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Episode 11

transformed: Online Program Management…Is it right for your institution?

Higher Digital has just published the next installment of its new audio interview feature, transformed. Every other week we interview experts on higher education, digital transformation, and the challenges and promise represented by both. 

This week, Higher Digital President Joe Gottlieb sat down with CEO and Co-Founder Wayne Bovier to discuss the ins and outs of OPM (online program management) and its crucial role in higher education. They discuss the growth of OPM, the ways that it can benefit higher education institutions, and its increasingly strategic role during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joe Gottlieb: 0:02

Welcome to transformed, a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new whys, the new whats and the new hows in higher ed. In each episode, you will experience hosts and guests pulling for the resurgence of higher ed while identifying and discussing the best practices needed to accomplish that resurgence culture, strategy and tactics planning, and execution people, process and technology. It’s all on the menu because that’s, what’s required to truly transform. Hello and welcome to transformed, a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new why’s, the new whats, and the new hows in higher ed. My name is Joe Gottlieb, president of Higher Digital. And today I’m joined once again by Wayne Bovier, CEO and co-founder of Higher Digital welcome Wayne.

Wayne Bovier: 0:52

Thanks, Joe. Great to be with you again. What do you want to talk about?

Joe Gottlieb: 0:56

Well, today I thought we’d talk about online program management providers. These players represent a very interesting aspect of the market as it’s developing and I thought it would be a great topic for our audience.

Wayne Bovier: 1:10

Yeah, sounds good. You know , very timely. But obviously a very, very big topic. So where do you want to start?

Joe Gottlieb: 1:19

Well, let’s let me throw out a bit of a suggested flow here. We should start by defining what an OPM is and then really get into the strategic context for how institutions should be considering an OPM. And if they really want to proceed, how might they think about which one is right for them and we’ll bring it all back together at the end here with some summaries, but let’s start out initially by defining the scope of an OPM. Because this is a hefty proposition for any institution that’s looking to evolve their business.

Wayne Bovier: 1:54

Yeah . So OPM stands for Online Program Management. And in many ways the kind of the industry, if you want to call it, an industry , was really started by a company called 2U , the number 2 and the letter U and originally the business that they were looking to build , well , they identified the gap that higher education institutions have. And that is, you know, how do you offer up a fully online program, a course, a degree, it could be bachelor’s program. It could actually be something smaller than that. And so , that was years ago now 2U is a public company they’re doing very well. They continue to grow and have a variety of acquisitions, but in the meantime, since they started this, what has ultimately happened is that , you know, the market has seen a very big need for this , right? Especially during the time of COVID where there was a real knee jerk reaction to get everything online. And if you were an institution that really didn’t prioritize your online programs, or you may not have had any really online at all , truly online, then you were kind of turning to this area. The other part that I’ll mention as part of the OPM space is that there were a lot of publishers in particular Pearson and Wiley are the top two that kind of come to mind, you know, the publishers had their own dilemma right. Their revenue stream was built upon content. And so as they started to, you know , as digital content and things like that started to become more prominent, you know, it really cut into kind of their, their margins and their business, their business model, and so a logical place for them to turn to. And they had a lot of technology under them as part of their, their portfolio anyway. So a logical kind of pivot for them was just like, okay, well, let’s take our content and put it online and build some services that are around that. And so , now you have the likes of a, you know, like the 2U that have started up in this space. You have big publishers that are in this space. You actually have some LMS, smaller LMS providers in that, you know, someone actually argue that, you know, Blackboard being one of the bigger LMS – learning management systems – is actually in this space as well. So it gets kind of complicated as you look at it. But the other dimensions that I think are important to highlight when we talk and define what an OPM is, it runs the gamut of degrees to certificates, and this could be undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and different types of certificates. So there’s kind of a vertical breadth, that way there’s also different economic models that range from tuition revenue sharing to a fee for service and something in between. And so, it is not necessarily in today’s world, if you’re a president and you’re really strongly considering OPM , there’s a lot of things to sift through and a lot of things to consider as it pertains to what it means for your institution.

