I’ve heard of it, but what exactly is OPM? 

OPM, or Online Program Management, is a service in the global education sector which is growing significantly as universities move towards modernising and digitising. Universities partner with specialist vendors who market, recruit, undertake learning design, create customised courses, teach and provide student support through a continuous enrolment and a ‘carousel’ timetable model. 

UTS entered this space in late 2019 with KeyPath as the preferred partner for domestic postgraduate courses and market these courses under the brand UTS Online. Several faculties are participating in the OPM initiative with growing interest from prospective postgraduate students. 

What’s in it for students? 

OPM is a continuous enrolment model where students can enrol at any time of the year given the six study periods from anywhere in Australia. Students study completely online and can choose to complete one six-credit point subject or two three-credit point subjects in the seven-week study period. Study periods are integrated and immersive learning experiences, have assessments, and are facilitated by a teacher. 

In it together 

By having a partnership with a third party, the university can use the skills of specialists in market research, marketing of courses, recruitment, and retention of students. The OPM partner makes an upfront investment in market and industry research providing the university with a full feasibility study before they undertake digital and programmatic marketing of a course. They also undertake lead generation and conversion activities with set targets to be achieved for the university. 

While UTS has overall responsibility for the quality assurance of the course, the partner also provides learning design and product development advice working closely with the Postgraduate Learning Design team and faculties to design, develop, implement and coordinate OPM subjects. There’s also an extensive resource available for academics involved in the co-design of courses. 

A flexible delivery model 

The carousel model of OPM courses are unique at UTS. These courses are organised into introductory graduate-certificate-level subjects which must be completed before moving into masters-level subjects.  

Each subject is available to students in full from the start of the study-period, providing flexibility to get ahead on content. This means teaching staff and those assisting in the development of new OPM courses need to have all resources and materials ready to be delivered from the first day students have access.  

Student support 

Information for students on accessing and downloading content can be sourced on the UTS website’s Canvas FAQ page.

The OPM partner provides additional student support through the role of Student Success Advisors. These advisors check in with students regularly to provide pastoral care and to hear if there are any concerns with their progress or engagement. This extra layer of support provides students with an extra contact point in what can be demanding studies to balance with their other commitments. 

Teaching with OPM 

Before teaching with OPM, staff undergo a five-hour course, Teaching with UTS Online, with the PGLD team. In addition to the training and resources which are then available for reference, all subjects provide a Subject Teacher Guide. These guides outline the approach and teaching and learning strategies developed for the subject. The documents guide teaching staff through the heavily activity-based subjects and ensure all teaching staff are well-prepared to guide students and provide effective feedback. As the recommended ratio is one teacher per 25 students, this guide also provides a consistent baseline and direction for staff.  

As OPM cohorts get larger, this means the teaching group gets larger and so collaboration and discussion between the teaching team is a big support. Teaching teams discuss assessment, marking (there are quick turnarounds as per the agreement with the partner), delivery and areas of improvement for future iterations of the subject.  

Continuous improvement processes 

To ensure quality and continuous improvement each subject is reviewed every time it is offered, and improvements made to the master copy of the subject. The review is led by the learning design team and involves the subject coordinator, teachers, Student success advisor, taking into account SFS and other student feedback. 

Find out more about OPM courses in this post from PGLD’s Sebastian Krook:

Image by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay 

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