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What is Online Program Management? Explanations, Benefits, and Options

In the fast-evolving educational landscape, online program management supports colleges and universities in launching their programs online. Today, it can mean the difference between surviving and disappearing from the market.

 

And more and more universities are joining the surge each year.

 

According to Eduventures’ research (2017), the OPM market exploded in recent years. The analysis showed that the number of schools working with OPMs grew 130% between 2011 and 2015, meaning that the “new normal” had already set foot in the educational sector long before its official inauguration. 

 

But, by any means, this doesn’t imply that we’ve all figured it out. Tons of questions still haunt higher education institutions concerning financial welfare, reputation keeping, and choosing the right OPM provider – just to name a few. 

 

Let’s start with the basics, though. Here’s what you should know if you want to join forces with an OPM partner. 

 

What is an OPM?

In the edtech context, OPM stands for online program management, thus grasping a wide array of services needed to build a school’s online presence effectively. In simple terms, the OPM system consists of professionals who specialize in IT sciences and digital marketing and have the ‘know-how’ needed to implement and lead distance learning programs successfully. In addition, they are third-party, external associates to faculty’s alumni, who complement their primary endeavor with what it takes to thrive in today’s world.  

 

The OPM providers’ services typically include:

 

  • Market research
  • Internet marketing strategy
  • Student recruitment and enrollment
  • Student retention
  • Course design
  • Implementation and management of technology platforms
  • Career services

What is an OPM? infographic

How Does it Work?

In a typical scenario, the higher education institution partners with an OPM provider to launch a new certificate, credential, or degree program. The outsourced team then devises a business and marketing plan appropriate for the institution’s goals, designs the course in cooperation with the school’s faculty, and handles student recruitment. 

 

However, there are huge differences between types of OPM business operating models. Essentially, each of the following can be suitable for particular goals, and – of course – each has its advantages and disadvantages. 

 

In a nutshell, partnership with OPM providers can be based on:

 

Full-Service Revenue-Share Model

In this model, the OPM provider takes the most of the responsibility and risks associated with launching a new online program. But, perhaps most importantly, the external associate will usually handle the financial investment needed to start the project. In return, it will take a significant share of the program’s profits for a prolonged period. 

 

Simply put, if you opt for a full-service revenue-share model, you will be paying through a considerable portion of the “new” revenue in exchange for not taking any financial risks associated with the project. This also means that the business side of the program will be fully managed by the OPM provider, including course design, audience reach, marketing campaigns, enrollment management, and student support. Of course, the third-party OPM team will have to ask for your approval before implementing strategies, as much of its activity can affect your reputation, one way or the other. 

 

Fee-for-Services Model 

Fee-for-services OPM, or a là carte model, unpacks its services and offers the possibility of selecting the ones you find essential to your needs. In other words, you don’t get an end-to-end solution but handpick the OPM services of your choice. Of course, this usually means that you’ve done a bulk of the project in-house and precisely assessed what you’ll need in the next step. 

 

OPM Advantages For Higher Education

Aside from providing expertise that’s usually outside the scope of the university’s staff, partnering with an OPM provider can bring focussed, specific and measurable results. These external associates help reduce dropout rates, boost enrollment, and engage students by implementing tailor-made solutions. In a word, they support the entire life-cycle of a student, which eventually translates into financial gain for an educational institution. 

 

So, in sum, the benefits of online program management are:

 

  • Low risks
  • Little upfront capital
  • Efficient student recruitment
  • Reduced dropout rates
  • Increased enrollment rates
  • Student engagement
  • Technical support
  • Tailored marketing 
  • Revenue growth

 

How to Choose Your OPM Provider?

With more than 30 vendors currently competing in the OPM market, it can be challenging to choose the one that fully matches your needs. Of course, there’s always an option to launch your course in-house as well, without external support. But do approach this issue with caution, though: you might end up spending more than you would by outsourcing a third-party provider. 

 

Here are a few traits efficient online program management should have: 

 

  • Intuitive technical solutions

The online program you launch should be easy to navigate and provide adequate transfer knowledge from day one. If students have to overcome complex technical barriers, they’ll probably drop out sooner than expected or not enroll in the first place. 

 

It’s critical to implement solutions that are compatible with the preexisting systems. Any way around could translate to administrative jam and a lot of confusion, both for your staff and students themselves.

 

  • Engaging designs

Easy learning is engaging learning. Especially today, when the benefits of online courses are measured through their potential to fit into the busy schedules of adult learners. 

 

  • Strategic recruitment plan

If an OPM provider doesn’t propose a clear and comprehensive student recruitment plan, all other considerations might be pointless. Enrollment is the primary engine of online program success.

 

  • Comprehensive marketing strategy

In today’s world, no value can be perceived without being present and presented adequately in the digital space. If your OPM vendor offers a robust, data-driven, and tailored marketing strategy, do know that the partnership is off to a good start. 

 

  • Transparency in communication

Even if you find a perfect OPM partner for your college or university, do note that long-term relationships imply the possibility of misunderstandings. That’s why it’s vital to base your partnership on transparency by devising a communication strategy for every bump on the road you might run into. 

How to Choose Your OPM Provider? male student working on laptop

Fast track Your Future With Astria Learning

None of what we’ve just discussed didn’t address the crucial ingredient to fruitful partnerships between OPM vendors and higher education institutions. Here at Astria Learning, we believe that neither of the sides can thrive without a passionate dedication to reinventing education. 

 

So, yes, we’ll connect you to the whole new world of aspiring students. We’ll also showcase your brand in a way that makes you stand out. And we’ll constantly adapt our strategies to the ever-changing e-learning environment. 

 

But, most importantly, we’ll do all this in a way that ensures your institutional core mission remains untacked. Because Astria’s experts believe that education is always slightly more than a mere revenue generator.

 

If you’re ready to launch the next generation of learning opportunities, contact us straight away. Let’s build the future together. 

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