Joe Gottlieb: 5:40

I think that’s helpful. So just to double click on that, though, from a scope perspective, when we say OPM , um, let’s try to summarize what it can mean in terms of functional delivery , uh, what’s included and what might be included. You talked about the edges of the market. I E publishers are in our textbook providers getting into value, added segments relative to their business evolution. But , uh, if there can be a classic OPM already, what does that mean? Sort of giving up and turning over to the OPM provider that I have to wrap my brain around as an institution, but also the other side of that is what am I getting? What am I benefiting from in terms of actual delivery for this functional capability to participate in the online education market?

Wayne Bovier: 6:34

Yeah. I mean, it’s a really great question. And , you know, the heart of it is every institution has an IT department pretty much in today’s world. Every institution has an LMS It and to see whether or not you think as if you’re a president, if you think we’re an online institution or not, right. Let’s say a small liberal arts college, right. I would, they have all the infrastructure they need, they have the staff they need. And so, you know, I always thought it was interesting, right. You know, Oh, we’re not necessarily good at this being efficient. And it includes not just managing these online programs. So it’s course creation the actual teaching of the course. But it also includes things like marketing, right. Reaching out to maybe a new population, the student, but a prospect population that is non-traditional for you. Right. And so , you know, so it really runs to your cause at the end of the day, you’re outsourcing this right. And anytime , and you and I, right. Living in the business world and, you know, running, Higher Digital, right. Get growing, Hgiher Digital, right. It’s, you know, what are we going to be good at? And what are we going to outsource? What is, what is a strategic and competitive advantage versus out, you know, outsourcing this . And so, you know, an interesting dynamic and, you know, and this is just one data point, but an institution that I’m very familiar with did an early deal with an OPM. And it was decided by the leadership at that time, as a way, I was like, look, we have this technology, but we’re just not really good at running it. We’re not efficient at running it. So we’re going to do a deal. And then in this case, it was a tuition, revenue share deal that, you know, I think it ended up being a five-year deal and then it renewed for on a yearly basis, the entire growth of this institution came online. So another way to look at it is the institution who was traditionally bound by physical structures, outsourced all of their growth. Um, and to me being kind of a, you know, putting my business strategy , um, that doesn’t sound like a good proposition when you’re in the business of teaching and, and , and giving out degrees and so on. So, you know, cause you’re outsourcing and important , um, and kind of understated aspect of what you’re giving up by outsourcing. It is learning , right. If you, how can you ever be good at managing an online, an online program, an online offering, if you’re not trying and getting better, if you’re outsourcing it, you’re, you’re kind of insulated from, you know , the , the lessons involved in this and so on and so forth.

Joe Gottlieb: 9:41

Well, so it clearly sets up a situation where without sourcing what you get is in theory, more rapid participation in something that maybe you don’t have, you might have the types of resources, but you may not have the , the scale or, or , or current capacity to go extend your business into this new market and participate in that revenue opportunity. And that’s why outsourcing can, can get you there quicker, but you’re quite right. If you’ve decided it reminds me of the , all the strategic discussions of core versus context, right. If you’ve decided that that market I E online education delivery, and actually stated more accurately because we’ve, we’ve had to do that via COVID. So to the irony here is COVID forced all of us to become online education providers. Now, whether or not we’re effectively marketing our courses via online delivery to other markets is a different story entirely. And that’s why these things tend to include marketing, right? So that, that persist as a value proposition, I think, to consider. But if you decided that it’s strategic to go participate in that market , um, the question becomes, do I want to get there fast, but in a way that will diminish my opportunity to learn and will diminish my ability to control, and might also diminish my ability to differentiate myself, because if I’m outsourcing, I’m outsourcing to someone who’s found efficiency and repeating a pattern and a model that they can make money, right. So I’m , I’m, I’m throwing in with a player that has a model, and therefore I’m going to put my brand on it, but, you know, in some form or another, but I’m probably not going to get an opportunity to really differentiate myself. So that becomes the real, I think, critical criteria for consideration .

