A decade ago, an investment firm analyst recommended Kevin Kinser, a Penn State University education professor, to explore 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.
The typical model back then for OPMs 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.
Kevin Kinser took up the recommendation and conducted further research into these companies and their partnerships with educational institutions. His investigations led him to examine the business practices and financial arrangements behind these partnerships.
As a result of his research, 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.
Kinser’s work has shed light on the complex and evolving relationships between educational institutions and online program managers in the digital age. His research has also challenged the traditional models of online education by prompting a reassessment of the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in higher education.