A decade ago, an analyst at an investment firm recommended that Kevin Kinser, a professor of education at Penn State University, start looking at companies that partner with colleges to establish online degree programs. These companies, known as Online Program Managers (OPMs), have provided recruiting, marketing and support to prestigious universities as they launched online graduate degrees in fields as diverse as social work, nursing and international relations.
The typical model then for OPMs was to provide recruiting, marketing and back-office support to brand-name universities as they launched online graduate degrees in social work, nursing, international relations and other fields. However, Kevin Kinser’s investigations led him to examine the business practices and financial arrangements behind these partnerships.
As a result of his research, he found that while these partnerships allowed universities to accelerate the expansion of their online programs, they also raised concerns about the impact of profit-driven motives on educational programs. His work shed light on the complex and evolving relationship between educational institutions and online program managers in the digital age. Furthermore, his research has challenged traditional models of online education by prompting a re-evaluation of the roles and responsibilities of various actors in higher education.