How can colleges and universities share courses online? That is, can students at one institution take a class taught by faculty at another?
The answer has been “yes” for some years, and I’m not talking about MOOCs or University of Phoenix. Instead, the trend I’m watching is a kind of peer teaching, when campuses share curriculum and teaching with each other. It’s a form of inter-institutional collaboration. It’s been slow to develop – I co-taught classes like this in 1999 and 2001 – but some new projects look promising.
Here are some examples.
ITEM: Over the past several years a group of small colleges, members of the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), experimented with sharing upper-level humanities seminars with each other. Students at one CIC campus could take a class offered by another. Subjects included Byzantine art, the history of the book, topics on the American Civil War, and more. Participating campuses could expand their humanities offerings to their students, along with other potential benefits. (I wrote about this last year.)
Taking a hard look at the first experimental round, they found that:
- “In the second year of the program, instructors spent less time in planning and delivering the course. All faculty felt more comfortable with online learning pedagogy.
- Students had positive learning outcomes in these courses, and faculty and peer assessors ranked student outcomes favorably.
- Although there were no face-to-face instantiations of these online courses, both faculty and students rated the online courses as comparable.” (More here)
In sum, a win all around for students, faculty, and institutions? It wasn’t uniformly excellent. Check out this subtle problem, emblematic of the challenges facing cross-instutition collaboration:
While all 43 courses developed in the project were made available for consortium enrollment, 40 percent of the courses had no cross-enrollment. Most institutions reported that campus faculty had been concerned about their local courses not meeting enrollment thresholds, and so discouraged their advisees from enrolling in consortium courses.
I’ve seen this many times, when local needs compete with distant collaborative ones. Inter-institutional collaboration is very, very hard. Kudos to the CIC experimenters for making it work as often (60% of the time) as it did!
a pilot course offering, ‘Real and Functional Analysis’, taught by [professor Stephan Ramon] Garcia. In a fully realized vision, the course would be offered both face to face at Pomona, and also opened virtually to interested students at all LACOL campuses. Local faculty and support contacts at each campus would help ensure students experience the best aspects of on-campus and on-line liberal arts learning.
Notice one key goal of this experiment: curricular expansion. “Our goal is to increase the wealth and frequency of the advanced classes our students need, both for graduate study and to delve deeply in the subject.” Just as with the CIC humanities classes, participating campuses get to extend the range of their offerings.
ITEM: California community colleges have launched a course exchange, the Online Education Initiative (OEI), whereby students attenting one college can take classes at another. This service came about due to concerns about class capacity, and students being unable to locally take a needed class.
One key aspect: this initiative came from the colleges, and wasn’t imposed by the state or managed by third-party vendors.
Instead of ceding control to outside vendors, the colleges decide to create the Online Education Initiative by giving Foothill-De Anza Community College District, Butte-Glenn Community College District and the California Community College Technology Center a five-year, $56.9 million state grant.
Listen, too, to the strategic vision that’s very different from one focused on single institutions:
“We have to look at one student in California as our student, no matter where they live,” [Patricia James, the initiative’s executive director] said. “We’re no longer these little colleges that grew as an arm of high schools to stepping-stones into the four-year colleges.”
From liberal arts to community colleges, east coast to the west: is this a rising trend for us to track? Will it extend to other domains and states?
(Moreover, what do we call these classes? “Shared academics” is what we used to say in the old NITLE days. “Inter-Campus Collaborative” classes, or ICCs, is what others have said. Longer is “Collaborative Inter-Class Teaching“. Perhaps “distributed classes” catches some of the flavor.)