In recent years, online education has grown rapidly as more universities and colleges have begun to offer degrees and programs online. A decade ago, an analyst at an investment firm recommended Kevin Kinser, a Penn State University education professor, to delve into companies that collaborate with colleges to establish online degree programs. These companies, known as online program managers (OPMs), provided recruiting, marketing, and back-end support to prestigious universities as they launched online graduate degrees in various fields such as social work, nursing, and international relations.
The typical model for OPMs was to provide recruiting, marketing, and back-end support to name-brand universities as they launched online graduate degrees in these fields. However, Kevin Kinser’s research into these partnerships revealed that there were concerns about the influence of profit-driven motives on educational programs. He discovered that while these partnerships had enabled universities to accelerate the expansion of their online programs, they had also raised questions about the quality of education being provided.
Kinser’s work has shed light on the complex and evolving relationships between educational institutions and OPMs in the digital age. His research has also challenged the traditional models of online education by prompting a reassessment of the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in higher education. As more universities continue to explore opportunities for online education, it is important for them to carefully consider the partnerships they enter into with OPMs and ensure that they align with their goals for providing high-quality education to students.