Image: Once upon a time, Pearson Education helped Arizona State University become one of the biggest online powers in higher education. It was one of the first, and most significant, arrangements in what would come to be known as the online program management industry.

That contract more than a decade ago made Pearson a major player in the burgeoning industry that has done nothing but expand as more colleges and universities move into online education (despite growing regulatory scrutiny).

But the formal expiration of Pearson’s contract with Arizona State, announced last summer, solidified what had been clear for years, which is that Pearson had been supplanted as a market leader by 2U, Coursera and a slew of other players. A few months later, it announced a “strategic review” of its online services division, which led to speculation that it would sell the unit and, in the eyes of numerous market observers, put Pearson

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