In the past decade, an analyst from an investment firm recommended Kevin Kinser, a professor of education at Penn State University, to explore the world of online program managers (OPMs) and their collaborations with colleges to establish online degree programs. These companies 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 expanded their online offerings in these areas. However, Kevin Kinser’s research into these partnerships uncovered some concerning business practices and financial arrangements that raised questions about profit-driven motives influencing educational programs.
Kinser’s investigations revealed that while these partnerships had facilitated the expansion of universities’ online programs, they had also raised concerns about the potential impact on academic integrity and student outcomes. His findings have shed light on the complex relationships between educational institutions and OPMs in the digital age and have challenged traditional models of online education. As a result, stakeholders in higher education are now reevaluating their roles and responsibilities in this rapidly evolving landscape.