Should university units that house instructional designers offer their services to campus partners on a chargeback or fee-for-service basis?

Should central campus instructional design services be provisioned by a fee, by mission alignment, or some other mechanism?

If a school or department within a university wants to build a new online program (degree or non-degree), what is the best method to secure the participation of campus instructional designers?

I know that I have some ideas about these questions, but as I’m often wrong, I thought I’d try to get your views.

To help our conversation, I’ll list some pros and cons, as I see them:

Pros for Instructional Design Chargeback:

  • Chargebacks allow instructional design teams to build capacity, hiring more instructional designers.
  • A chargeback is a way of allocating scarce instructional design resources that is more fair and equitable than relying on assigning work by hierarchy or status.
  • Asking campus partners to pay for instructional design services will ensure that they have skin in the game. It will treat instructional designers as a precious resource rather than an unlimited service. (Avoid moral hazard).
  • Assigning prices to instructional design services is a way for ID teams to manage, prioritize, and evaluate their work.
  • Chargeback systems avoid cost-shifting, as the entity that uses the instructional design service pays for it. Instructional design services are never free, so a chargeback makes clear that there is a cost, and that someone has to pay for it.
  • The quality of work of the campus instructional design team will benefit from needing to compete for “business,” as unless they offer a superior product or a lower cost (or both), schools or programs can choose to go outside of the university for their ID needs.
  • If an instructional design unit is not able to pay its way through charging for its services, perhaps that unit is poorly run or inefficient and should be re-organized or cut.

Cons for Instructional Design Chargeback:

  • Providing quality instructional design is aligned with the mission of every university to offer high-quality learning.
  • Universities should encourage schools/programs/professors to partner with instructional designers, rather than put up barriers such as chargebacks to these collaborations.
  • Building institutional capacity in instructional design should be a strategic priority of every college and university, and should be invested in as such.
  • Campus instructional designers should prioritize working with university partners based on mission alignment and educational impact, rather than availability of discretionary funding.
  • Instructional designers build long term relationships with faculty and the departments/schools that they partner with, and going to a fee-for-service or chargeback model runs the risk of making this work feel transactional.
  • Professors and instructional designers need to form a true partnership to work, one based on shared values and mutual respect. A chargeback system runs the risk of putting money, rather than shared goals, at the center of the relationship.
  • University leadership may be interested in building a school’s capacity to offer low-residency and online programs for long-term competitive reasons, and this strategy is likely to be hindered if instructional design is only offered on a fee-for-service basis.
  • Campus instructional designers may work on online programs, but they often work with the same professors on residential courses. This crossover between online and residential should be encouraged, and a chargeback system may complicate other goals, such as engaging in course redesign and faculty development.

What do you think?

What pros and cons are I missing?

Have you seen models where chargeback services for instructional design are working well?

How do you think that schools can fund the recruitment of more instructional designers?

Does this have to be an either/or?

Is your institution creating new instructional design positions?

Inside Higher Ed