Skilling and OPMs

Subscribe to Skilling news on the home page.

Kieran Mathieson


I just read The Creeping Capitalist Takeover of Higher Education, by Kevin Carey. He says we'll see a return to the good ol' days of free-for-all college loan scams, with Trumpian dismantling of protections. He's probably right.

He also writes about online program managers (OPMs), companies that run online programs for universities. The programs have university branding, and charge university tuition, but they're run by the OPMs, often with little quality control. The OPMs and universities split the profits, which can be substantial.

OPMs make it easy for universities to cash in on their brands. Just let OPMs use their names, and logos.

Both students and universities lose, however. Online students end up paying high prices for degrees that might not be worth much, as measured by the marketable skills students learn. Universities lose the profit they hand to OPMs. They also lose a little of their souls, if that counts for anything.

What can a university do? Run programs themselves. They get to keep all of the profit, or lower tuition. They can make sure their programs are worth something.

How do you run online courses that are worth students' time and money? Skilling can help. It's based on learning research, uses personnel time wisely, scales well, and is open source. Skilling focuses on skills courses only, like programming, business writing, and database design. Still, they're high-value courses that students want.

Skilling is not a complete answer. It doesn't do everything an online program would need. Still, before signing a contract with an OPM, and losing control over quality and profits, it might be worth a university's time to explore DIY and KPY (keep profits yourself) options.