Wayne Bovier: 11:33

I think that’s right. You know , um, and I have a couple, a couple of thoughts to that. I mean, you, you know, you’re outsourcing your brand, like, you know, is elementary as this analogy might be, but I think it kind of a restaurant right, where you’re running a restaurant and you got a great brand , um, and you, but you’re stuck in your kind of physical mindset, right. We can only serve as so many people with so many tables and, you know, we’re not going to do, you know , these online delivery tools, like, you know, we’re just going to outsource our brand well, that not, not only are you outsourcing the, the , your brand you’re outsourcing, you know, your recipes, all of this kind of stuff, which in many ways you’re kind of giving your , you’re almost preceding your competitors. I feel your competitor right. Uh , is, is potentially one way to look at it. Right. Um, you know, and again, I know off of the opiums , there’s lots of different ones and they have different models. Um, so anybody listening to this would be like, you know, there is a lot of, there is some differentiators , uh , around that, you know, the other, the other part that kind of comes to mind that I think is really important is the faculty. I do, you know, I do know that I think one of the driving decisions of, of outsourcing to an OPM is, you know, w with administration that is having a hard time convincing faculty to engage with the online programs. Right. Um, there’s a lot of politics associated with that. There’s a governance aspect to that. And so for some administrators, instead of working in their way, through all the necessary conversations, it might be just easier. We’re just going to house versus , and then be done with it. Um, the other part to this is, you know, when you do outsource it, and you do expect some of your faculty to engage, you’re actually increasing. I mean, the , the workload is obvious right. To your faculty, but what you’re also introducing them to is a way in most cases, a different LMS than you currently have. So they got, they got to replicate course content in different systems and they got to manage it. Right. So the overhead for your existing faculty can be pretty significant. Um, and , and just the workload.

Joe Gottlieb: 14:06

Okay. So in that case, it’s a model where the opium is delivering the platform, maybe they’re assisting or handling marketing to get recruitment of a , of a , of an online student population that’ll extend your revenues, but in some of them actually utilize your faculty, but now those faculty are having to learn this other platform, which might involve a different delivery vehicle, a different LMS. Um, and so they’re , yeah, there , then you might wind up on a , on a bit of a , in a scenario where you have , um, the, the worst of both worlds, right? So your faculty may have resisted, but then you’re going to make life a little bit challenging for them by having them deal with another platform. Whereas if you’d achieved critical alignment around doing it internally , um, knowing that it was going to take some development effort and some change, and it might also involve a new platform for delivery, let’s say, you decide , wow, we’re on a LMS right now. That’s not well suited to going online. You might wind up bringing in a new LMS to go online. And so that’s another factor to consider for sure. Um, but I guess getting back to your other point about the politics and the governance structures around this, yes. It’s quite true that you might find yourself as a leader , um, in a strategic situation where you need to do this to break a little glass, you know, you know, force the matter, get there one way, even though it may not be ideal across all variables. Right. I think then the key is to figure out how can you, how can you leverage that as a stepping stone , um, to, to actually advance the institution to participate. And so, and so, you know, it seems to me like there might be very different sort of models for how you might grapple with this decision. And maybe it will be helpful to our audience to frame this up with , um, unhealthy contexts and healthy contexts for which you consider an OPM. So, mate , since we’ve started on a little bit of a critical note, let’s start with the unhealthy context. So let’s articulate a scenario where , um, it could be a very real, very believable scenario, right? That leads to an unhealthy pursuit of an OEM and a situation that may not be great for the institution. Let’s describe that.

