For online colleges, standardization in course design makes a great deal of sense. If the process is done correctly, the course will be touched by many hands, from SMEs, to Program Chairs to Instructional Designers. This will ensure quality and make sure that students are not receiving flat, “canned” courses. In addition, a well-designed course will allow for a great deal of input from the instructor teaching that term. Discussion boards, announcements and thoughtful feedback are just some of the areas where the educator can leave his particular imprint.
But does this work for every General Education course? As you can see in the referenced article, while standardized courses can work well for beginning math courses, what about a more advanced Literature course, or an in-depth review of Modern Art? Again, I think this is where careful and thoughtful course design is paramount. Special care must be taken so that instructors can have as much academic freedom as possible, while still allowing for a thorough quality control process.
As you can see, teaching and designing courses at a fully online institution can be quite different from a more traditional on-ground college; but the courses can be engaging, rigorous and of great benefit to everyone if we always keep students needs in mind.