Talking OPM Market and Institution Strategy

Last week I attended the WCET annual meeting in Denver – perhaps my favorite conference of the year in terms of quality of conversations and me staying through each session – and I thoroughly enjoyed the general session panel I was on, “Mad Max and OPMs: Changing Markets, Regulations, and Beyond.” The session played off of my Mad Max graphic of the chaotic OPM Market, with Russ Poulin of WCET moderating, Erika Swain of CU Boulder and Carolyn Fast of The Century Foundation as co-panelists.

While I don’t have a recording of that session to share, there was also a podcast episode released last week that touched on many of the same topics. Drumm McNaughton of invited me onto his podcast of the same name, and we had a fun conversation for “Higher Ed OPM Marketplace Transformation.” McNaughton’s practice is working with institutional boards and leadership, and our conversation kept veering into strategy. Institutional strategy much more than OPM vendor strategy, as was also a big theme at WCET. At the end of the episode is a teaser of some upcoming changes to our services at MindWires to better address strategic questions around online education.

Visit the podcast page to listen to the episode and see some extensive show notes or by searching “Changing Higher Ed OPM” or similar on the major podcast platforms. I have also embedded the episode below and added a full transcript. For newsletter readers, you may have to click through to the blog page (click title above) to play the embedded audio and to see the entire transcript.

David Whyte: Welcome to Changing Higher Ed, a podcast dedicated to helping higher education leaders improve their institutions with your host, Dr. Drum MacNaughton, CEO of the Change Leader, a consultancy that helps higher ed leaders holistically transform their institutions. Learn more at changing higher ed. And now here’s your host drum, McNulty.

Drumm McNaughton: Thank you, David. Our guest today is Phil Hill, publisher of the PhilOnEdTech blog and partner at MindWires, LLC. Phil’s a lifelong learner who transitioned to education technology consulting after working in the engineering field for many years. He’s a go to expert in EdTech and has the ability to spot trends in the marketplace. And also, he’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers in the process. [00:01:00] Phil’s worked with a who’s who of online higher ed institutions and with EdTech in the news more and more. Phil joins us today to talk about the state of EdTech, where it’s going and what university presidents need to know to take advantage of current market forces. Phil, welcome to the show.

Phil Hill: Oh, thank you. I’m looking forward to the conversation.

Drumm McNaughton: Likewise. Gosh, you have been it seems like you have been in the OPM marketplace for a long time. How did you get here?

Phil Hill: Well, it’s probably worth how did I even get into EdTech? It’s probably worth understanding. And the short answer of that is I discovered the truth that if you try a hostile takeover a company and it fails, you end up without a job. So that’s how I got into consulting. I know I could write a book about that, but then I just got feedback from customers because I needed. I’ve always done small company consulting, so I really needed to pick one [00:02:00] market and I just got feedback from people in higher education in particular that, Hey, we need what you’re doing. It’s a difficult business. And so that’s how I ended up in EdTech. Now, how I ended up really covering the OPM market, a lot of that is because I’ve worked with online education or digital education from the beginning and it’s a growing topic of interest. But I’ve jumped deeper into it because the market, and the topic is becoming more important, more politicized, more difficult to understand and sort of my business, my personality sort of fits into. If there’s a complex situation, can I help make it more obvious or help institutions figure out, here’s how to understand it, where to go. So to a certain degree, I’m just drawn to it because it’s been increasing in importance and in complexity.

From MOOCs to OPMs

Drumm McNaughton: Well, I can I can remember. Oh, gosh. This [00:03:00] was back when I was a faculty member. I can remember when the MOOCs came out and everybody was going, Oh, my gosh, this is going to change higher Ed. And of course it didn’t. You know, a little bit maybe, But nothing, nothing like OPMs have changed.

Phil Hill: Yeah. And MOOCs, when those came along, it was much quicker that I dove into the topic because almost from day one of MOOCs, it was such hype behind it and such a need to understand what’s real, what’s likely to happen long term. So for somebody who does blogging and market analysis, MOOCs were very excited. Got to jump into topics right from day one. OPMs are more complex, but they’re also changing slower over time. So it’s really a more important topic, but it’s something that’s evolve more slowly than the MOOCs did initially.

