Online Program Management Evaluation at EOU

EOU recently embarked on a lengthy comprehensive evaluation process with online program management firm, Pearson (pearson.com/opm). This followed a thorough review of multiple proposals submitted by interested parties.  Pearson distinguished itself during the initial review, providing evidence of developed competencies in marketing, recruitment, and student success services that demonstrated a track record of success with their university partners. Consequently, we concluded it to be prudent for a deeper evaluation to determine if there is merit to EOU partnering with Pearson.

Pearson representatives have already visited campus and additional visits are planned in the coming months. For those of you who have met with them, thank you. Pearson has been impressed with our team and our rich history of serving students by providing quality online programs.

Evaluation, partnership modeling, and negotiation is anticipated to be completed by mid-May. No partnership decision has been made given we are evaluating Pearson, and Pearson is evaluating EOU. Collectively, we will determine whether a partnership provides a path to desired mutually beneficial future outcomes. While much work remains before reaching a conclusion of whether to partner with Pearson, I am excited to be investigating the possibilities that an OPM partnership might offer. I look forward to engaging with the campus in the coming weeks to share thoughts about this potential partnership.

Your perspective, feedback, and questions are important. If we are to enter into a long-term partnership, we must ensure it is appropriately designed. Your involvement will help inform the process. To facilitate sharing of information we will be updating you on progress and responding to questions on a frequent basis.


Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is an Online Program Management (OPM) company?

Answer: An OPM specializes in operational aspects of offering online degree programs. These companies assist institutions in taking their programs online or expanding existing offerings to grow enrollments, taking a share of tuition revenue in return.

Question: Why is EOU exploring an OPM partnership?

Answer: To determine if an OPM partnership offers an acceptable path forward for addressing recent online enrollment declines, achieving strategic enrollment growth objectives, and accessing emerging best practices and innovations in student success support systems.

Question: Has EOU already decided to partner with an OPM?

Answer: No. We are currently evaluating the potential of partnering with an online program management company.

Question: Have other options been considered to address performance gaps/opportunities?

Answer: Yes. While continuing to implement improvement initiatives we have considered options for building internal capability and capacity as well as fee-for-service partnerships. At this point, we are electing to investigate the Online Program Management (OPM) option. We can launch in a much shorter timeframe and maintain control over growth and execution with reduced downside risk to the university.

Question: Does an OPM “run” EOU’s online programs?

Answer: No. An OPM works behind the scenes on operational aspects of online programs.  Among other things, they provide marketing, recruitment, market analytics, and student support services to facilitate enrollment growth objectives.  You would not see an OPM company brand or logo on materials. The courses would be taught by EOU faculty.

Question: Does EOU relinquish operational controls or management to an OPM?

Answer: No. EOU would maintain operational controls and management on all key policies and processes for admissions, recruitment, student support, and marketing. EOU would maintain policies and processes governing operational requirements and management of academic quality, standards, faculty hiring and evaluation, and curriculum.

Question: Is there a cost associated with using an OPM?

Answer: Yes.  There would be no upfront costs. Instead, OPMs take a share of tuition revenue derived only from enrollment increases tagged by the partnership.

Question: How will growth in online enrollment impact our on-campus enrollment?

Answer: It is expected that growth of EOU’s online programs would generate additional resources available for the entire institution. Additional visibility gained through increased marketing and promotion would influence students seeking campus and on-site enrollments, and additional student support resources.

Question: How will we maintain quality with growth?

Answer: Goal 2 of EOU’s strategic plan is “transformational education–enrich academic quality and enhance intellectual vitality.” Regardless of the methods used to achieve our strategic growth objectives we remain committed to this goal.

Question: How will we hire and manage quality online adjuncts while growing and managing on-campus faculty for that same quality?

Answer:  EOU would continue to use current systems for hiring both on-campus and online faculty. Applicants meeting posted qualifications would be vetted by program faculty and hired by the college deans. Management of quality would follow established review and evaluation processes and guidelines for faculty and adjuncts.

