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Pros & Cons

There are excellent reasons why you might want to create your own courses, and equally excellent reasons for purchasing or licensing them from a provider. In some cases, programs choose to purchase or license core courses but develop their own particular electives to meet unique needs. The following table shows the pluses (+) and minuses () of both approaches:

Issue Build Buy
Initial cost

   Large upfront investment prior to enrolling students.

+   Multiple license models can allow for low initial costs.

Ongoing Cost

+   Ongoing costs limited to course maintenance and updating.

   Depending on the licensing model(s) selected, ongoing costs can be nearly as much as initial costs.

Content & Design Flexibility

+   School has total flexibility over content, instructional design.

   Ongoing course maintenance and revisions required at local level.

   High cost of multi-media development may limit design options.

+   Some licensing models allow for course customization.

   Ability to customize courses in content or design is inherently limited.

Decision Making

   Every component of the course needs to be thoughtfully designed.

+   Decisions about most details are already made. Decision-making process is limited primarily to which courses will be licensed using which licensing models.


   Roughly 12-18 months to develop a course.

+   A large number of courses readily available.

Skill Development

+   Develops district skills in content writing, online instructional design, technology and other skills.

   May develop online instruction skills. Does not generally develop writing or design skills.


   Higher risk in that the larger initial investment does not guarantee a successful course will be produced.

+   Lower risk due to lower initial costs, the ability to start with just a few enrollments, and ability to switch course vendors if necessary.

Curriculum Uniqueness

+   Any imaginable course can be developed.

   Courses available are those designed for large, nationwide consumption. Options in some elective areas can be quite limited.

Copyright Ownership

+   District/school owns the course, can re-sell it and market it as a unique offering.

   District/school does not own the copyright and generally cannot redistribute or re-sell.

Professional Development

   Requires wide-ranging professional development on content, design, technology, and instruction, including W3 design standards.

+   Professional development is focused on instruction and the nuances of the particular course.