Drumm McNaughton: Mm hmm. Well, yeah, the MOOCs overnight, it was like, oh my gosh, there’s, [00:04:00] you know, three for 400 of these things. And there wasn’t a hundred. But that’s besides the point. They just came out so quickly, like you said. And everybody, especially with some of the names behind them, you know, there were some big, big names out there. Now, OPMs, it seems now disruption is the main byword. I mean, we’re seeing so much stuff going on in the in the news, and that’s frankly why we’re talking today.

Phil Hill: Yeah. And part of it is it’s an older market. So OPMs really started 28, 20 plus years ago. And the focus initially, some of it was just on technology, infrastructure, hosting for online platforms. Then it was for very isolated programs, a lot of non big name regional universities, specific disciplines where the higher education system at large said, okay, we get you’re doing online, [00:05:00] that’s not really education, but we get you’re doing it so go play in the corner by yourself. So the first 10 to 15 years, it wasn’t disruptive to higher education as a system. It was just something that was happening on the side, growing slowly and quite honestly, it was an alternative to the for profit sector, the for profit sector, University of Phoenix. Those companies, if you will, organize themselves from day one for online education. For the most part, OPMs are all about helping traditional schools operate in the online space, so they’re really positioned as an alternative to the for profits. What’s changed and where disruption comes into the terminology in a realistic sense is for the past ten years, roughly now, nobody is thinking this is just something happening on the side. This is hitting where all schools [00:06:00] they need to have a strategy around online education. And one of the options is to work with the for profit company and OPM to develop an online program. There are other options doing it yourself, doing it just fee for service bits and pieces here and there. But it’s in the mainstream of education. They all need to figure it out now and so it spread. It’s now hitting the core of academia and that’s where the disruption, why it became so important.

The Bellweather: 2U

Drumm McNaughton: And it was I I’m going to date myself a little bit here when when this was probably 15 years ago. Yeah, I’d say probably about 15 years ago. I remember when Pearson started initially introducing online courses and you could go through their catalog and pick the course. Some of the stuff was really good and some of it was like, No, this isn’t, this isn’t what we need. And then another dating myself. I did a consulting project [00:07:00] for Los Angeles Unified many years ago, and their director of instruction was a woman named Ronnie Ephraim, and we worked very closely with her. She ended up retiring from L.A. Unified and went to 2Tor, you know, a number two and t-o-r. Which was the beginning of 2U.

Phil Hill: Yes. And that I don’t know if you knew this, but 2Tor was actually not named as in tutoring system, 2Tor was named after one of the co-founder’s dogs.

Drumm McNaughton: I didn’t know that.

Phil Hill: Yes. They ended up changing the company name to 2U, partially because of the confusion where people are saying, oh, you’re a tutoring company. It’s like, No, we’re being clever. Named it after a dog. But yeah, just an interesting origin.

Drumm McNaughton: Right? And that was, I believe part of it got started out of University of Southern California, didn’t it?

Phil Hill: That was their first major [00:08:00] client. So it didn’t get started with there. But by far USC was their first major client. And as a matter of fact, when they went public, I think in 2014, roughly, they had to disclose that a huge majority of their business came from USC themselves. So you could think of it as a school that put them on the map, gave them the finances to end up becoming a publicly traded company, and they’re associated with it. But it wasn’t created at USC.

Drumm McNaughton: Okay, Thank you for making me smarter on that. I for some reason I thought it was there. And I’ll have to check back with Ronnie to find out what her role was. I just remember she went there after leaving L.A. Unified. So talking about 2U, they’ve had some major changes, talking, you know, disruption, etc.. They’ve had major changes recently.

Phil Hill: Sure. And they’re 2U is sort of a bellwether [00:09:00] company or a trendsetting company, for better or worse. You can always learn about the OPM market by looking at 2U. So, for example, when I mentioned ten years ago, this online education started hitting the center of the market. Part of that was 2U that they had an elite customer base. They went after big name schools, USC, UNC, Syracuse, not just the small regionals. And that was one of the major factors along with MOOCs, by the way, where there was permission for name brand schools to really dabble in online education. They’ve been strategic and they’ve become the poster child for tuition revenue sharing model. So there big changes lately. One of them was that they don’t want to pick out all of them, but one of them was they realized the competition between schools was changing the enrollment [00:10:00] dynamics. There are just so many online programs they compete with themselves. That led to some changes from 2U, but more recently they acquired last year Ed X one of the two or three major providers.

