A Trailblazer Paving the Way for a Shift in Online Learning

November 16, 2023

The University of Southern California's (USC) decision to sever ties with online program management (OPM) company 2U is a groundbreaking move that could pave the way for a significant shift in online learning as more schools consider taking back control of their offerings in the space.

Revenue-sharing models, which historically have involved giving at least half of tuition revenue to the OPM provider, have been criticized for their potential to undermine universities' long-term financial stability and limit their autonomy over their online learning programs. Beyond the share-of-revenue implications, schools that have outsourced control of their offerings have found themselves at the mercy of their partners’ corporate priorities or even needing to worry about their financial solvency. USC's decision to end its partnership with 2U highlights the growing concerns surrounding these models and signals a shift towards alternative approaches.

Here at Studion, we offer universities a comprehensive suite of services that can help them develop, launch, and manage successful online programs without sacrificing their financial autonomy or decision-making power. “USC embodies a commitment to putting the learner first, and this dedication extends to ensuring ownership and control of their online learning programs,” says Furqan Nazeeri, CEO at Studion. “We have helped many top universities build the internal capacity to succeed online from the start, but transitioning from outsourced to in-house is a trend I expect to see a lot of going forward.”

USC's decision is a signal that universities are increasingly seeking alternatives to revenue-sharing models. Revenue-sharing models made sense last decade for schools who weren’t yet sure there was a market for their online learning offerings. For those schools that have succeeded, this model now poses a number of risks including: reduced financial and overall stability (the more they succeed, the more they pay), limited autonomy (programs can start to feel like carbon copies of competitors’ offerings), and lack of transparency for universities. Insourcing online program management offers a number of benefits, including:

  • Greater control over program decisions and the student experience: Every university is different, and insourcing online program management allows them to lean into that differentiation by offering a unique student experience. This creates a deeper relationship with students and more of a “moat” relative to competition.

  • Transparent and aligned pricing structure: Universities know exactly how much they are spending on online program management services, and the more their programs succeed, the greater share of revenue they get to keep.

  • Flexibility to tailor services to specific needs: Universities can select the services that best align with their strategic goals and budgetary constraints, and can leverage those resources across many offerings, online and on-campus.

Universities seeking guidance on the most suitable model for their needs have partnered with Studion to conduct a comprehensive digital readiness assessment of their current online programs, creating a roadmap for taking back control and ownership of their online offerings. If you’re interested in an assessment for your organization, or just interested in learning more, let's talk!

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