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Introduction to Course Sharing

This post is part of our “Introduction to Course Sharing” series, designed to give you an overview of course sharing, how to get started, and why you’re hearing about it in higher education now more than ever.

What is Course Sharing?

At its core, course sharing is about student progress, curricular innovation, operational efficiency, and institutional growth.   

Course sharing, as a concept, isn’t new: for decades, college students have taken classes at nearby schools that offer seats for visiting learners. Online course sharing started at community colleges in the late 1990s, including Maryland (Maryland Online, 1999) and Texas (Virtual College of Texas, 1998, renamed DigiTex in 2019).

Now, through Acadeum’s expansive partnerships, academic institutions can open online courses to students from like-minded institutions near and far to allow visiting students to earn course credit. Students get access to the courses they need, and institutions maximize resources by collaborating.

Why is Course Sharing Growing in Popularity?

With the recent, transformative shift to online and digital learning, students are more open to learning in online environments: In a recent Digital Learning Pulse survey, the majority of students “strongly” agreed (46 percent)  or “somewhat” agreed (27%) that they would like to take some courses fully online post-pandemic. With the ability to access high-quality courses online and increasing comfort with online learning, students no longer need to be near a school to take classes—course sharing offers them flexibility and ease as they work toward completing their degree.

While course sharing has been around for decades, it’s often difficult for institutions to do it well, at scale. Acadeum’s mission is to make course sharing simpler for everyone by handling what’s hard about it: When colleges and universities partner to share courses with regionally accredited institutions, Acadeum handles the financial exchanges and makes the process of finding and reviewing courses simple and transparent.

How Do Students Benefit from Course Sharing?

There are many reasons students take advantage of shared courses. Think of all the reasons students would consider transfer credits at a local institution. Here are some examples of real student stories (names have been changed) where course sharing helped the student stay on track:

  • Lissa didn’t perform well in Chemistry 101 and needed to retake it to stay on track for her pre-med major. But Chemistry 101 was not offered the next semester at her university. She worked with her advisor to find a course from a partner institution, with a similar syllabus, and her school approved it. 
  • Brian is double majoring in Musical Theatre and Biology. He needed to take a required course that wasn’t offered during the semester. His advisor suggested an online course from a partner school that has a strong science program.
  • Aaron, who works full time, couldn’t accommodate a course he needed into his schedule. He took the course online in the evenings, did well, and graduated on time with his class.
  • Neha had a tough first year experience, and her GPA suffered. Over the summer, she re-enrolled in a course to improve her GPA and maintain eligibility to compete on the diving team.
  • Lin’s performance suffered during the challenges of COVID. To avoid suspension, he worked with his academic advisor to retake a course online and stayed enrolled on probation.

Does Financial Aid Apply?

Yes, in most cases federal financial aid, including Pell Grants (regular term and summer), will apply, with certain conditions. Read a recent blog post on this for more information.

How Do Institutions Benefit from Course Sharing?

Institutions are facing challenges across the board: resourcing, recruiting and retaining students, addressing equity gaps, and more. Course sharing is a high-impact strategy that helps to address these challenges and doesn’t require significant upfront investment—so schools can see results, fast.

Each institution is different, but many of the 380+ schools currently leveraging course sharing with Acadeum are focused on one (or several) of the following goals:

Retain students and boost completion: Students can fall into a variety of situations where extenuating circumstances prevent them from taking a course. Course sharing gives them access to the courses they need to stay on track.

Address process inefficiencies: Schools can streamline cumbersome credit approvals that consume staff and faculty time and resources.

Innovate: Some institutions are looking to enrich their curricula by broadening their catalog. Course sharing can help build a new program (read how Eureka College did this), or offer a new specialization to attract new students and drive enrollment.

Create growth: Teaching Institutions gain revenue from courses they offer on the Acadeum platform. Home Institutions incorporate shared courses into their offerings, to keep struggling students enrolled or attract new students—a significant financial win.

What Does the Course Sharing Process Look Like For An Institution?

Colleges and universities work with Acadeum in two ways:

Teaching Institutions make online courses available to other schools in the Acadeum network.

Home Institutions allow students to select courses from the network that meet their needs.

Here’s an example of how easy course sharing can be as a Home Institution (where the student is receiving a degree):

  1. The Home Institution vets the courses they’re interested in offering to students (by evaluating course syllabi, faculty credentials, etc) and pre-approves those courses.
  2. Working with their academic advisors, students find the approved course they need in their institution’s extended catalog (powered by Acadeum) and provide information to enroll.
  3. With one click, the Home Institution administrator approves the enrollment.
  4. The partner institution (the “Teaching Institution” that’s making their course available) also approves the enrollment.
  5. The student receives a welcome email and can begin accessing the course.

How Do I Get Started?

If you think course sharing is right for your campus, but aren’t sure you’re the right contact, get in touch! Our teams can help direct the initial conversations. Typically, it’s helpful to have a Provost, CAO, or President looped in as you’re getting started.

Think about the areas you’d like to address with course sharing. Trying to boost enrollment in summer term courses? Need to win back students? Browse our course sharing guide for ideas.

Assemble your on-campus team: Provost/CAO, Academic Advising, Student Success, Registrar, and CFO. These are the stakeholders who will help get course sharing off the ground. Schedule a meeting with them to discuss your strategies (or, share this blog as an introduction to course sharing!). It’s also useful to make sure faculty are informed and on board with course sharing. Their buy-in will be invaluable as students begin to enroll in courses.

Work with the Acadeum Team to get onboarded to the platform. Teaching institutions will participate in an orientation to walk through requirements to ensure course quality.

Leverage Acadeum’s extensive support resources to save time and effort—like this easy-to-use checklist by department.

Read the next post in our Introduction to Course Sharing series: How is course sharing different from the transfer course experience? 

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What Course Sharing Looks Like: Year Two

What Year 1 of Course Sharing Looks Like

Course Sharing is Much More Than an Improved Credit Transfer System