Phil Hill: And essentially what they’re trying to do is saying we’re becoming an online platform company. It’s like they want to create the next generation of what OPMs are like, and it goes beyond just degree programs, mostly in graduate school. It gets into free courses, boot camp, short cert and offering a spectrum of programs. And ideally because it has so many tens of millions of students registered, they can market to students much more cheaply and save money on the sales and marketing costs. So that’s one of the main ones. And however. The other big change is the financial markets [00:11:00] and the company. Stock prices have gone down significantly. And part of the shift is 2U, among others, saying we have to not just focus on growth, we need to focus much more on profitability where we are today. So they’ve gone through a wave of 20% layoffs across the company. So, yes, they’re going through some big changes, but I view it pretty much as a bellwether for what the whole market is either dealing with today or will be dealing with soon.

Drumm McNaughton: This is completely off subject, but it has to do with 2U. Do you see 2U looking to go get accreditation from one of the, quote, regional accreditors to be able to offer its own programs?

Phil Hill: No, I do not. Well, all right. My initial reaction, obviously, is, no, they don’t want to do it. They’re all based on their partners. They do all of their business through universities and colleges. [00:12:00] And they’re the ones who do the teaching the schools, do the teaching and have the accreditation. And 2U has never wanted to do it on their own. There’s one exception to that, and that is they bought Trilogy as a boot camp. In the boot camp space, the company does all of the teaching. It’s not being taught by the school. It’s in a space that’s not accredited right now. It doesn’t lead to a degree. And so accreditors don’t get involved. But now people are raising their head saying, Wait, how are we having companies teaching through the university name? And is that appropriate? So I guess the caveat to my initial reaction, I know they don’t want accreditation is if the boot camp space leads to where you need to be accredited to provide boot camps, then they’re going to be forced into a choice. So they might get forced into thinking about accreditation. But nominally I would [00:13:00] say no, they don’t want to at all. That’s their business is working with universities and having them do the academics.

Accreditation and Regulation

Drumm McNaughton: And at one of the last neg regs, not this year, but the one in 2019, they talked, they tried to push to get outsourcing of programs up to 75 or even 100%, and that got shot down. It stayed at the 50% that obviously impacted their model.

Phil Hill: Yes. By the way, I appreciate a podcast where you can use the phrase neg reg and the audience will get that.

Drumm McNaughton: Exactly. Yeah.

Phil Hill: So yeah, there’s a lot of potential changes being discussed that are going to impact the open market. Some of it’s very much up in the air, but the general idea is that these are areas that have not had adequate oversight. The accreditation, the Department of Education with financial aid, the universities themselves, [00:14:00] people have not really been doing a good job of evaluating quality and where these OPM based programs should be going. And I think the days are ending where it’s not one of the public topics. Now, what’s not clear is what’s going to happen with regulation and other changes.

Drumm McNaughton: Well, we’ve still got at least two more years of the Biden administration. It could be six, and we’ll have to see what happens. They tend to be a little bit more regulatory than did Trump or Republicans. But nevertheless, there’s still a lot of questions out there that have got to be answered. And accreditation may be the answer for some of those.

Phil Hill: Yeah, but that’s only one of the arrows in the quiver, right? A lot of people make the mistake of saying directly, what will the accreditation change happen? But there’s a part of it’s just political pressure in raising issues. [00:15:00] So there’s a lot of change that can happen from publicity. There’s actually changing some regulatory guidance, such as the infamous Dear Colleague letter. So there are different ways to change the oversight of an industry. And I think that in particular with the Biden administration, they have such a consumer protection mindset. They’re looking at any and all of the above on potential ways to influence a market. And yes, there’s at least two more years of this as well.

Drumm McNaughton: Yes, we won’t get into the stuff that went on in Florida and the Department of Education’s response to, oh, you’re going to have to change your creditor’s each time. Well, guess what? Yeah, we we won’t we won’t go there. The other one that’s in the news recently is and we’re going to get into some of the major trends. We’ve already touched on that a little bit. But Zovio. Sad, sad situation to see what’s happened [00:16:00] there.