Wayne Bovier: 16:35

Yeah. I mean, I, you know , just kind of picking up kind of on the, on the, on the faculty side, right. If you are, if, you know, if your institution is highly bureaucratic and highly political , um, you know, every institution has bureaucracy and politics, but if you are on the, on the, on the edge, you know, it may seem like a silver bowl, right. It may seem like a way to kind of force a appropriate and healthy level change. Um, but at what cost, right? Because again, I go back to in my mind is what is an institution strategic and competitive advantage, right? Community colleges versus, you know , liberal four year liberal arts, so on and so forth. And, you know, you also have to judge it in my opinion and the macro market. And what I mean by that is, you know, I think simple in a very simple view, what the LPMs are doing, what they’re , the void that they’re filling should be naturally built by these by institutions, but institutions are too slow. They’re not innovative. They’re, you know , uh, for a lot of governance reasons and challenge, they just can’t make, they’re not nimble enough. Um, I think that is changing, but I, but I, you know, but I think that dynamic is kind of at play. And so, you know, boards, presidents, chancellors, vice chancellors that are, that are, you have a knee-jerk reaction to Al source . It may regret it because, you know, if you, it is predicted by many, many, many, you know , well-known research companies. And so on that, the need for, for , uh, you know, additional training degrees certificates , um, is going up significantly in particular, the displacement of about 30% of the workforce by 2030 , um, is very real and all done by automation. So how are these, how do these, and it varies, right. It could be displacement of four year college degrees versus, you know , a high school degree, but these guys, you know, these workers need their education need retraining. And so you’re essentially outsourcing what I would argue is , is your real growth, because I think every institution is really faced with the opportunity to grow without being overly competitive. I think the need, as long as you can address affordability and access, which it is definitely a very top of mind for most state and federal level governments , um , around the world , um, you know, the th th the available market of prospects is, is gonna grow substantially , uh , and naturally, and so, you know, I think every institution has to be good at online. Um, so anyway,

Joe Gottlieb: 19:47

So, okay. I want to come back to the labor market dynamics and how that’s going to play out in the context of this sort of OPM decision, but just to finish that last thought. So I’ll fill in some of the gaps. So unhealthy scenario , um, you feel , uh, compelled to jump now, you’ve , you, you feel pressured into doing something , um, and you wind up mortgaging , um, your, your margin, because some of these can be very, very high revenue share scenarios.

Wayne Bovier: 20:21

The story you told

Joe Gottlieb: 20:23

You might actually be giving away all of your growth, and therefore you’re growing on an , on a, on an absolute basis, but maybe you’re not growing or margin, or maybe you’re not growing in a way that’s going to be sustainable by you , uh, in a way that’s going to be good, a good fit with your brand, maybe after this contract is over, or even, even when it gets into that period where you’re of auto renewing. And now you’re maybe a little bit stuck , um, where you don’t have a plan to build on this as a stepping stone and learn from it so that you can do more of this, if not all of this on your own. So I think that’s the, that’s the, that’s the unhealthy. So on the healthy side, you know, maybe, you know, this , uh, this reference to certificates and that market is, is a useful one. So maybe you want to learn how to penetrate the certificate market as a growth market opportunity while you’re still delivering, let’s say more traditional degree based programs. And maybe you even get started in a way that can be a little targeted. Like you may be there. Maybe nursing is an area where you want to, you see Archit and maybe it’s fitting with your region and, or your charter or your brand. Maybe you’ve got a bunch of life sciences. Maybe you’ve got more advanced degrees in, in, in medicine, and you really want to tackle a nursing certificate type program and want to get there in a hurry. That’s maybe an example of a more healthy way to do this, knowing that you’re maybe gonna , you’re gonna learn a bunch, then maybe you could expand from there and go into other areas. You’d want to be very careful that business terms and scope, and whether you’re not, whether you’re even allowed to compete with your quote, self piece of VDL .

Wayne Bovier: 22:04

Yeah, that that’s right. And, and , and to kind of just further illustrate that point, right? Like a community college, I would argue it , you know, that any community college it’s in their strategic interests to be good at, at badges and certificates. Right. Um, and , but when you think about like a four year private liberal arts college, you know , uh , area where, Hey, you know, maybe there’s an opportunity there, but, you know, it’s maybe not, you know, not something that you would consider core in the longterm , um, whereas graduate programs or something you could say, okay, we’re going to grow into graduate programs, but certificates and badges and stuff. We’re going to , we’re going to partner with somebody that can be good at that. And , and, and potentially, you know, it could be a way to kind of matriculate through, you know, through, through the institution, as an example,

