Extension Engine

Rethinking the Bundle

Here’s a thought we ran into recently in an article in Edsurge regarding the future of online learning development:

More and more universities will opt to partner with firms that offer unbundled services  to create higher quality online programs. . . Look for increased moral outrage and regulatory scrutiny for fee sharing arrangements that drive growth and revenue—at the expense of questionable student outcomes.”

We couldn’t agree more, although we might be a little gentler in our appraisal of OPMs. While we don’t think the OPM model works for all going forward, it served its purpose and helped move learning online.

It’s time to move away from cookie-cutter courses

When institutions of higher learning first started offering online versions of their coursework, it made sense to turn to those organizations who already had substantial experience in developing learning modules and in the technical systems to support them. Making OPMs even more attractive was the fact that they were willing to foot the initial bill and get their ROI over time in a revenue-sharing agreement. The downside was that most courses had a cookie-cutter feel to them, partly due to technology.

According to the research firm Eduventures, 50 percent of those original OPM revenue-sharing agreements will soon end — at precisely the same time that technology has evolved enough for more distinctive, engaging and effective learning experiences to be possible. In addition, colleges and universities are more familiar with what’s involved in offering online learning and, in many cases, have added departments and personnel to support it. With a new understanding of each piece of the puzzle, unbundling services makes new sense.

Online learning without revenue sharing

Without patting ourselves on the back too much, we’ve seen the writing on the wall for awhile and last fall joined with Eduventures to present a webinar, Online Learning Without Revenue Sharing. A recording of the webinar is online and available to view free of charge.

During the presentation, we described the four major components of online learning: academics, strategy, operations, and enrollment. In the traditional revenue-sharing model, the OPM assumed responsibility for all four of these components.

But the trend now is to rethink this arrangement. Colleges and universities are more prepared to take over the activities for which they now have staff and expertise, and contract out other activities on a fee-for-service basis. Concomitant with this new thinking is the rise of numerous, smaller “niche” companies who specialize in one or more of these activities.

How to unbundle

ExtensionEngine is one such fee-for-service company. We specialize in producing “custom learning experiences” that precisely satisfy an organization’s online learning needs. No two projects are alike, but what they all have in common is the application of the latest thinking in pedagogy and instructional design, a faithful capture of an institution’s distinctive voice, and a penchant for pushing available technology to its creative limits, all in service to the most important stakeholders: the student.

If you are an organization rethinking your bundled arrangement, one just venturing into online learning, or something in between, contact us to learn more about what ExtensionEngine custom learning experiences can do for you.

Continue reading: We’ve worked with elite universities on a custom tailored financial model to help them determine which model is best suited for their institution. Learn more about it here.

Dr. Scott Moore

Dr. Scott Moore is the Principal Learning Strategist at Extension Engine. He leads our global Custom Learning Experience practice. In his 5+ years with us, he has worked with dozens of nonprofit, higher education, and learning business organizations as they considered using online learning to support their mission and margin. He has a deep understanding of organizational dynamics, online learning, strategic differentiation, decision-making, and more. Prior to joining Extension Engine, Dr. Moore was a faculty member, administrator, and dean at Michigan Ross and Babson College for 20+ years. Scott holds an MBA from Georgia Tech and a Ph.D. in Decision Sciences from Wharton.

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