The Demise of Zovio

Phil Hill: Well, Zovio’s the soap opera of the OPM market. So it makes for interesting reading. But the general idea for those who haven’t followed is Zovio is the parent company of Ashford University, which was a for profit company. They sold that to the University of Arizona as a non profit conversion to take this school and just say, Poof, you’re non profit. Now you’re no longer for profit. But Zovio remained the OPM with a long term contract to do the majority of the same work they were already doing before. And a lot of what happened with that. And the soap opera, the soap operas, not just with the company I mean it was with the school was a huge part of this where they were promising everything. This will resolve a lot of our financial difficulties from low enrollment for the school. It’s going to be just a money coming into the school from day one because of this deal. And [00:17:00] then on the Zovio side, there was the magical thinking of by the very fact of it becoming non profit that will reverse our long term enrollment declines and shore up our finances and just change the company. So there was just a lot of magical thinking on both sides. And fast forward to today. Zovio was about to be sold for parts and go completely out of business. It’s completely folded as a company. So yes, that was a fascinating soap opera in the market.

Drumm McNaughton: Yeah. In a way, I’m sorry. I used to live right up the the road from Bridgepoint, the University of Ashford, You lived in Southern California for many, many years. And, you know, driving down to San Diego would see their buildings right off there. A lot of friends there. I know folks that work at Zovio now. Sad story. But, you know, it’s market forces now.

Phil Hill: Definitely is market forces.

Drumm McNaughton: It’s sad.

Phil Hill: But there’s so many different elements you [00:18:00] can learn from that story as well. So it’s not a matter of, oh, I get excited because things are going bad. But the whole collapse of Zovio is instructive. There’s so much that you can actually learn from what happened there and other schools can learn from it. So it’s sad what happened to it, but it’s also illustrative and it’s good for schools to revisit that history and understand it.

Issues to Watch: Financial pressures

Drumm McNaughton: Well, it sounds like that’s a really good segway to get into. What to schools going forward? You know, we’ve already talked about the business model being under pressure. We’ve talked about stock markets and how that we’ve talked a bit about regulation. Where are things going? What are the lessons that we can learn from Zovio and where are things going?

Phil Hill: Well, and we do have to be a little bit careful. Zovio was such a soap opera. There are also a little bit of an outlier. But where are things going? What is magical thinking doesn’t work. Just creating [00:19:00] an online program, just doing a non profit conversion doesn’t mean you can now solve your long term issues. Higher education has in the US in particular has a major enrollment decline that they’re having to deal with. And it’s structural in nature. It’s not just from the pandemic. It’s been happening for the past at least 11 years in this space with a lot of investment and strategy. It can really help a school out. But magical thinking is no longer going to work the way so many schools relied on. And so I just provided an extreme example of that. So what’s happening? The market is difficult for the companies providing this servant set of services. So this is not a market where everybody is getting rich. Yes, the market is growing. There’s a lot of interest. It’s crucial to the future of a lot of schools. But that’s not the same thing [00:20:00] as saying everybody’s profitable. And in fact, most of these companies are not profitable on their OPM business or a lot of them aren’t. And they’re also built financially for growth. And a lot of that is take on debt and invest now and have losses in your company so that the company can grow and over time you can become profitable. Well, that just keeps going on and on as a story. And part of what’s happening now is that’s just not acceptable anymore. You need to figure out how to be a profitable, ongoing operation today, and that’s changing the business.

Phil Hill: So part of it is I mentioned layoffs at several of the companies, but that also means that there’s they’re looking at their partnerships with schools and trying to figure out, are the schools going to accept these ten, 15 year agreements when it’s not 100% it’s not guaranteed that these companies will be around [00:21:00] for 10 to 15 years or any individual company will still be in the business. I mean, take Pearson, for example, huge company they’ve been doing, as you pointed out, online provision for at least 15 years. Well, they just announced in their earnings call that they’re doing a strategic review of their OPM business. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re getting out of the business, but they lost their biggest customer, Arizona State University. That was about a third of their revenues by most estimates. And they see the market changing. And to their credit, they’re saying, hey, we need to do a strategic review, rethink our assumptions and figure out where we’re going in the future. So if these companies are doing that, schools should be doing the same thing as well. What’s change? What should our assumptions be and where is it going? So a lot of what’s happening is, hey, you need to think through these issues now, whereas 5 to 10 years ago. There was [00:22:00] more of a mentality of just get in the game, just get these online programs and money will start flowing and enrollment and you’ll figure it out later. Well, the time to figure it out is now.

