As the Online Program Management (OPM) industry matures, universities increasingly enjoy the opportunity to negotiate a more customized arrangement to accelerate the growth and visibility of their online programs. But, with expanded opportunity comes increased responsibility to negotiate an agreement that advances the institution’s mission while minimizing potential liability to its operation and reputation.
While avoiding the “one-size-fits-all” approach to OPM contracts, universities often overlook a number of key contract dimensions that may result in an agreement that suffers from poor partner relations, weak program momentum, and even an early dissolution of the executed agreement--with a concomitant loss of opportunity and momentum.
Based on numerous consultations helping universities and OPMs create mutually beneficial agreements, we recommend special attention to a number of key dimensions to clarify partner roles and manage expectations:
For example, universities often rely solely on inflated and/or subjective internal assessments of their technological capabilities, platform support services, course development capacity, and student support infrastructure when determining which services to include in the OPM contract, only to discover later in the partnership that they can’t deliver--or can’t deliver as cost effectively as the OPM.
Conversely, universities frequently over-estimate the power of their brand and the attractiveness of their academic programs, often entering OPM agreements with lofty visions of instant, worldwide success. OPM partnerships require a thoughtful, rational pre-contract assessment of each other’s capacity and ability, as well as a realistic view of enrollment growth and sustainability. Control of key marketing assets, such as search terms, marketing channels, landing pages, and institutional messaging requires a transparent approach between the partners that supports all aspects of the university enrollment mix, while building online as a strategic focus of enrollment expansion.
JenEd Consulting offers extensive support to universities and OPMs in the brokering and negotiation of contracted partnerships. Let us know how we can help you develop an achievable and sustainable relationship.
Dr. John E. Neal
JenEd Consulting, LLC