Two students doing a fist bump while taking online classes

Here’s a new way to increase online course access for college students

What you need to know about the CIC’s Online Course Sharing Consortium

The times are changing when it comes to today’s digital academic landscape. You might not have heard of the Council of Independent Colleges (commonly referred to as the CIC), but it’s an organization that helps smaller liberal arts universities increase visibility and strengthen institutional resources, and they’ve made some exciting announcements in the area of online education.

It’s safe to say that the use of technology in education is making a huge difference in the quality, depth, and accessibility of college education. However, smaller liberal arts universities have a hard time keeping up with larger institutions that have more technological resources at their disposal.

Collaboration helps colleges offer more online courses

Recently, CIC announced a new initiative called the CIC Online Course Sharing Consortium. This initiative is designed to increase online course access for college students and improve on-time graduation rates.

“The initiative increases a college’s capacity to improve retention and student progress,” says Richard Ekman, CIC president. “It ensures that when students need to fill gaps in their record, they can select from courses their faculty has already reviewed and approved for credit and financial aid. Students no longer have to find courses on their own and struggle to manage the transfer of credits from outside institutions. Colleges have greater oversight of the courses in which students enroll and students have assurance that the registrar, the dean, and the financial aid officer will accept their online course credits.”

Technology streamlines the process

The CIC has made this possible through its partnership with College Consortium, an online platform that allows accredited institutions to share online courses to better meet student needs. This platform also allows colleges to share tuition revenues with each another.

Most colleges in the CIC do not have a wide selection of online courses that their students can take advantage of. This partnership lets students enrolled in participating CIC member colleges take online courses from other participating CIC members while counting the course as a home-institution credit. Additionally, it allows students to take courses they could not otherwise access at a time they can take it, while also being able to apply financial aid and count it toward graduation requirements. This is advantageous for students who change majors, add a minor or specialization, or made a course oversight or enrollment mistake at some point in their college career.

Institutions that participate as teaching members can open seats in courses and increase revenue while helping students at other CIC member colleges progress towards graduation. Additionally, institutions have full oversight as to which courses students can participate in.

According to Ekman, the Online Course Sharing Consortium will improve the educational process. “Allowing universities to share online courses increases the quality of education that students receive because the courses are provided with oversight from a student’s college or university. Academic leaders assess academic rigor and select only those courses in the Consortium that meet their standards.

“The non-course-sharing alternative requires a student to find and select a course on his or her own at another institution—often a community college or state institution—for transfer. When this happens, students have no assurance that the transfer course will pass muster at their home institution. They risk wasting time and money and institutions lose control over the quality of courses that students select. The CIC Online Course Sharing Consortium improves the quality of academic options available to students through the guidance and best practices of their college or university.”

In a pilot, over 80 CIC member institutions have participated in the exchange, which has helped more than 1,600 students access courses and generated more than $7 million in additional revenue and student savings.

Through this partnership, the CIC can create a win-win scenario for students and universities. Students have greater access to online courses that fulfill graduation requirements and universities can increase their revenues without having to offer additional courses. Most importantly, it helps students graduate on time, which then allows them to make a more immediate impact in the workforce or other educational pursuits.

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