Higher Ed, Pathways

What Is Course Sharing?

Parchment Staff  •  Jun 21, 2023  •  Blog

Colleges and universities today are facing a myriad of challenges. From declining enrollments over the last decade and stagnant completion rates to questions about the cost and value of higher education, today’s environment is challenging at best. To address these challenges, many institutions are looking to course sharing as a way to drive institutional innovation and improve student success.

What Is Course Sharing?

Simply put, course sharing is a strategy where two or more institutions collaborate to make their courses available to each other’s students to count for credit at their home institution. Course sharing can occur among public systems, consortia, and even individual schools that opt in to a network of shared courses.

Course sharing involves collaboration between a home institution, the primary college where a student is enrolled and will receive their degree, and a teaching institution, the college or university that teaches the course the student is taking. It’s through this collaboration that institutions can expand access, reduce credit loss, and improve on-time completion and student success, while controlling costs.

How Do Students Benefit From Course Sharing?

Course sharing offers many benefits to students. First and foremost, course sharing improves student success. By offering access to more course and section options, students can easily find the course they need, when they need it, and are more likely to persist and stay on track to complete their degree, certificate, or program on time and on budget.

Further, course sharing offers greater academic opportunity for students to enrich their educational experience by taking courses that their home institution doesn’t offer. For example, a place-bound student at a small, rural institution can access a wider variety of courses when they can tap into the courses offered at a larger institution.

Finally, if courses are already evaluated for transferability, course sharing provides students with peace of mind that they will not lose credits or waste time and money on a course that will not count. If a student selects a course that will not transfer and/or count towards their degree, they know this upfront and can look for an alternative option before they invest in it. Course sharing works best with transfer articulation management as the foundation for students to search for classes that meet specific major requirements as well as general education requirements. In some cases, students need to know that a course will transfer to another institution (e.g., 2-year to 4-year transfer) but they also need to know that the course will transfer back to their current institution and move them toward completion.

How Do Institutions Benefit From Course Sharing?

Institutions also benefit from course sharing in a number of ways. First, course sharing enables colleges and universities to increase existing course and section options so students can easily find a course that meets their needs and allows them to stay on track. For example, a student needs to take their Calculus course in the evening because they have work commitments during the day. But what happens if their home institution does not offer Calculus in the evening or the course is already full? Course sharing would allow this student to see where an equivalent course is being offered in the evening. The student could then take the course at the teaching institution, allowing them to stay on track.

Course sharing also enables home institutions to provide students with access to courses they may not offer, such as highly specialized courses that another institution provides. As an example, what if an institution wants to offer their students the opportunity to take an AI course, but doesn’t have the capability to do so currently? Allowing students to take the course at another institution would solve the problem not only by offering students the opportunity to take the course, but also by providing valuable insight into potential course enrollments in the event the home institution has the ability to offer an AI course in the future. As a result, institutions can expand course options and access for students without adding incremental costs, and they can forge more strategic collaborations with partner institutions.

Further, course sharing helps institutions control costs and drive efficiencies by reducing the need to add sections and staff to support waitlists or over enrollment in a course or section. Institutions can also benefit from increases in performance-based funding resulting from improved on-time completion rates.

Finally, colleges and universities can use course sharing as a way to boost enrollment. Because course sharing promotes greater access and opportunity for students, institutions can promote course sharing as a benefit during the recruitment process. They can also use course sharing as a way to fill empty seats in their existing courses which, in turn, increases instructor utilization. The instructor cost to teach a class that is 50% full is exactly the same as the cost to teach a class filled to 75% or 100% capacity, resulting in added revenue with no additional expense.

How Can Institutions Get Started With Course Sharing? 

Getting started with course sharing is not difficult, but it does require some planning and collaboration, as well as the right course-sharing platform to streamline the process for the institution and the student.

Start With the Right People

Before you make any decisions related to course sharing, it’s important to involve the right people. Course sharing involves multiple offices and services at your institution, from admissions, counseling, and registration to IT, student success, transfer, and financial aid. Make sure senior representatives from each of these offices have a seat at the table because failing to include the right people — right from the start — is a surefire way to slow down your effort before it even begins.

Decide How You Want Credits to Appear on a Student’s Transcript

Now that you have your team in place, deciding how you want to transcript course-sharing credits is a top priority. In fact, it’s one of the most critical decisions you’ll make when it comes to course sharing. Do you want credits from the teaching institution to appear as transfer credits? Or should they look as though they originated from your institution? It’s important to note that there is no right or wrong answer here, and you can choose to incorporate both options within your course-sharing strategy. Regardless of how you want credits to appear, you’ll need to ensure you have the right institutional agreements in place. Which brings us to the next point.

Review Your Existing Institutional Agreements

Next up, you need to know which institutions you have course equivalencies with, your statewide partnerships, and existing consortial agreements (e.g. WICHE or SREB). You’ll also want to identify new partnerships you wish to pursue in order to provide even greater access to courses for your students. For each agreement, you’ll want to include policies regarding tuition and fees, financial aid, data and technology (including security, privacy, and FERPA protections), and the student experience, among other institutional mandates.

Select the Right Technology

Having the right technology in place is critical to the success of your course-sharing initiative. You’ll want to ensure your course-sharing solution gives students a mobile-friendly, seamless student experience that provides details on how a course will transfer and apply towards their degree, saving the student time and money and eliminating credit loss.

You’ll also want a course-sharing solution that provides flexibility to support your agreements and the impacts they have on how you offer and transcript shared courses at your institution. In addition, a  successful solution lets you control, in real time, course availability and course offerings at the section level, while automating processes and registration via SIS integrations, saving your staff valuable time and making the process easier for students.

With course sharing, your institution can navigate today’s student success and completion challenges in a new, collaborative way that benefits both your institution and your students. To learn more about how Parchment’s course-sharing solution can support your student success initiatives, please schedule a meeting.

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