Update on OPM industry

Sounds like an illegal drug-related market doesn’t it?

Actually, it is the Online Program Industry and in the moments after I hit publish on the preceding post, I saw a tweet about 2U, the putative pioneer of the industry. I got cranky as I tend to do when I see yet more dialog about this space that I just couldn’t claim for years.

So, why, given the breadth of my subsequent and more recent work, would I care so much about what happens in that industry? Just that testy ignored inventor vibe?

Here we go . . .

When I launched Cenquest (technically in 1997), raised venture capital, and signed one graduate school after another, I was blazing a trail much bigger than online higher education. I brought my Mennonite heritage and related predisposition to charting every course of my life through an ethics frame. Now, before I launched Cenquest, I had years and years of experience applying that frame in multiple domains including engineering and technology as well as deepening my understanding of communitarianism and business ethics.

That is why this industry that “emerged” ten years later has been problematic. If you approach higher education, primarily driven by capitalist and/or profit motives, you are spreading a bigger risk than hard-sell student recruiting tactics. One could argue you are amplifying the worst aspects of graduate schools. You are, shall we say, mixing paradigms.

As I have noted before, the movement to impose greater transparency on OPM contracts is important. I applaud it. But, if you mostly dig deep on the revenue model (yes, i do know there are other objections) without context, you are missing the bigger calling to transform technology as well as revolutionize higher education. You are missing the fundamentals of the froth that can be venture-backed startup-to-IPO journey commingling with institutions that are supposed to be about more lofty ideals. Like, say, the most established pathway to economic opportunity this country has.

Is it not bad enough that we (citizens and the political leadership we vote in alike) have not found the will to match other developed nations? Quality education at accessible costs?

In other words, there is so much more work to be done that I fear has been missed.

Having said that, the tweet to which I reacted suggested 2U might be going down. I really hope not. I have more to talk about there!

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