Drumm McNaughton: It sounds like the the go go years of multimedia back in the 2000. If you can write an executive summary of the business plan, we’re going to give you $10 Million. Yes. And they were just throwing money, you know, after crazy ideas.

Phil Hill: Yeah. One of the vendors who asked not to be named, I love the way they described it. They describe it as the Deans Gone Wild years as these decisions were just made with abandon. You know, people were making these huge decisions that could impact tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars for a school. And the reason the dean’s part is important is it wasn’t even run through the main university. This is like individual colleges and individual deans were making very big decisions and sort [00:23:00] of, as you said, like the multi media, just like, let’s go for it and this is something great is going to happen long term. So things have really sobered up these days.

Structural Changes to OPM Market

Drumm McNaughton: Yeah, well, you know what? That one I put on my board governance hat and go, What is going on here? Where where is your administration? Where is your provost in allowing these decisions? But we won’t go there. That’s not the subject of this one. Although I am kind of curious who that who said that. You mentioned some structural things that are really impacting the OPM market. Would you mind elaborating?

Phil Hill: Sure. Well, the biggest one that’s been apparent for the past few years is competition, but it’s not competition. OPM provider to OPM provider. It’s school to school. It’s when people talk about 350 online MBAs in the country, I don’t know what the current number is. Just think about that concept. Every one of these programs is probably got [00:24:00] some element saying, because we’re online, we could recruit anywhere in the country and even beyond, but everybody’s doing the same thing. So one of the structural changes is if you do an online MBA and there are other fields as well, you better be a niche oriented. You better have a strategy that’s very specific 2Ur school’s reputations and strengths. So it might be an MBA with a heavy data analytics play behind it or something that’s very local. So structurally schools have to position themselves much more in a what are my core strengths and come up with a niche market, not just a general purpose market.

Drumm McNaughton: You mean a college? A school? A university actually needs to act like a business. What a concept.

Phil Hill: Well, now you’re trying to get me in trouble. But yes, they absolutely do. But they’ve been doing [00:25:00] it. It’s just they went for the revenue part of the thinking like a business. Now it’s. No, you better think about strategy and positioning and core competencies and how do you compete versus others. So yes, yes, I am saying that.

Drumm McNaughton: Yeah, yeah. It’s it’s not like the dart board is the size of the wall right behind me. You really need to focus in on that bull’s eye or the triple 20 to be able to succeed.

Phil Hill: Yes. And you need to be able to make tough choices.

Drumm McNaughton: Yes.

Phil Hill: Yeah. So that’s one of the structural changes. Another one is just overall enrollments are going down and that’s not changing at all. And as a matter of fact, if you look at the demographics that people have talked about, the demographic cliff and the view that the number it’s a combination of the number of high school graduates, plus some demographics of where they are. But the net effect is that demographic cliff, even if it’s not a cliff and it’s a hill, [00:26:00] it’s really just starting to hit. So we’ve had dropping enrollment and we’re about to hit this demographic cliff for many Hill, as you will. And therefore schools need to and they already are trying to do it. This is becoming an existential issue for them. Online is one of the tools for them to deal with their existential crisis with the longer term enrollment. And it’s not just for this dean over here to develop a revenue producing program that they want to do. It’s now a tool for strategically dealing with enrollment change. So that’s another structural change that I refer to.

Core Competencies

Drumm McNaughton: Well, enrollment has been dropping now for many years and multiple reasons for it. The enrollment cliff that you refer to isn’t supposed to hit for another couple three years, but we’re starting to see that pick up a lot of it. Goes to exactly what you’re talking [00:27:00] about with institutions not having a good bull’s eye. They really don’t know what their their core value is, their core competency. I mean, if you ever want to read a good book, you know, competing for the future for Harlan and Hemel from a couple of professors from Harvard or MIT somewhere in Massachusetts, I think, you know, one of those small schools that has a little bit of name recognition.

