Higher Ed, Pathways

3 Pitfalls to Avoid When Starting a Course-Sharing Initiative

Parchment Staff  •  Sep 26, 2023  •  Blog

In an environment where nearly one-third of students struggle to complete their 4-year degree within six years and only one out of every three financially-independent students completes a degree at all, colleges and universities are looking for new, innovative ways to provide the pathways students need to stay on track. One strategy that many institutions are exploring is course sharing.

Course sharing enables colleges and universities to join together in a collaborative effort to eliminate barriers to student success, grow revenue, and reduce costs. It expands access to the courses students need while helping institutions to fill empty seats.

But as institutions embark on a strategic course-sharing initiative, they often encounter pitfalls along the way. If not addressed, these unanticipated obstacles could thwart even the most carefully laid plans.

Don’t let these three pitfalls derail your course-sharing initiative. Here are our suggestions for how to overcome them.

Pitfall #1: You Haven’t Involved the Right People

Course sharing is an initiative that touches many parts of your institution. From admissions and registration to IT, academic affairs, and financial aid, there are many individuals who you need to involve for your course-sharing initiative to succeed. Failing to include the right people – right from the start – is a surefire way to slow down your effort before it even begins.

And if you’re part of a system, failing to include representatives from each member institution, early in the process, is another mistake to avoid.

As you begin to build your team, Parchment recommends that you have representation from all of your system’s institutions or members of your consortium and that they are committed to providing the resources needed from all parts of their institution. After all, a successful course-sharing initiative depends on buy-in and involvement from all member institutions.

Next, we recommend asking for resources from each of the following departments, and empowering these individuals with the ability to make policy and configuration decisions related to your course-sharing initiative and the technology you’re using to support it.

  • IT
  • Admissions, Records, and Registrar
  • Academic Affairs, Online Learning
  • Financial Aid and Student Accounts Receivable

Finally, in our experience with more than 230 institutions, we found that assigning a project lead who can oversee and manage activities across the initiative is a key success factor. There are many moving parts when it comes to course sharing, but when you have a single person leading the charge, you are more likely to stay on track.

Pitfall #2: You Don’t Have the Right Technology

Many course-sharing initiatives rely on highly manual processes. And when processes are manual, not only are they prone to error, but they are also slow and often provide a frustrating and disjointed experience for students and staff.

To set your course-sharing initiative up for success, you need a modern course-sharing solution like the one Parchment provides. But buyer beware, not all course-sharing solutions are created equal. And choosing the wrong one could put your strategic efforts at risk.

While there are many questions you should ask when evaluating course-sharing solutions, here are a few we think are critical:

  1. Does the solution support multi-SIS integration? Whether you are partnering with institutions within your state system or collaborating with peer institutions across the nation, it’s unlikely that every institution you work with will use the same SIS as you do. Multi-SIS integration provides numerous benefits, including improving the experience for students and reducing the burden on your administrative resources. It also helps you to transfer data in real time, eliminate manual work, and increase partnership opportunities.
  2. Is the solution SOC 2, Type 2 compliant? Because course sharing deals with student data from multiple institutions across multiple systems, this level of security is critical to ensure protection of sensitive data. When a solution is SOC 2, Type 2 compliant, it means it adheres to the best security practices related to data. This is an important certification, and if a vendor tells you they conduct third-party audits, be sure to ask them if they are SOC 2, Type 2 compliant.
  3. What is the pricing model? Having predictable, year-over-year costs is important. So when evaluating course-sharing solution providers, ask how they price their solution and associated implementation costs. Ensure you understand the full picture of the investment before you begin.

Pitfall #3: You Haven’t Considered All the Policy Decisions You Need to Make

When it comes to course sharing, there are numerous policy decisions you need to make both within your institution and across your system or consortium. And the complexity of these decisions varies depending on a number of factors such as whether or not your partners are in your system or state – or if your partnerships cross state lines or accreditation bodies.

This pitfall can be a tricky one to navigate. But by selecting the right partner – one who understands the policies and the technology – is a good first step.

Parchment is that partner. During your implementation, our team of experts can help guide you through all of the policy decisions that arise and provide recommendations based on best practices we’ve collected during our experience partnering with over 230 institutions. These decisions fall into categories such as:

  • Student eligibility
  • Course inventory and registration
  • Finance and billing
  • System-wide business processes

We can also help you navigate the complexities of interstate course sharing as well as provide guidance for questions that arise if your consortium crosses accreditation bodies.

Launching a course-sharing initiative is an excellent way to break down the barriers to graduation and ensure student success. And with the right team, the right technology, and the right partner to help you navigate potential pitfalls, you’re sure to succeed.

Let’s talk! To learn more about how Parchment Pathways Course Sharing and our multi-SIS integration can streamline your workflows while improving student outcomes, please get in touch.

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