Over a decade ago, an investment firm analyst recommended that Kevin Kinser, a Penn State University education professor, look into companies that partnered with colleges to establish online degree programs. These companies, known as online program managers (OPMs), offered 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 back then was to provide recruiting, marketing, and back-end support to name-brand universities as they launched online graduate degrees in social work, nursing, international relations and other fields. However, Kevin Kinser’s research into these companies and their partnerships with educational institutions uncovered a more complex picture.
Through his investigations, he discovered that while these partnerships had enabled universities to accelerate the expansion of their online programs, they had also raised concerns about the influence of profit-driven motives on educational programs. His work has shed light on the evolving relationships between educational institutions and OPMs in the digital age and challenged traditional models of online education. It has prompted a reassessment of the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in higher education.