Joe Gottlieb: 22:58

It becomes part of your, part of your pipeline for qualified , uh , new applicants, right. That have been through a certain , uh , program that maybe, you know , you expanded this it’s available online. It gets into a much broader funnel. You appreciate the economics of that, but you also appreciate the opportunities perhaps to migrate or graduate students from a program like that into other programs. Um, so, so, so good point. All right . So those are, those are some scenarios sort of negative and positive from which to think about , uh, the whole consideration. So if we get back to the sort of the labor market, and , and, and, and we’ve talked about this a little bit before, but one of the things that truly driving this growth is this notion that, that getting people prepared students prepared , um , for the new digital workforce and getting them as quickly as possible into that workforce into a, you know , strong job. It really is the equivalent of the past of skilled labor, right? These are the new digital trades, right? And we see a lot of growth here, and frankly, most of it is net new relative to the more traditional degree based programs, even the community college level. I mean, even an associates degree, I would argue affords one through a two year experience, a level of sort of well-rounded exposure to some different disciplines, right? And it sort of curated to a two year experience an outcome that then they’re going , they’re going to utilize to take to the , the workforce. Um, but they will have had a two year college experience. Whereas a certificate might be as, as quick as six weeks, maybe even less crash course, and is not going to afford someone, the diverse exposure to other disciplines. But guess what, in a digital workforce preparation effort, you know, that becomes a luxury. The people that had to go straight into the labor force, didn’t get the opportunity to have this well-rounded education. And we, we however, delivered on it because we felt it was going to be very good for those that could afford that or, or could be , uh , scholarshipped or, or funded to afford that. Right. And so it’s an evolution of the, of really the up-skilling labor market. And we know we have a great need. And so that’s why boot camps have become so successful, because if you can learn how to code, and you’ve got just enough prereq to be successful in a coding boot camp , um, there’s a lot of job opportunity waiting for you even, even simpler than that in, in many ways, not always, but , um, systems administration, or even help desk support and , you know , um, uh, professionals, these are jobs that can be taught via certificate programs pretty quickly, right? That’s this huge, huge opening in the market. And so figuring out if that’s something you want to participate in directly or not knowing that there’s going to be plenty of fill the void, I think is one of the key open questions.

Wayne Bovier: 26:10

Why exactly, you know , a year and a half, two years ago, maybe it’s been a little bit longer now , uh , to you buying trilogy. I mean, trilogies whole business models on, on bootcamps , you know, but, but you know, when you see somebody like when a big company like Google and Microsoft and other one, but Google is offering up their own certificate programs , uh, you know, I gotta, I gotta believe that Google , um, it wasn’t their first choice to do that. Um, you know, but they, but they saw it at this scene of effectiveness that they’re going to be able to get the type of students that they need, or the employees that they need with the right level of training by doing it themselves. Um, but again, Google is not in the education business. And so I would argue that it’s a, you know, it’s a reaction to a market that is a little too slow , um, to really fill the void of a lot of these, you know, higher technology , higher ed tech, or technology, leading technologies. I’ve been companies where they’re doing some of this, you know , uh, some really fancy stuff behind the scenes. I think

Joe Gottlieb: 27:23

Google, Microsoft and others have seen a , uh , literally a strategic threat coming from the inability to staff their growth. And so they’re manufacturing talent via these programs. And it’s very interesting given the strength of their brands and the strength of their roles as employers, right. It’s having a very interesting ripple effect now, do they, do they want to be in that business? Long-term I doubt it, but it’s become a necessity for them to pace because they’ve been so successful growing. I mean, so Coursera, I successful IPO just under a month ago, so it was into March, right. Um , trade it up to, you know, open up something like in the forties traded up into the sixties , um, has now settled back down to the forties. So that leaves them at a $5.4 billion market cap company. Um, three businesses, you know, partnering with enterprises on workforce education, partnering with institutions really as a bit of an OPM. Right, right. But third direct to consumer education. And it’s this third part of the business that is probably driving that valuation because that’s the one that is it’s, it’s provides the straightest path of value for the customer. In this case, the consumer, I eat a student and Coursera is ability to deliver everything else involves a bunch of change. Right. Enterprises don’t do a terrible job of training. Right. So they’re just, you know, the , the best of them are, are starting to do innovative things, but the bulk of them are struggling. That’s why someone like that pops up, but they still got to work through that mechanism institutions, as we’ve been talking about are struggling to break down their value proposition and embrace this new delivery model. Um, and so that bit part of the business is subject to partnering and , and ,

