Although virtual universities are widely touted as a way of competing globally in a post‐compulsory educational market, systems for implementing them are currently underdeveloped The central thesis in this paper is that in order to ensure the quality of the development and delivery of course materials for a virtual university, a collaborative and iterative approach to authoring is required. In this paper, the development of such a process will be discussed The paper is based on experience with a project whose aims included the provision of Masters‐level courses in supply chain management for learners in full‐time employment in small and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs). The materials developed through the project were required to be academically rigorous, vocationally relevant, and situated in the context of the learners. The project relied on distributed development, with authors based at institutions across the UK and in Europe. This paper focuses on the creation and evolution of the development processes adopted by the project, illustrating these with examples of good and bad practice. Based on these, tensions between quality and resourcing are identified, and implications will be drawn for other teams working on the development of online courses
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