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What to Watch Out for in OPM Contracts

Here are some important things to look out for in Online Program Manager (OPM) contracts with higher education institutions:

• Make sure faculty intellectual-property rights are protected. Review your institution’s current instructional IP policy and evaluate its weaknesses. You may need to organize with your chapter to win a stronger intellectual-property rights policy that protects your online instructional materials.
• Watch out for corporate, for-profit-college-industry practices. Review the student application and enrollment agreements and the faculty contracts used by the online program. Look for restrictive agreements such as mandatory arbitration clauses and nondisclosure agreements that students or faculty must sign.
• Don’t buy bundled services. Contract for the specific service(s) needed, as discrete units, at the time they are needed.
• Don’t bypass your own faculty decisionmaking process. Ensure that contracts make it clear that the university maintains the power to determine how an online program is used.
• Don’t sign lengthy, unbreakable contracts. Contract on flexible, shorter terms, with clauses that allow for early termination as needed.
• Don’t “share” your tuition revenue. Pay for each service up front.
• Don’t facilitate aggressive marketing practices. Retain control over recruiting, admissions, and enrollment decisions, as well as the use of students’ data.