Wayne Bovier: 29:24

Uh , yeah. Um, yeah , I would also throw out, you know, guilt education , um, you know, they have seen massive growth. And for those in the audience that don’t know who Guild education is , um, they’re a company that started out of , uh, out of Denver, Colorado, and they really feel kind of a niche , um , which is clearly a growing explosive niche, which is working with corporate HR departments provide , uh, so corporations can provide their employees with benefits , like , uh, education training. And so they really bridged the guilt bit bridges the gap between the corporations and institutions. So it’s a little bit of a different spin, but I think in the same ballpark as what these OEMs and Coursera and what’s going on, because again, what you’re seeing is, is, is just a lot of activity. And I think part of the core, Sara , um, you know, the investor class, of course , Sarah is really looking at the long-term growth potential, right. Um, when , of course there are started, they will classify as a mood, right. Massively open online courses. Um, and you know, like a lot of these , um, you know , uh, technology companies, you know, they’ve, they’ve taken a little bit of a winding road to get to a point where they’re , they’ve landed on a real strong value proposition that makes some real market market sense. But again, at the end of the day, you know, what are classic higher education institutions? What is their job? Right. And I would argue that they’ve just been all have been way too slow and too , uh, kind of stuck in their way, stop brim , you know, all that kind of all those types of words about in , in, in , uh , in embracing change, right? Because when MOOCs happened, the biggest argument coming from traditional higher education institutions was, Oh , they’re not the quality in order to get a quality education. You have to be in person in class. Well, after all these years, I will tell you that there’s research after research, that actually demonstrates that online programs and online tool sets if used appropriately will actually deliver better outcomes than , than forcing students to sit in class, do their homework and traditional ways and things like that.

Joe Gottlieb: 31:54

Yeah. We’ve talked about that. Um, and I don’t think there’s any escaping the fact that digital delivery and asynchronous and, and , um, uh , uh, adaptive learning models to suit different learning styles. Right. Technology can certainly help with that, but let’s go, let’s consider for a moment in the extreme case, let’s say online delivery of education is by comparison inferior. However, it has way higher leverage than a , uh, a in-person physically delivered course, right? It has way higher profit margins . And so for the market and for the situations I, a trades or the disciplines that can tolerate it, I’m going to use very extreme terms, frankly, pejorative, right. But there’s a huge market for that for people that I need, I need to, I need to learn and you’d be taken through, I need to be tested. And I need to be able to demonstrate that I’ve obtained this knowledge to perform in a role that a company would find value as part of their valuable as part of their enterprise, that, that market right there for the self-starting people that need to work super high margin. And I think that’s the part that’s just undebatable . Right. And , and that’s going to go up, that’s going to grow up .

Wayne Bovier: 33:18

I, I, you know, I think that’s exactly right. I also look at the opposite end of this. Right. Which is , um, you know, the equitable access. Right. So, you know, think about, you know, you know , um, so being here in the , in the DC Metro area, you know, Howard university is here, you know, here and, you know , uh, you know, reaching out institutions like that, reaching out into areas where, you know, the mobility, right. And, and , uh, the economics of, of the particular, you know , uh, student population , right. Um, they can’t , you know, they , they can’t move around or whatever, whatever it might be. Um, you know, there’s real opportunity to broaden your reach. You know, another way to look at this is, you know, I’m a big believer in a liberal arts education and, you know, traditionally liberal arts institutions have been the slowest movers when it comes to digital transformation. And, you know, I would, you know, Canada , liberal arts education be delivered or taught using remote distance, or do you have to be in person ? I think it’s an a , I mean, to me, it’s a no-brainer that it doesn’t physically being present is, is a no brainer . And so, you know, traditionally liberal arts colleges have, there’s a privileged , uh, aspect associated with that, right? Um, you gotta have a high income you got to , or at least plan to go into a lot of debt, all this kind of stuff, why can’t liberal arts colleges broaden their reach using technology, which they all, almost all of them already own broaden their reach into areas where, you know, maybe they’re rural, they’re poor, you know, maybe a city and urban environments, you know , uh, and again, similar to the concept of what I was talking about with, with, with, with Howard university doing this same thing is why can’t you broaden your brand and your reach into students where they wouldn’t even the students wouldn’t even traditionally consider. Yeah ,

