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.
Kinser’s research led him to examine the business practices and financial arrangements behind these partnerships. As a result of 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 complex and evolving relationships between educational institutions and OPMs in the digital age. Additionally, it has challenged traditional models of online education by prompting a reassessment of the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in higher education.