Report: Profit motivations of OPMs could jeopardize students' academic success
- As more schools, including Harvard University, partner with online management programs in order to outsource infrastructure for online courses, a new report from the Century Foundation warns lax oversight could leave students shortchanged.
- OPM partnerships mean administrations must be cautious of how student data could be utilized by the third-party organization, as any misuse of information it gleans could reflect poorly on the original institution. OPMs are often able to reuse potential leads if they are tasked with recruitment.
- As OPM partnerships often involve nonprofit higher ed institutions teaming with a for-profit third-party company, it is incumbent on colleges and universities to ensure that the institution's academic priorities to provide courses to the greatest number of students possible are not superceded or muddied by the financial pursuits of the OPM.
Partnerships with OPMs are very different than partnerships with companies for facility maintenance, food service, or other categories. To ensure students' academic success is prioritized, and not the OPM's profit margins, colleges and universities could consider drafting contracts with providers which find ways to de-incentivize profit motivations that could damage the reputation of the institution, such as tying OPM payment to assessment standards like student outcomes or student satisfaction with the program. This way, administrators may be able to mitigate concerns that OPMs could inadvertently damage the institution's reputation with students and applicants, endangering future revenue for the school.
Institutions could also make efforts to establish partnerships with OPMs which will help them build the online learning mechanisms in-house, and acts as consultants for advice and counsel as schools embark on running their own programs. It could be an approach that offers the appropriate middle ground between external expertise for the institution, while granting the administrators the means to provide more robust oversight, as well as removing the profit-making incentives on the part of the OPM provider.