Max Denning

More than five months after deciding not to partner with Pearson Online Services as its online program management company, Eastern Oregon University has chosen to explore the possibility of working with Learning House as its OPM.

After four companies visited EOU this winter to meet with the university’s OPM team — which was chaired by Holly Chason, director of institutional research at EOU, and included faculty, staff, administrators and a student — the university decided to move forward with Learning House. Learning House, based in Louisville, Kentucky, also visited EOU’s campus in 2017, before the university chose Pearson to explore a partnership with.

Chason did not respond to a request for comment.

Tim Harrison, senior lecturer in EOU’s computer science program who was on the OPM review committee, said Learning House’s services will differ significantly from the work Pearson wanted to do.

“At the time they were looking at Pearson, we were looking at an OPM to do everything,” Harrison said. “This time, we were looking for something more selective, where we could sort of have it cafeteria-style. We will start using some of the services and expand to other services later.”

Allen Evans, a professor of teacher education and member of the OPM team, said EOU will partner with Learning House in three major areas.

“The approach that we wanted (covers) recruitment, marketing and retention,” Evans said. “Learning House can provide other things, but I think they were more interested in working with what we wanted to happen.”

Tim Seydel, vice president of university advancement, said EOU is continuing to explore partnering with an OPM in order to gain students.

“Ultimately it comes down to growing our enrollment and finding the best ways we can serve students,” Seydel said.

In July, The Observer reported faculty members were skeptical of the plan to partner with Pearson. Bill Grigsby, associate professor of sociology, said he also has issues with the plan to explore a partnership with Learning House.

“None of the numerous concerns laid out in the faculty senate committee report last year have been addressed,” Grigsby said. “And while faculty and students had representation on a committee this time, (the committee’s task) as I read it wasn’t ‘Is this a good idea?’ but rather ‘Pick the next suitor.’ And once again, the suitor is a subsidiary of a multinational publishing conglomerate.”

Learning House was purchased in October 2018 by John Wiley & Sons, a global publishing company that produces a wide variety of titles from textbooks and scholarly journals to the For Dummies books.

Learning House acts as an OPM primarily for small colleges across the country. In a case study on its website, Learning House touted increasing online student enrollment at Concordia University-Saint Paul (Minnesota) by 174 percent from 2012 to 2018. EOU’s strategic plan calls for an increase in “online full-time equivalent enrollment to 5,000” by 2029. For comparison, online full time enrollment at EOU is less than 1,000 as of 2018.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer