Delivering On The Promises Of Online Education

October 2017 

CAPDM Newsletter


CAPDM Opinion

Delivering on the promises of online education

Dear Reader,

We have recently been invited to three different HE institutions to present our offering in online program management (OPM) services. It’s certainly a phrase that has penetrated UK Higher Education institutions, helping to describe how they might obtain third-party help funding, producing, managing or promoting a new portfolio of online programs.

Ten years ago when the initial big OPM deals were being struck in the USA with companies like 2U, little was known in the UK of this new partnering approach to going online. Watching how the US market has evolved since; the two most notable evolutions we have seen to that original OPM pitch are the DIY Consortia like Unizin, and the fee-for-service ones like iDesign, Emerge Education and Noodle.

Unizin is a three-year old, not for profit OPM started by 11 founding US member institutions. Each member contributed on average $1M of membership fees for a three year period of support in building online programs and providing an online learning environment. It has now grown to 25 institutional members and applies differential member fees based on institution size.

Anyone remember the 2011 “Collaborate to compete” report by the HEFCE Online Learning Taskforce? It’s an example of it in action in the USA. Perhaps it is time to reconsider the report’s recommendations including:

  • Investment is needed to facilitate the development and building of consortia to achieve scale and brand in online learning;
  • More and better market intelligence about international demand and competition is required;
  • Institutions need to take a strategic approach to realign structures and processes in order to embed online learning;
  • Investment is needed for the development and exploitation of open educational resources to enhance efficiency and quality.

The fee-for-service (OPE) enabling model offers institutions flexibility to pursue shorter-term arrangements and retain course autonomy in exchange for investing more up front. OPE providers like Noodle and CAPDM enhance an institution’s ability to do much of what is needed in-house, based on shorter-term contracts usually with specific costed program deliverables.

At CAPDM we favour this ‘enabling’ approach. It does lack the substantial investment funding the pure revenue-sharing OPM providers offer for flagship programs. We have however developed and grown four fully online institutional MBA programs in the UK – without such investment funding, all four rapidly passed through break-even and into profit.

If you really do want to deliver on your promises of high-quality online education, please get in touch.

Email me now.

Martin Smith
Managing Director, CAPDM Ltd.


About the author
Martin Smith MSc is a core founder and managing director of CAPDM Ltd. A software engineer by trade, during the 1990’s he was product development manager for Office Workstations Limited and GUIDE 3 – the first commercial hypertext product. He worked for OWL International Inc in Seattle as an electronic publishing solutions consultant, responsible for the specification and implementation of electronic publishing solutions for Ford, GEAE and the US Navy. Through CAPDM, Martin has been applying open-standards based single-source publishing technologies to higher education for 25+ years, and has influenced the development of some of the most successful online distance learning programs operating today.


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This newsletter was originally sent by CAPDM Ltd. on the 31. October 2017.

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