. Checklists will be provided to the ECA in addition to interim reports on compatibility of course materials, relevance to course objectives, suitability for target student populations, and suggested changes in activities and assessment questions. The ECA will identify major strengths and weaknesses in the course materials and ensure whether the course materials are relevant in content, style and presentation, and functionality of case studies, activities, and references. More importantly, the ECA must evaluate and compare course materials with similar courses taught in ODL and/or traditional modes. In some cases, the ECA will recommend changes and revisions.
After the units have been completed, the course developers produce a course guide for students and tutor guide for tutors who facilitate the course in face-to-face tutorial sessions. These documents are reviewed by the ECA for quality assurance. A final report from the ECA indicates completion of the development process. The completed materials re sent to the in-house publishing department for editing and layout design. Before the learning materials are published, the course team leader must proof read the documents to ensure accuracy and consistency.
As the WOU is a new university, the development process is very active and the school needs to monitor the many stages of development of all courses. As a result, the course development and presentation summary is the key reference to ensure that the development is going smoothly and the material for subsequent presentation is ready on-time. As shown in Figure 4, the status column serves as an alert key for problematic courses that require special attention and may require remedial action. An example of problematic course development includes developers involved in plagiarism or who are not able to meet the deadlines. The alert system is also important to show the number of courses and when they are ready to be offered.
A number of issues have been identified upon monitoring the learning resource development. Some of these issues were resolved; others were not.
Similar to the definition used by Backman, Holmberg and Tonnby (2007), the success of the off-shore outsourcing project is defined by the benefits from outsourcing gained by the WOU as a result of deploying the outsourcing strategy. This can be measured by reduction in cost, satisfaction of learners, and perceived level of quality. Some issues that emerge in the process of off-shoring and outsourcing are highlighted as follows:
One major problem encountered with foreign writers is infringement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), either intentionally or unintentionally. Surprisingly, some writers assume that information from websites is copyright free and can be used liberally.
There have been incidents where writers copied from textbooks or journals without citing references and giving credits where it is due. It is the WOU’s policy to acknowledge and respect IPR. Plagiarism is not allowed and must be avoided at all costs.
Under the Publishing Unit of WOU, there is a copyright page that serves as the gatekeeper to ensure that all course materials published by the university is free from copyright infringement. It is the university practice to write to all copyright owners to request permission and make payment to use the material when necessary. The materials will not be used if we failed to obtain consent from the owners.
Training of course developers is required, especially at the beginning of the outsourcing project. Understanding of WOU learners is important as it relates to the satisfaction of the target user of the course material. WOU imposes a set of house styles on the course materials and must ensure this style is fully understood by course developers and adaptors. Characteristics of a good course have to be defined at the very beginning and must be stated clearly ensure that developers meet WOU’s expectations. Sharing of methods used to design an effective course and its preferred language or assessment types are also important to course developers and adaptors.
Offshoring of university study material should be regarded as a dynamic process that evolves over time (Jesen and Pedersen, 2007). Therefore, bridging the gap between the two parties is extremely important. Universities that embark on an outsourcing strategy would do well to first establish a structured approach to close the gap that often exists between two parties. In the case of WOU, maintaining the relationship between WOU and course developers/adapters ensures success in collaboration. Nevertheless, the support team must be responsive in providing feedback that the other parties require. Communication between the two parties need to be predictable, interactive and proactive (Fuchs, 2007). WOU needs to appoint one or several members of a team for in-house and offshore locations to be responsible for communication exchange and to monitor the development of course materials. There must also be a person who is responsible for supporting and monitoring knowledge delivery process during the training process. This person will also be the main contact person for the off-shore team members and general queries will be dealt by this person.
The average time for course development in WOU is between eight to twelve months. Any delay in submission of manuscript will affect the course presentation scheduled. Meeting the deadline of submission is crucial to the CC as there are still many level of preparations required before the course can be presented to the students. This includes several revisions from the in-house course team members and the ECA before the work is considered ready for publishing process.
As most of the course developers have other work, social and family commitments, they might not be able to meet the manuscript submission deadlines. Among the consequences are delay of course presentation, termination of writers and re-looking into the reserve pool for other writers. As a result, the university is burdened with additional cost and loss of time.
The importance of deadline is highlighted during the training and it is also explained in detail in the agreement. The role of the Course Coordinator as mediator is significant in monitoring the progress of the course developer. Ample reminder should be given if there is any delay from the very beginning.
Due to the course developers’ backgrounds and cultural differences, the course materials developed require editing and amendments to suit Malaysian needs. The case studies used, examples given, and the language style, need to be changed and localised.
This is more apparent in developing business and management courses when foreign course developers do not understand our business and economic environment and hence, are not able to provide examples that students can comprehend.
The course team leader and team must put in extra effort to substitute facts and do their own research to complete course materials submitted by foreign course developers.
The WOU has a good track record in off-shore outsourcing with a moderate success rate. Off-shore outsourcing assists in fast-tracking the University’s course development and presentation and fills the gap when local expertise is not available. It also makes it possible for the schools to manage the development of a number of courses concurrently. Sharing of information and exchanging of ideas between academics from different background and experience is also a healthy trend in promoting intellectual knowledge.
We believe all the issues mentioned above could be resolved if more training is provided to the appointed course developers and ongoing communication channels are maintained between them and the appointed Course Coordinator. Mutual trust and respect of working procedures and ethics between faculty and developers facilitates discussion. Both parties need to make an effort to be tolerant in their requests and demands from each other. Off-shore outsourcing is not just a business transaction in a globalised world; it involves inculcating effective working relationships between two institutions.
The WOU as a new ODL institution will continue to outsource either locally or off-shore in meeting the demand of the fast changing intellectual environment. We will source for collaboration opportunities with different partners in fulfilling our future academic needs.
Backman, P., Holmberg, M and Tonnby, D (2007) ‘Key factors for successful offshore outsourcing projects’, School of Business Economics and Law, Sweden: Goteborg University.
Jesen, P. D. and Pedersen, T (2007) ‘Whether and what to offshore?, Center for Strategic Managmeent and Globalization, Denmark: Copenhagen Business School.
Chowdhary, R. (2008) Offshore Outsourcing Trends Available: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Rakhee_Chowdhary
Fuchs, G. (2007) Communication: The Holy Grail of Outsourcing. Available: http://www.cio.com/article/137952/Communication_The_Holy_Grail_of_Outsourcing
Dr. Bong Chin Wei is Senior Lecturer in the School of Science and Technology at Wawasan Open University, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, 10050 Penang, Malaysia Malaysia. She possesses a Masters and PhD in Information Technology (IT) from the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) with the Award of Postgraduate and Post-doctoral Fellowship from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Malaysia. In 10 years of academic experience, she has delivered computing and IT courses to graduates and undergraduates in private and public universities and colleges. She is actively involved in research and development in Artificial Intelligence, particularly in decision-making theory and fuzzy logic for different applications of optimisation. She has published a number of national and international conference and journal papers. She is IT consultant to a Computer Aided Design (CAD) solution firm, an external examiner for Penang Skill Development Centre (PSDC), and reviewer for several international journals and conferences.