Family, job responsibilities, finances, lack of transportation as well as housing and food insecurity are among some of the barriers that prevent students from pursuing or continuing a post-secondary degree.
The list goes on.
A new initiative by the League for Innovation in the Community College is looking to improve completion rates at two-year colleges through a shared online course platform.
“The expectations are to seek opportunities that increase student success and embrace models that encourage partnerships that are boundless not defined by geographic boundaries,” said Dr. Rufus Glasper, president and CEO of the League.
As part of the League for Innovation Online Course Sharing Consortium—created in collaboration with Acadeum—students can enroll in courses at other schools beginning this fall semester without having to transfer.
A shared course model can benefit students at institutions, especially in rural areas, who face instructor shortages and offer limited course options. Additionally, it addresses scheduling challenges for students who have families or work full-time and part-time jobs, according to Acadeum CEO and co-founder Joshua Pierce.
“It is really tough to get a chemistry professor out in West Texas, for example,” he said. “If you lose that chemistry professor, it is going to take you awhile to replace them. And you will probably have 30 to 60 students who are going to need some version of chemistry in the coming academic year and now you can’t serve them.”
To join the consortium, community colleges must be a member of the League and register as either a home institution or teaching institution. Rather than having students face the burden of receiving advisor permission and ensuring that credits are transferrable, the process is automated, said Acadeum president David Daniels.
Home institutions will provide students with access to available online courses at other member schools. From there, staff and students can read through syllabi, faculty information and search for classes on the platform.
Teaching institutions, on the other hand, set their course prices and share their classes that are not at full capacity. Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania is among the current four teaching institutions involved in the consortium. Earned credits count towards a students’ GPA and degree requirements.
Since payments are made through students’ home institutions, their existing financial aid can be used to cover the cost of courses.
“We would like colleges to see the consortium as a resource for providing the kind of flexibility that can help keep students on their educational pathway and reduce time to completion,” said Dr. Cynthia Wilson, vice president of learning and chief impact officer at the League.
Beyond creating flexibility, the model can also attribute to a “revenue stream” for colleges as open course seats can be filled, Glasper said.
“What course sharing enables is the ability of students to recover,” said Dr. Robert Manzer, co-founder and chief academic officer at Acadeum. “If you take a course at another institution on a transfer basis, it does not always come back, does not help your GPA and does not help you get off probation or regain good academic standing. In a consortium course sharing network, it does.”
Over the years, Acadeum has seen the positive outcomes of a shared course network. For example, at a small college in Illinois, around 40 students on academic probation were able to regain “good academic standing” over the course of two summers due to more course exposure, Manzer added.
The idea of the shared platform is also expanding to other types of institutions.
For example, Acadeum is working with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to identify courses that can be placed on the network.
“It is courses that are being shared in the network that go beyond your traditional three credit hour course that you need to graduate,” said Manzer. “Yes, that does apply. But obviously now you can take a much more meaningful and more impactful course for you as a student of color, perhaps at a school where you are not going to have a minority professor.”
A similar platform will also be used for high schools to offer dual credit options.
“There is capacity in courses that is going unused,” said Manzer. “And if we can, through our network, bring that capacity where it is needed, then we can help students get a head start on college and cut their costs and cut their debt.”
Sarah Wood can be reached at [email protected].