A couple of weeks ago, our response to Open SUNY's Request for Information (RFI) on Online Program Management services (OPMs), we published an abridged version of our response on our company website and wrote a post about our observations here on e-Literate. Since, then, ExtensionEngine has followed suit. Here's the introduction to the version that they published on their site:
The online program management (OPM) landscape is a confusing one, the result of rapid evolution and an ever-greater assortment of businesses keen on winning their share of what has become a very lucrative market. We do not envy the task of any institution of higher learning seeking to upgrade their online learning program, and even less one considering the launch of their first program.
A few days ago, MindWires — a strategic consultancy and advisory firm — took an unusual step, one that begins to make the task a little easier by increasing transparency among all of these diverse providers: they published their response to a request for information (RFI) from the State University of New York (SUNY).
The action reflects — and begins to correct — concerns expressed by MindWires’ Michael Feldstein in a series of articles regarding the complicated 2018 OPM market. Greater transparency, as modeled by this move, may be exactly what the marketplace needs to make sense of itself.
In fact, the SUNY RFI itself has made a contribution to greater clarity. This RFI was more than a request for information on what various providers could do for them; rather, it asked the question: What do we need to know before we move forward? Asking for this guidance before generating a request for proposal, or RFP (which will come later), was a brilliant and insightful move on SUNY’s part.
The SUNY RFI listed 15 information-gathering objectives. As we formulated our own response, we noticed that we were, in effect, creating a road map through the wilderness of the 2018 OPM market, one that could be valuable to many institutions of higher learning that are thinking of creating or upgrading an online learning program. Some sections are more pertinent to multicampus systems like SUNY’s, but much of the road map applies to any institution, regardless of size.
For those who are not familiar with ExtensionEngine, we are a professional services organization that designs, builds, launches, and markets custom learning experiences — an integrated, holistic experience designed for learners, pedagogy, vision, and brand. We are a fee-for-service partner — no revenue sharing — and are paid by the hour to provide a full suite of services to help our clients to create successful online learning.
So, in the spirit of transparency inspired by MindWires’ publication of their response, we are following suit to share portions our response to SUNY’s RFI. Below is a substantial excerpt from the road map through the OPM landscapewe created for SUNY, shared with their permission.
This is great stuff. In mature product categories like the LMS, this kind of sharing can do more harm than good, because schools tend to just copy and paste requirements without giving a lot of thought about or investigation into which requirements are right for their particular context. But in the still-maturing OPM and broader Digital Enablement Solutions product categories, this kind of sharing helps to surface the differences in needs and contexts that lead to different kinds of optimal solutions. Publishing both the requests and, at least, abridged versions of the responses is very helpful in advancing the conversation. As ExtensionEngine's Scott Moore noted in the blog post, such responses can "creat[e] a road map through the wilderness of the...OPM market."
More transparency in this space would be extremely helpful at this time. We're giving some thought into different ways to accomplish that aim.