Pathways Forward: Supporting Student Progress and Student Retention With Course Sharing

While challenges in higher education are not new, today’s challenges revolve around driving enrollment, navigating bottlenecks in guided or transfer pathways, and finding ways to align certificates and credentials to workforce demand. United Educators' 2022 Top Risks Report notes that, “institutional leaders cited enrollment as the most significant risk facing colleges and universities for the fourth year in a row” (Kollinger, 2022, p. 3), and, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, “transfers to four-year institutions have experienced steep declines” (White, 2022, para. 1). In addition, the Accelerating Recovery in Community Colleges Network (Monahan & Cohen, 2022) reports that, “enrollment of associate degree seekers decreased by 0.9% (-28,200) at community colleges in fall 2022, while students seeking certificates and enrolled in noncredit programs increased by 3.8% (+43,700)” (para. 1).

Colleges and universities across the country are turning to course sharing to solve these challenges. The League for Innovation Online Course Sharing Consortium, powered by Acadeum, focuses on sustainable innovation so that like-minded institutions can work together to find a path forward for students. Through this collaborative partnership, course sharing is helping League Board and Alliance member colleges to increase student success and institutional excellence.

Course Sharing At-a-Glance

Course sharing allows students to regain academic standing, overcome barriers to completion, and progress over winter or summer terms while improving scheduling flexibility. In addition, leveraging the network and peer institutions helps ensure access and equity across the student base. Course sharing benefits any student that needs a course that their home institution cannot offer.

Another benefit of course sharing through the Acadeum network is improving academic efficiency by streamlining processes and workflows. Acadeum powers the technology to eliminate hassles typically associated with the transfer process. An added advantage of the partnership is that institutions maintain quality oversight by vetting and approving courses while also helping students applying for financial aid to meet their full-time or part-time status requirements: It's a win-win for institutions and students.

Acadeum is committed to driving on-time degree completion and creating transfer pathways to four-year degrees. Institutions can identify supplementary course offerings using transfer equivalency tables or articulation agreements to move students forward while embedding certifications and credentials to prepare students for in-demand careers.

A Partnership to Drive Innovation and Collaboration

The League supports community colleges in their efforts to cultivate student access, persistence, and success. Cynthia Wilson, Vice President for Learning and Chief Impact Officer at the League, said, “The League is very excited to partner with Acadeum to bring this online course sharing consortium to community colleges. In our work with Acadeum and our research before the partnership, we’ve seen that course sharing can help students achieve their goals, and that is exciting.” Through the collaborative network, colleges can help retain students by offering courses that might not be on the schedule when they need them or connecting students with courses not offered at their institution. Course sharing fills curriculum gaps and helps overcome capacity issues that delay student progress. Course sharing can also reduce instructional costs and support guided and transfer pathways.

Course Sharing Champion: The Community College of Baltimore County

Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) is a member of the League for Innovation Online Course Sharing Consortium and an example of course sharing in action. Course sharing has enabled CCBC to better serve students and accomplish strategic initiatives, like growing online learning. The institution has offered online learning since the late 90s and developed online courses with Quality Matters rubrics and standards. CCBC now offers 34 fully online degrees with 30 fully online credit certificates and 13 certificates through continuing education. The college considered how online learning could benefit not just local students but students in the region and, potentially, nationwide.

CCBC partnered with Acadeum to boost enrollment and share its mission and robust online programming beyond the Baltimore, Maryland, region. Steve Kabrhel, Dean of Online Learning at CCBC, said, “Coming out of the pandemic, CCBC asked: What do we do with our online courses? Do we say that was good enough just for that timeframe? Do we find another way to utilize them?”

CCBC plans to offer 421 sections in the summer and 954 sections in the fall. The course offerings include 105 general education courses and a lab science course in each major discipline. CCBC will also offer unique courses, such as Behavioral Health Counseling, American Sign Language, Health Informatics, and Legal Studies.

In the 2022-2023 academic year, CCBC has served 66 students, providing them with seats in education courses they couldn’t get because their institution didn’t have the enrollments to satisfy the course, the course didn't fit in their schedule, or the student transferred to the institution and needed the course to complete their degree.

Acadeum supports CCBC as they expand access to students. Bilateral agreements within the consortium allow CCBC to facilitate getting students into courses without going through the application and transfer process. CCBC is now in its fifth semester of course sharing and looks forward to expanding access and creating new pathways for students to succeed.

Looking Forward

While enrollment declines loom for colleges and universities, your member institution can take steps to mitigate risk and thrive in this dynamic environment by taking immediate advantage of what is readily available to you through the League for Innovation Online Course Sharing Consortium. Participating community colleges:

  1. Expand academic capacity and provide just-in-time solutions for students throughout their academic journey,
  2. Create new academic and workforce-aligned programs,
  3. Deliver micro-credentials and stackable certificates, and
  4. Reach new populations of traditional and nontraditional learners.

Ready to expand the academic capacity at your institution to bolster enrollment? The Acadeum team can provide one-on-one implementation and strategic support, identifying immediate and affordable opportunities to maintain a competitive advantage.

References

Bauer White, R. (2022, December 19). Community college transfer gap challenges equity anew. Higher Ed Dive. https://www.highereddive.com/news/community-college-transfer-gap-challenges-equity/635291

Kollinger, J. (2022). 2022 top risks report: Insights for higher education. United Educators. https://www.ue.org/risk-management/enterprise-risk-management/2022-top-risks-higher-ed

Monahan, T., & Cohen, J. (2022). Community college pandemic recovery: What are the new enrollment numbers showing? ARCC Network. https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/arccnetwork/2023/03/21/community-college-pandemic-recovery-what-are-the-new-enrollment-numbers-showing

Acadeum is a League partner and was an Innovations 2023 Advocate Sponsor.

Publish Date: 
Friday, May 12, 2023