Navigating OPM (Online Program Management) with Volute’s “Platform-less” Approach

The online program management (OPM) movement is going through a transformation. OPM providers, such as 2U and Pearson, emerged about a decade ago to help schools develop and migrate programs online. A university will typically enter a 7 to 10-year all-inclusive contract with an OPM provider, and in exchange for service, OPM providers receive anywhere from 30 to 80 percent of each student’s tuition within the said program. (Lieberman, 2017) Although this is still the most common practice, fee-for-service options are becoming more attractive to universities.

Fee-for-service contracts are typically more affordable, agile, and flexible, and give the universities more control. The University of Pittsburgh decided to partner with an OPM provider in order to move their health care programs online. (Lieberman, 2017) The university went with a fee-for-service contract, because they didn’t want to also hand over control of marketing and enrollment expansion to the OPM provider, which is what the all-inclusive contract required. (Lieberman, 2017) Cedarville University in Ohio took a similar approach because they felt the all-inclusive contract was out of their budget. (Lieberman, 2017)

Volute, an international EdTech company that specializes in curating thought leaders’ ideas as online tools for experiential learning, is going through its own evolution to position itself better in the changing OPM sphere. The company, founded by Michael Croft in 2015, plans to offer its experiential tools from its global marketplace as plug-ins – evolving from its current platform model. Institutions and corporations can conveniently assimilate these tools into unique learning experiences through their existing learning platforms. If an institution is already using Blackboard, for example, they can plug Volute’s tools right in. Volute’s tools provide an option to the didactic, rote state of many current online programs with interactive, experiential tools contributed by thought leaders worldwide.

The Volute marketplace is growing and currently features more than 30 tools including Itinerary “asynchronous, simulated logistics management;” Guidebook “a visual organizer of information for reflective journaling;” and Peer Review, “emulates and incentivizes virtual peer collaboration”.

As fee-for-service contracts continue to gain traction, Volute is working on partnerships with OPM providers seeking such tools to ease and amplify the online transition for universities.

“Volute's unique business model and technology support new OPM models by allowing teaching methods to be digitized, beyond traditional learning,” said Croft. “By curating the digitization of thought leaders' methods, we enable the capability for universities, corporations and OPM providers to migrate advanced courses and trainings utilizing competency based, applied and experiential learning, online, that traditional educational platforms do not.”

Although Volute’s focus has been on executive education and professional development tools, the company is looking to branch out as teaching approaches and online methods continue to diversify.

Certifications for shorter, non-degree online programs are becoming increasingly popular. These certifications can come from many sources: traditional universities, online platforms, trade organizations, and companies like Jiffy Lube and IBM. (Pappano, 2017) Social media platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, are catching onto the trend, and now allow space for users to share digital “badges” earned by gaining these certifications. (Pappano, 2017) Professionals can “stack” credentials and earn badges, and there’s a movement to offer credit for stacked credentials allowing full-time working professionals to earn an advanced degree.

Volute’s tools fit this model nicely, by offering an à la carte approach to stacking that can be utilized by OPM providers to help agile clients achieve their goals.

There are three main ways to stack credentials. Vertical stacking is the original and more traditional version. Credentials are piled one on top of the other, in a hierarchy, toward a more advanced degree. (Williamson and Pittinsky, 2016) As for horizontal stacking, the subject matter outweighs the level of credentials. (Williamson and Pittinsky, 2016) Learners who stack their credentials horizontally expand the knowledge of their subject matter by earning credentials in related fields that are collectively preparing them for a specific job. (Williamson and Pittinsky, 2016) Unlike vertical stacking, there’s no explicit ordinal ranking or prerequisites needed. (Williamson and Pittinsky, 2016)

Value-added stacking is a combination of vertical and horizontal credential stacking. It occurs when a learner adds an area of expertise to an existing two or four-year degree with shorter-term credentials to prepare for specific type of job. (Williamson and Pittinsky, 2016)

Volute continues to aggressively adapt within the university and corporate EdTech sphere. Newer OPM providers will have another option to meet increasingly agile university and corporate learning needs, with Volute’s marketplace of composable tools.

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Lieberman, M. (2017). OPMs: Fee for service is growing, but revenue-share models dominate | Inside Higher Ed. [online] Insidehighered.com. Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2017/10/25/opms-fee-service-growing-revenue-share-models-dominate.

Pappano, L. (2017). Can Credentials Replace Traditional Education?.[online] The Atlantic. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/04/when-a-college-degree-isnt-enough/524553/.

Straumsheim, C. (2017). Program management market expands to the boot camp space. [online] Insidehighered.com. Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/02/10/program-management-market-expands-boot-camp-space.

Straumsheim, C. (2015). Online program management providers, now a billion-dollar industry, look ahead. [online] Insidehighered.com. Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/09/11/online-program-management-providers-now-billion-dollar-industry-look-ahead.

Thottam, I. (2017). 10 Companies With Awesome Training And Development Programs. [online] Monster Career Advice. Available at: https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/companies-with-awesome-training-development-programs.

Williamson, J. and Pittinsky, M. (2016). Understanding the differences in what credentials are being stacked and why (essay) | Inside Higher Ed. [online] Insidehighered.com. Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2016/05/23/understanding-differences-what-credentials-are-being-stacked-and-why-essay.

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