Joe Gottlieb: 35:30

Well, I think that’s a good reminder that when we, then we talked about straight line to marketable trade and how that could be a very efficient and the shortest path possible for someone that needs income. Meanwhile, if we re-imagine the more traditional, let’s say, liberal arts education, for sure. It can take advantage of these technologies when you really think about it. Right. You think about what we’ve talked about, how the lecture is not a very effective means of conveying information. We just don’t have good enough attention spans. Right. And so, as we talked about Dr. Sharma’s observations about that sort of, but, but if you, if you take that as a given, all right, now you’re thinking about asynchronous consumption of, of lecture, of, of known content, but then grouped interaction group discussion, right? Zooms , not even zooms shared documents, collaboration tools, right. Different sessions like that, that, that bridge the gaps between people digitally versus physically, lots of rich things can , can , can be accomplished. Right. And so then if you add to your point and then say, okay, now now bring that up with the asynchronous method. You now can let someone who has to work maybe even full time consume this at a pace that they can muster. And so rethinking the, the cadence for degree attainment, maybe one of the big innovations here. So we really can make these things more equitable because we can afford them to people in packaging options that can be consistent and , and, and suitable to what they have to do to make a living in a , in a , in to provide for their family or , or whatever.

Wayne Bovier: 37:19

Yeah. In many ways, what we’re, what we’re looking at is a democratization of higher education that traditionally was, you know , uh, it was privileged based , you know, you had to , you had to meet certain criteria just to even get accepted in there. Um, whereas, you know, whereas now you have a, you know , commercial business world that is in desperate need of more skills and training , uh, that run really runs the gamut. Right. And so high school, you know, a high school degree could only get you so far because you’re going to need additional specific training. And so, you know, what is , again, higher education? Do, do you , do we just, you know, does the industry, you know , uh, just keep a death grip on physical structures and the privileged mindset, which, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s not a hard leap to go to the ivory tower, right. Where you got the Sage on the stage, but what’s happening with the it’s now the guy down the side, right. Because I mean, when I was in college, I’m sure same with you that you didn’t , you couldn’t pull up in real time and, and really, you know, validate whether or not the professor was telling you whatever stats was real. Right. We didn’t have the access to the information in today’s, you know, today’s high schools, you know, those teachers in elementary schools are dealing with all that. Right. And so higher ed is, is a little , uh, slow in coming to those terms. Uh, and, and, and those realities

Joe Gottlieb: 39:00

Well, and for good reason, and we’ve talked about how we got here, right? I mean, something that’s been so successful and hasn’t really had alternatives. Um, now you are confronted with a lot of factors, COVID acceleration, more open markets. Uh , the fact that these things are getting funded, right? So real alternatives are popping up. And I think you mentioned democratization, which is a concept that both you and I would get very excited about, because what it would mean is not making education about privilege, but instead making it more available to all people of all types. Um, and, and, and that feels good, but it needed, it needed because an institution to think twice about their brain. And so I think a lot of brands in higher ed are, are traditionally tied into exclusivity and cell activity, but what could evolve. And I think it is already evolving, is that those strong brands, I mean, I , I lived down the road from Stanford university and I know Stanford is doing a lot of things to, to, to, to expand its impact. And so that’s kind of come in the form of, well, financial aid has been the great , um, variable pricing work around for a long time now, right? So that’s one tool in the box that these institutions have, but their interest in democratizing education and the value and the impact of education I think is, is , um, quite authentic. And I think will become a strong part of their future brands over time. How are they doing this?

