Industry Insights

Valuable insights from UPCEA's trusted corporate partners.

DIYing an OPM: Build, outsource, or blend?

Learner preference for digital experiences continues to rise as questions about the OPM model mount from regulatory bodies and OPM customers. UPCEA’s recent snap poll found that 61% of higher ed leaders anticipate making changes to their OPM partnerships in the next 1–2 years.  

As colleges and universities contemplate developing internal capacity and expertise for supporting online programs, they are often surprised by the extensive resources needed. Effective implementation demands a level of coordination across various departments to ensure seamless delivery and support. Institutions transitioning from an OPM are finding the process to be complicated and full of new and unexpected internal responsibilities.  

Whether a school is transitioning from a third-party provider or seeking to optimize their in-house online program support, the choice of model will be critical. There are advantages and hurdles associated with each option: 

  • Build an internal OPM by developing all key services for online programs in-house, including marketing, recruitment, student support, and instructional design.  
  • Build internal strength and outsource expertise by leveraging existing in-house capabilities for functions where there is sufficient competency and engaging external partners to fill any gaps and level-up resources. 
  • Partner with a fee-for-service company who supports most functions yet relies on the institution to help set goals, make decisions, and implement some tactics. 

Key factors to consider 

Investment levels, time horizons, ROI expectations, financial frameworks, business operations, and internal talent are just a few of the considerations for effectively supporting online programs. In a recent ebook, Collegis shared lessons and tips gleaned from experience supporting online programs for institutional partners: 

  • Leadership — A strong, experienced leader invested with the authority to make decisions and drive change is essential. 
  • Change management — To be successful, organizational change initiatives require long-term investment in resources, adoption, and sustainability. 
  • Goal setting — Establish realistic, achievable goals and clearly communicate the progress toward those goals to gain alignment across the institution. 
  • Financial structure — For online programs, revenue must be continually reinvested into building the portfolio and scaling operations to meet enrollment demands. 
  • Technology ecosystem — Architecture will likely need to be modified to accommodate the flexibility, multiple terms, and overall student experience necessary to support online programs. 
  • Partnerships — Building and sustaining a successful model for supporting online programs requires a strong partnership ecosystem, including relationships across institutional units, community employers, and external experts. 
  • Assessment and outsourcing — An objective assessment can help you determine whether your institution currently has the in-house talent across critical functions to support your chosen model. 

Online program management in higher ed is constantly evolving. The breadth and depth of expertise required to remain relevant will only continue to grow. Institutions should choose a model (and potentially a partner) that has the flexibility to adapt to changing needs. 

Get the ebook “Building an In-House OPM” for an exploration of each model and detailed considerations for choosing the right model for your institution. 

Download the ebook here. 


About Collegis Education 

 Collegis Education is higher ed’s innovation enabler, empowering schools with a better vision of how they fit into learners’ lives and what’s possible when they do. With more than 10 years’ experience as industry pioneers, we’ve proven how leveraging data, tech and talent can transform everything from student experiences to business processes. As higher ed evolves, you’ll need a thought partner and tactical pro, not a pre-packaged product or platform. Our strategic services allow institutions to leapfrog from wondering to doing, implement long-term growth plans and build in-house capacity to thrive in a complex market. Learn more at 


More Industry Insights:

5 Strategies for Online Growth: New Insights from a Survey of Students

In a new national study of the preferences and expectations of online students, RNL has identified five interconnected strategies that institutions must have in place...

New guide offers colleges a playbook for building an in-house student coaching program

Fuel student support services on your campus — and sustain the impact for years to come The challenges facing higher ed today are both daunting...