A decade ago, an investment firm analyst 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.
At the time, the typical model for OPMs was to provide these services to name-brand universities as they expanded their online offerings. However, Kevin Kinser’s research into these partnerships led him to examine the business practices and financial arrangements behind them.
As a result of his investigation, he discovered that while these collaborations had enabled universities to accelerate the growth of their online programs, they had also raised concerns about the influence of profit-driven motives on educational programs.
Kevin 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 traditional models of online education by prompting a reassessment of the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in higher education.