Phil Hill: Yep.

Drumm McNaughton: You know, they talk specifically about the core competency. Schools haven’t looked at that for so long. It’s like we want to be in a new school and we want to be an R1. What do you want to specialize in? And it becomes even more so with online is how does your online program reflect what your school’s core competency is?

Phil Hill: Sure. And think about the change that we’ve talked about. Ten years ago, schools viewed it as our core competency. It’s based on our reputation, etc. and online is a tool, but that’s [00:28:00] not our core competency. And that’s where OPMs there was such an idea of, well, let’s outsource that. They will help us figure out how to run a program. They’ll take 60% of the revenue, but they’re doing the majority of the work and then we’re all happy and many schools are happy. Today, schools look at it and they say, wait, online education, that’s education. Shouldn’t that be part of our core competency of how we function as well? So now there’s a deeper question of, well, what parts of what OPM provide should be a core competency of the school itself. Instruction is sort of a given. And with regulation and accreditation, the schools need to do the actual instruction. But what about the course design? What about the student support? And then even as you get further out, what about the actual marketing? How do you reach students with digital marketing and targeting [00:29:00] of that? Is that a core competency or is that something that we should in essence outsource to somebody who knows how to do it better? So that’s part of what the industry is going through right now as well, is is schools, the leaders at schools saying we might not have the same answer today that we had ten years ago. When you ask us what are the core competencies of internal functions that we should be learning to do ourselves? And that’s that’s part of the disruption of the market that’s happening today as well.

What This Means For Institutions

Drumm McNaughton: Yeah. So in wrapping it up and putting a bow on all this, because this has been a fascinating conversation for me, what does this mean for those institutions who are currently using OPMs?

Phil Hill: Well, first of all, you need to look at this even if it’s been going well for you already. So in other words, like the idea of a strategic review, make sure that what you’re doing still aligns with the university mission, with the positioning [00:30:00] of where your school should be going, and take a harder look to say, Do I have the agreements in place that if I have to choose providers or if I want to do some of these services myself and not pay a company to do it? Do I have that defined ahead of time so that you don’t end up in a crisis when it’s time to change and then you realize, Oh my gosh, we’ve never figured out what’s the exit strategy if I need one. So you need to do a review and look at the things we’re talking about strategy, core competency and exit strategy, even if you’re happy today. So that’s one of the key lessons. Another one is you need to be paying much more attention to what’s a realistic growth plan in the future. It might be that five, seven years ago that the estimates you had on growth of an online program made sense. Today it might be very different. [00:31:00] So do you need to adjust what your enrollment expectations and therefore change direction in any way? And it really raises it you said that we weren’t going to go into governance, but to be quite honest, that is part of the lesson.

Drumm McNaughton: This yeah.

Phil Hill: The institution should be involved, not turning it necessarily into a bureaucratic nightmare where no decisions can get made. I mean, one of the benefits of open market is you can make quick decisions. So you don’t want to grind that down. But my gosh, the university and the governance of a university should be involved in making these huge changes moving forward. So figure out what’s the relationship of the program and the institution, how should governance work? And I do think that’s part of what a school should be looking at right now. So you need to think strategically, even if you’re very happy with the partner you’re working with in the online program, it’s going well. There’s [00:32:00] a subset of schools that should be questioning whether their partner, the OPM partner, is going to be around because this is a difficult financial market. And so really having backup plans, risk management is very important thing to be doing right now.

Drumm McNaughton: Yeah, that’s what I was going to go into next was if some of these folks are going out of business and you’ve got half of your courses with them, you’re going to be up a creek without a paddle here. Very quickly, you need to take a look at what the risks are and how do you mitigate those risks.

Phil Hill: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s not black and white, because a lot of these companies going out of business really means getting acquired by another company. Well, then should that trigger a case where you could back out if you don’t want to work with the new parent company or so, maybe the courses don’t go away. [00:33:00] But is the OPM company strategy still aligned with what you want? So, yes, risk management is complex, but is very important right now. And I’m not saying this in the terms of the sky is falling, but if there’s so much change happening right now, it behooves you to really think this through from the university perspective.

Drumm McNaughton: I think you’re absolutely right. And I was going to ask you for three takeaways, but frankly, I think you just gave it to us.

