Community colleges have a new option for sharing courses

by Emma

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Dive Brief:

  • Community colleges will have a new option for sharing online courses through a consortium from the nonprofit League for Innovation in the Community College and course-sharing platform developer Acadeum.
  • Colleges must be members of the League to join. They can offer other participants’ courses to their students for credit and they can enroll students from other schools in their own classes.
  • Online course-sharing gained traction during the pandemic as colleges sought to address gaps in their remote learning offerings.

Dive Insight:

Community colleges were already sharing courses within regionally focused groups such as Texas’s DigiTex (run by Acadeum), MarylandOnline’s Seat Bank and New Mexico’s SUN Online. The new consortium would apply the concept at a national level, said Joshua Pierce, Acadeum’s CEO and co-founder. More than 300 U.S.-based schools are currently listed as members of the League.

Acadeum is behind several other regional and nationwide course-sharing efforts, including the Council of Independent Colleges’ Online Course Sharing Consortium, which formed in 2018 and features four-year schools. While the concept has been around for decades, it is not as developed among community colleges as it is in other segments of higher ed, Pierce said.

Supporters of the practice say it can help schools fill gaps in their curricula and allows them to make money from enrolling students from other institutions. These agreements can also help make transferring credits easier as participating colleges can predetermine what courses they will accept. 

Interest in online course-sharing ticked up during the pandemic. Acadeum added a consortium for colleges to help students whose education was disrupted by the pandemic. That initiative didn’t end up enrolling as many students as they hoped, he said. Still, the company added 125 colleges last year and now has more than 350 schools in its network. 

“Covid was definitely an accelerant to schools getting in the pipeline, closing faster and then launching,” Pierce said. 

Other online course-sharing options cropped up during the pandemic, including a platform for schools in the Big Ten athletic conference and another for the University of Massachusetts’s campuses.

Schools in the new consortium apply and are approved to offer classes on the platform. Other colleges independently vet the courses before providing them to their students. Unless the courses being shared are part of a new program launch, schools don’t need to get their accreditors to sign off on the offerings, an Acadeum spokesperson said in an email. Institutions pay an annual fee to participate in course-sharing, a cost that is based on enrollment and the consortium. Students pay their college as they normally would. 

It comes as another course-sharing platform involving community colleges tries to get off the ground. Unmudl, which counts several community colleges among its founding partners, aims to offer short-term courses to the public that have a connection to skills demanded in the job market. It can also be a pipeline tool for the colleges. EdSurge reports that the platform, which recently marked its two-year anniversary, has people using it “in the hundreds” and is looking to ramp up.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with more details about the new course-sharing initiative.

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