Benchmark This!

Latest Trends Impacting Marketing and Higher Education
from Director of UPCEA's Center for Research and Strategy, Jim Fong

New Study: Third-Party Providers and PCO Units

UPCEA recently collaborated with ed2go on research related to professional, continuing, and online (PCO) education units’ relationships with third-party providers. This study, Perceptions of Third-Party Providers as a Result of the Pandemic, found that PCO units often sought assistance from third-party providers to help expand bandwidth to support existing students, diversify their portfolios, and continually attract new adult learners.

The demand for online learning continues to rise with more and more adult learners seeking out online modalities of instruction. In 2021, there were 92 million registered online learners compared to the pre-pandemic level of 44 million in 2019. Research has shown that when adult learners were asked how remote instruction might impact their plans to enroll, 73% said they were open to it.

And while many institutions may see the associated opportunities of diversifying their portfolio with stackable pathways and increased online programming, some lack the resources or subject-area expertise to capitalize on these opportunities. As a result, some PCO units are turning to third-party content providers to help fill the gap. 

Our research found that 61% of PCO units use a third-party provider for course development, content, or materials. Among those that do, the average percentage of PCO unit courses using third-party providers is 31%, with a median of 18%. Eighty-nine percent of respondents that leverage a third-party provider most often do so for non-credit courses, followed by bootcamps (41%), and badges (30%).

Conversely, among respondents not using third-party providers 48%t percent already have internal services/resources, 19% cited cost, and 14% questioned the quality. 

Click here to read the full report.

Jim Fong, UPCEA

Lead consultant Jim Fong, the founding director of UPCEA’s Center for Research and Strategy, has extensive background in marketing at Penn State, as well as experience in private industry. Jim brings a rich understanding of the dynamics driving today’s higher education leaders, providing research-driven strategy and positioning. Jim often presents at UPCEA’s regional and national conferences, sharing vital information with attendees.

Do you need help with your PCO unit or campus? We can help. Contact UPCEA's Center for Research and Strategy for a brief consult. Email [email protected] or call us at 202-659-3130.

Whether you need benchmarking studies, or market research for a new program, UPCEA Consulting is the right choice.

We know you. We know the challenges you face and we have the solutions you need. We speak your language and have been serving leaders like you for more than 100 years. UPCEA consultants are current or former continuing and online higher education professionals who are experts in the industry—put our expertise to work for you.


Data that tells your story.

Whether you need to assess the viability of a new program, find out how you stack up with the competition or would like a program portfolio review, we can assist with research and data that will help move your unit forward. Your decisions impact the quality of your operation, as well as the bottom line. We’ll provide data that does more than sit on a page—it’s data that tells the story.

The UPCEA Center for Research and Strategy offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model.


Click here to learn more.

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