Risk Management and Collaboration

Phil Hill: Sure. We’ll go back and plant in the question before that. Yeah, I would. Yeah. The three that we just talked about, I would say are the big takeaways for schools to look at right now and, you know, and just recognize how important this is to the core of your mission. Even for schools where you’re primarily face to face. There’s with the pandemic, one of the things that’s shown us is that gets involved in risk management. What happens if our we need to throw everything online or the hurricane? Ian [00:34:00] You know, these using online education as a tool even more broadly to handle disaster recovery is is showing how important this broad area is.

Drumm McNaughton: And that’s not to say that institutions can’t form partnerships with other institutions rather than OPMs to be able to share courses, things like I mean, that’s one of the things that the need Greg has talked about.

Phil Hill: Sure. And I actually we’re working with one of the statewide systems where the schools are working together to do this work themselves. So collaboration, which by the way, has its own challenges, is an option.

Drumm McNaughton: There’s really.

Phil Hill: Yeah.

Drumm McNaughton: Collaboration challenges.

Phil Hill: Yeah. With school you would think they’re schools hey, they’re not for profit, so they would work well together. But it’s pretty challenging. Protecting revenue. There are also options of, Hey, I don’t want to use tuition revenue share. I want to have a model that’s much more fee for service. So a lighter [00:35:00] partnership with companies. Yeah, there are definitely different options on how to work in this space and you need to think about it.

Drumm McNaughton: Yeah, and I would, I would say to listeners that the time to think about it is now, especially with the disruption in the OPM market. You can go out and you can make renegotiate deals to be more beneficial for your institution.

Phil Hill: Yes, and there already are market pressures. So for example, I think there are pressures to sign shorter term deals. There’s pressure to reduce the percentage and tuition revenue sharing. There’s renegotiating possibilities. Yeah. So there are ways to use market pressures to make the deal better for what you want to do longer term. Somebody asked me a question when the pandemic started about online education, and it’s like if you ask the question, when should I be strategically handling online education? The answer was ten years [00:36:00] ago. The schools that did this thinking ten years ago, they’re handling the transition much better right now. So therefore get started now because something’s going to be happening five years from now and you want to be prepared for that and make sure you have the right agreements in place.

What’s Next for Phil and MindWires?

Drumm McNaughton: Makes perfect sense. So, Phil, what’s next for you?

Phil Hill: Well, given all of this work, probably the biggest thing I’m continuing to do my market analysis and consulting, but the market’s really asking for more of a structured set of of tools and services around OPM. So this type of thing, I need to figure out how to be able to package it so that more schools can take advantage of the advice that’s going on. So I guess it’s almost what’s happening. It’s taking the OPM work out of just client by client consulting and figuring out a market analysis service that can be more broad based because there’s just a higher number of schools that have these set of questions. So on one hand, same thing [00:37:00] I’ve been doing for ten years. On the other hand, the shift toward OPM and making it easier to get advice is a huge part of what I need to try to solve.

Drumm McNaughton: Well, I have no doubt that you’ll be very successful if there’s anything I can do to help you along those lines, please do not hesitate to ask.

Phil Hill: Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. Appreciate the invitation for the podcast. It’s been a very enjoyable conversation.

Drumm McNaughton: Likewise. And I look forward to the next time.

Phil Hill: Okay. Well, thank you.

Drumm McNaughton: Thanks for listening today. And a special thank you to Phil Hill for his sharing with us, his thoughts on EdTech, where it’s going and what current presidents can do and should be thinking about. Our next guest is Daniel Aguilar, VP for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Excelsior University. Daniel has lived the DC experience, having emigrated to the US at an early age, and they’ll be joining us to discuss how higher ed institutions [00:38:00] can improve their DEI programs to make them truly inclusive and how it adds to a university’s bottom line.

David Whyte: Changing Higher Ed is a production of the Change Leader, a consultancy committed to transforming higher ed institutions. Find more information about this topic along with show notes on this episode at Changing Higher Ed. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe to the show and we would also value your honest rating and review email any questions, comments or recommendations for topics or guests to podcast at Changing higher ed. Changing Higher Ed is produced and hosted by Dr. Drum McNaughton Post-production by David L Whyte.