Question: How will an OPM company interact with EOU faculty, staff, and students?

Answer:  It is expected that an OPM company would serve as a true partner with faculty and staff so shared objectives were accomplished. Online students would experience improved service and support as a partnership yields best practices implementation.

Question: Will there be a redundancy of jobs?

Answer: No. Redundancy of jobs would be cost prohibitive. It is expected that an OPM would add jobs required to perform operational tasks as detailed in a contract and EOU would add positions, as necessary, to support growth in operations at the institution. Specifics are unknown at this time given there is no definitive agreement.

Question: How do we plan to maintain our culture through this change?

Answer: EOU maintains its culture through the implementation of curriculum and personnel. Pearson Online Learning Services would learn about us so they could reflect EOU in their work in the partnership.

Question: Why Pearson Online Learning Services?  Why not 2U or another company?

Answer: Pearson Online Learning Services is one of the top Online Program Management companies (OPMs) in the country representing both smaller regional brands and large universities. They have a successful track record of over 25 years and are aligned with our culture and objectives: significant online growth while maintaining and promoting the culture of EOU.

Question: How did we come to select Pearson Online Services?

Answer: An RFP was issued in August and followed established EOU guidelines. The Learning House and Pearson Online Learning Services were invited to campus for initial presentations to university leadership. Following onsite visits with both companies, we then elected to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of services and opportunities with Pearson.

Question: What services are we looking for Pearson Online Learning Services to provide?

Answer: We would consider marketing, student recruitment, advisement, and retention services for our online programs. We would also consider having them assist us with instructional design and new program development.

Question: Are there other universities that have partnered with Pearson Online Learning Services?

Answer: Pearson partners with over 45 colleges and universities, including smaller schools like Marysville University and large institutions like Arizona State University.

Question: How does Pearson Online Learning Services operate?

Answer: Like most Online Program Management companies, Pearson Online Services would work “behind the scenes” to support our enrollment strategies. They have cross-functional teams of marketers, recruiters, and retention specialists who would act as an extension of their partner university. All Pearson Online Learning Services staff that represent EOU would be trained by EOU to assure that the culture is maintained.

Question: What if we enter into this partnership and then one of us decides they want out?

Answer: A contract would contain conditions for this event that would be negotiated by both parties.

Question: How is student information protected during the application process?

Answer: Pearson’s recruitment, advisement, and retention services would not require access to all of the student’s confidential information; however, they would need “read only” access to specific fields to be able to answer students’ questions about the status of their application materials, whether or not they were registered and for which courses, and whether or not the student successfully completed a course. There would not be access to grades or other personally identifiable information like social security numbers.

Question: How will their “retention services” work with EOU’s Center Directors and online advisors?

Answer: EOU’s Regional Centers are strategically placed throughout the state to provide face-to-face advisement and retention services to local and distant students who access EOU online or onsite.  Pearson Online Services would augment EOU’s capacity in advisement and retention services as we grow.

Question: Where are we in the process? What’s next?

Answer: We have invited Pearson to campus again for another round of meetings with the university community. By April, we expect to have additional financial reviews and projections and a full review by May with the EOU Board of Trustees.

Question: Will an OPM work with our Regional Centers to serve online students?

Answer: Yes. Our Regional Centers are key components of our success and will continue to work with placebound students throughout Oregon and beyond. An OPM would help to increase enrollments in our online programs that are supported by the Centers and we expect they will work closely with Regional Outreach and Innovation to ensure new students are supported.

Question: How does a “success coach” interact with a student and what does that mean for the relationship a student has with their faculty and/or academic advisor?

Answer: Through the evaluation process we will learn more about how the “success coaches” would engage with our students, faculty, and academic advisors. Ensuring that EOU remains in control of the level of engagement a student has with a success coach is a priority. If we enter into a partnership with Pearson, we would monitor and adjust the success coach model to reflect our culture and student needs.


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