In the early 2010s, a recommendation from an investment firm analyst led Kevin Kinser, a Penn State University education professor, to explore the growing trend of online program managers (OPMs) and their partnerships with universities. These companies offered recruiting, marketing, and back-end support to prestigious institutions as they launched online graduate degrees in fields such as social work, nursing, and international relations.
The typical model for OPMs at the time was to provide these services to name-brand universities in exchange for revenue shares or licensing fees. However, Kevin Kinser’s research revealed that these partnerships had raised concerns about the influence of profit-driven motives on educational programs.
As a result of his findings, Kevin Kinser has become a leading expert on the complex and evolving relationships between educational institutions and OPMs in the digital age. His work has challenged traditional models of online education and prompted a reassessment of the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in higher education.