3 Questions for the Founder of ThirtyTwoEdu.com

A conversation with Brady Colby.

September 13, 2020

Brady Colby reached out to me after I wrote a piece on OPM research questions. If we are going to research online program management companies, we are going to need to gather data. It turns out that this is exactly what Colby has been doing in the context of the market research company, Thirty Two Edu, that he founded. Colby generously agreed to answer my questions.

Q: You are the founder and CEO of Thirty Two Edu. What does your company do? What was the path that brought you to found the company?

A: Thirty Two Edu is a market research firm. We provide data, insights and advice on how higher education is partnering and innovating. Specifically, we cover the OPM market (extensively) and all of the tangential markets like boot camps, international pathways, MOOCs, alternatives to traditional higher education and more. Notably, we offer a subscription-based platform called I/O that really cuts through the noise and gives users actionable news about how universities and their partners are innovating.

I worked as a market researcher inside an OPM for years before I decided to set out on my own, and it’s been fantastic. We’ve found that the market is really starved for information, so much so that many people didn’t even know who was active in the market. We’re all about helping universities, companies and investors understand what’s happening in this booming higher ed tech services space. We believe that more information inevitably makes markets function more smoothly, and that is something universities critically need right now.

Q: Through your work with Thirty Two Edu, you have developed a database of university partnerships with online program management companies. Can you describe the sort of data that you collect, how you collect it and how these data are being utilized?

A: What you’ve described is one of our keynote products. What we’ve done is develop some really unique methodologies like utilizing website metadata and even getting data directly from the providers in some cases to get very granular data on the OPM space, data that previously hasn’t been readily available (like what programs are a part of the partnership). We’ve also overlaid a significant amount of university and program characteristics that allow you to really get a comprehensive view of what’s going on in this market from multiple angles.

This data is offered via the HolonIQ OPX Platform, a subscription service that is a joint venture between HolonIQ and Thirty Two Edu. As an aside, HolonIQ has been doing some amazing, never-before-seen things in the ed-tech space across all sectors, and if you haven’t checked them out, you should.

Q: We first connected after I wrote a piece on OPM research questions. Given that you have built a proprietary database that you depend on to monetize with corporate and university clients, how might we leverage the data you have collected to create some public-facing research about online program management companies? What is your interest in collaborating on this sort of research, especially as there is not currently a funding model to support this type of work?

A: As I mentioned before, I believe transparency has unnecessarily been a drag on the OPM market for too long. While there are certainly negative examples, these providers can and do provide a very real revenue-positive service to university partners without sacrificing quality, and in many cases improving quality. I believe much of the negative attention given to these providers is due to the fear of the unknown, and it is in the best interest of both the universities and the providers to have a clearer, unbiased understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of these arrangements.

Along those lines, I’d love to have conversations with anyone who is looking to do purely academic research on the industry, and see how I might be of assistance. The more we can bring educators and the industry that serves them to the same table, the better. Obviously, we also believe that a number of nonprofit organizations have had a good bit to say about this industry, and we believe our syndicated data provides the best opportunity to truly understand the happenings in the space and would love to increase discussions and work with them as well. We believe these nonprofit organizations could be a key asset in not only providing opinions and anecdotes about the space, but more broadly informing universities with data in a comprehensive manner.


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