Online Program Management (OPM) vs. Unbundled Services: Which Solution Delivers the Most Value?

Online Program Management (OPM) vs. Unbundled Services: Which Solution Delivers the Most Value?

When colleges and universities looked for third-party solutions for online program development, marketing, and enrollment initiatives, there used to only be one option. And it was an all in, take it or leave it approach. For a number of reasons, institutions can now choose from multiple solutions in addition to online program management firms. 

One option is still to invest in an OPM (Online Program Manager) that bundles services as part of a comprehensive revenue sharing program.

Another consideration is to collaborate with a marketing agency or enrollment services partner that provides a menu of fee-based, unbundled services.  

OPMs were once considered the go-to approach for schools. But developments in the past decade have demonstrated the advantages of unbundled marketing and enrollment services as well, leaving many schools uncertain about which solution will deliver the most value.

A Brief History of Online Program Management (OPM) Providers

OPMs proved to be an excellent solution for undercapitalized initiatives in the online learning space during the early 2000s. 

Some OPMs became highly specialized in certain content areas or fields. They gathered, designed, built, published, and facilitated the delivery of online graduate programs. They also drove marketing and enrollment services for those programs. 

Because OPMs were (and still are) revenue sharing programs, their return on investment varied considerably depending on the strength of a school’s brand. Generally speaking, the stronger the brand was, the higher a percentage of revenue the school itself would receive.

OPMs shouldered a steep upfront investment in building and marketing a school’s program. They implemented 5-10 year contracts with schools to ensure an adequate return on that investment. 

But midway through these contracts, schools might experience buyers’ remorse. Once its programs were well-established, OPMs often became increasingly hands off—just as schools were beginning to send them bigger and bigger checks.

Around 2008, the OPM model began to mature, and the market became finite. OPMs knew they couldn’t implement the same programs across too many schools, so they started unbundling their services.

Now, in a post pandemic landscape, every school has at least some capability to create online content which eliminates a primary reason to use historically choose an OPM.

OPMs vs. Unbundled Services

Unlike OPMs that cover the entire spectrum of the online learning space, unbundled services provide niche offerings for higher education clients.

Some companies specialize in building and creating content for schools. Others, like MindMax, specialize in more customized solutions including marketing and enrollment services. Even some of the big OPMs began unbundling their services, focusing on fee-for-service solutions instead of revenue-sharing programs. 

Every school has some capability to market, recruit and enroll students. Unbundling helps reduces resource redundancy and invest across other areas of growth. Today, schools have a choice between investing in an online program management provider or paying for unbundled services. But how can they know which solution will provide the most value to their institution? Here’s how I suggest breaking it down. . .

An OPM is a good fit for your school if:

  • You have insufficient capital to achieve desired results 
  • You’re under pressure to address a specific opportunity quickly 
  • You need to get to market quickly with few resources 

Unbundled services are a good fit for your school if:

  • You have a track record of providing online programs without third-party support and are looking for an opportunity to be more successful 
  • You already have certain elements of your online program development, marketing, or enrollment initiatives under control 
  • You want the flexibility to provide in-demand small credentials and/or certificates for students

How to Move Forward

The market is far more saturated in terms of the number of online programs which makes “guaranteed” returns on investment a lot less attainable. There is a more nuanced conversation happening that relies heavily on our collective response to the needs of a shifting student population. At MindMax, we believe that a school’s needs are dynamic. We offer both fee-for-service and revenue-sharing programs as part of our unbundled services model—and we provide significantly more flexibility than an OPM.

Our services align well with schools that manage their own online program development. In today’s digital world, it’s easier than ever for schools to own these efforts themselves. They gain far more value from partnering with a company like MindMax for the marketing and enrollment services that drive prospective students to these programs. 

One of our core values here at MindMax is “get results,” and that directive fuels our approach to providing unbundled services. We use hard work and innovation to accomplish goals for our clients—and we’ll always be honest and transparent before asking anyone to sign a contract.

Interested in learning how we can help you reach your goals? Contact us or book some time with our team to discuss your department or institutional needs.