Wayne Bovier: 40:36

You know, the thing about brands and value, this is a thought that just came to me. You know, when you think about the valuation of Coursera that you , you , you just mentioned, you know, take it , take that concept and apply it to an institution that is investing in online. I don’t think institutions are really stepping back and really reassessing their value, like from a business terms like our valuation now, you know, most institutions are like, our endowment is this big and that’s, those are the traditional metrics about, you know, our health as an institution or breath and stuff. I would argue too, that what needs to happen is, you know, like a Southern New Hampshire. I mean, now being valued, I think, you know, their endowment is really in the, in the grand scheme of things is pretty small compared to the size of their institution. But I would imagine when you step back and value to, you know , their, their institution is pretty significant and almost probably close to, you know, similar to what Coursera is seeing , right. In terms of, you know, those multiples. And so there’s a commercial aspect that needs to, I think , um, be part of the , uh, equation though , evolving equation of what value does it is Titian bring and deliver , um, you know, to the community, to the students and alumni. And so on

Joe Gottlieb: 42:04

Brings us back full circle because we started this whole discussion about LPMs in the context of strategic choices and value and differentiation. And so I’d say , um, maybe we can summarize those strategic choices , uh , for our listeners before we bring this to a close. So want to take a crack at that.

Wayne Bovier: 42:22

Yeah, sure. So I think, you know, as you consider OEMs , it really, I would argue it all starts with yourself, right? It starts with the institution and being really sober about what, what we want to be good at, what w what we are good at, what we want to be good at, and really put aside the politics and bureaucracy and make sure that you’re not just , um, you know, reacting to maybe a, you know, a delicate situation or a painful situation that you’re currently in. Um, and look at more of the longterm . And, you know, also spend some time really understanding the OPM landscape, because once you understand, you know, what your strengths and weaknesses are at the end of the day when you’re doing, when you bring it on OPM, you are outsourced and you need to be very sober about what you’re going to outsource. I E what are you going to be? What’s the strategic advantage? Because I think anything that you outsource should fall off that list of, like, it should not be on the strategic advantage list, right? This is what we want to be good at. This is what, you know, our strategic advantage is as an institution and here I’m okay. Outsourcing these areas. And that’s really, to me, you know, then you dig into, you know, what type of financial model, you know, do you do revenue sharing versus fee for service? You know, that all comes into the economics of your current situation and , and so on. So that’s, that’s kinda how I would approach it. Joe , what , um, what, what, what , what would you add to that list?

Joe Gottlieb: 43:59

I would just then add if, if you, the alternative to this is if you decide, wow, I don’t want to scratch this market off my list or this expansion. I do find this to be core part of my strategy, particularly for the future. Well, then it’s a matter of figuring out what’s the best path for you to move forward and , and invest in your ability to expand online. And as we’ve talked about in the past , uh, we could , we could, we could, you know, repeat some of that . Some of the guidance we’ve given, which is think about ways to get started, that will give you some quick wins. Think about faculty on your team that are going to be receptive to grappling with some of these new things. And frankly are excited about online delivery. Think about leadership. You might need to , uh , make good on an investment in a market expansion play, think about how it fits with your overall vision and mission as an institution and how you’re going to be able to be a solvent and , and sort of, and work a solvent plan going forward and learn as you go. Right? So, so those are things clearly , um, that you can get assistance on from, you know, certainly higher digital and or others that you trust to assist you with such such issues. But there are pathways there. And while they may seem like , um, pathways that may take longer to, to come to fruition, it may be that strategically there are better choices. And so it’s something to something to consider as you move forward. Yep . That’s right . All right. Well , um, let’s land this plane as a , as a , a fellow podcaster. I know , uh, tends to say , um, thanks you so much for joining me today, Wayne, and thanks to our guests for joining us as well. We hope you all have a great day, and we look forward to hosting you again on another episode of transformed.


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About The Host


As president of Higher Digital, Joe supports customers with strategy development, change management, and strategic operations. He is energized by the complex challenges and profound opportunities facing higher education and is motivated to have and share discussions around these topics.

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