Online content sharing
across a consortium is an appealing option for some two-year colleges. They can more easily meet student demand by tapping online courses from other colleges. And community colleges can bring in outside tuition money without having to compete on marketing
with four-year universities that tend to have much deeper pockets.
Acadeum is an online course-sharing
platform that so far has largely focused on small private colleges. About 400 institutions offer 30K courses
across the networks that use
“Our roots are in the private independents,” says David Daniels
, the company’s president. But he says Acadeum is seeing interest from community colleges and public universities. “The problems are all the same.”
All 50 community college districts in Texas are part of a course-sharing consortium that is now powered by Acadeum. The Digital Higher Education Consortium of Texas, or DigiTex, was created for online course sharing way back in 1998. But participation tailed off as the group’s members developed their own online programs, says Judith Sebesta
, executive director of DigiTex. And resources were a problem for the state-funded organization.
Likewise, the process was balky and heavy on one-off agreements. For example, Sebesta says a college might reach out to another institution to find a course for a single student who needed it. To be more strategic about course sharing, DigiTex signed up with Acadeum just before the pandemic.
“They are providing a technology that we never could have,” says Sebesta. “It’s just so much easier to use.”
How It Works: Each network must agree on the rules for course sharing. Home institutions vet courses from other network colleges—the teaching institutions—that they are interested in offering to students. Both sides then sign off on a student’s enrollment in an approved course.
Home institutions pay a small annual license fee. Teaching institutions pay to make courses available to the Acadeum network, as well as a small fee for each transaction.
The process for managing enrollments and payments across DigiTex is much more streamlined than it was before Acadeum, says Sebesta. But she says every college still gets to decide their level of participation while monitoring quality across the network.
“The home institution really has control,” Sebesta says.
The League for Innovation in the Community College also has partnered with Acadeum to offer course sharing
across 10 of its member institutions. The platform acts as a cross-registration system, says Rufus Glasper
, the league’s president and CEO, which eliminates the need to tweak existing online learning or student information systems.
Course sharing can help on the enrollment front, he says, particularly for rural community colleges.
“Community college students’ progression is heavily dependent on the availability of courses at the time and sequence they need them,” Glasper says. “A common challenge for community colleges, especially in rural areas, is finding enough qualified faculty in order to sustain and evolve their academic programs.”
The consortium approach means students aren’t left in the lurch when instructors aren’t available. And Glasper says it helps ensure that students don’t lose transfer credits or risk their financial aid eligibility.
DigiTex also taps course sharing to help rural colleges meet student demand
, particularly in STEM fields and for in-demand, shorter-term courses. And the consortium’s most successful teaching institution is Western Texas College, which generated more than $100K in tuition revenue during its first year on the platform
, with 647 students from 44 colleges and universities
across the country taking online courses from the small college located in Snyder, Tex.
“The marketing piece is something we never did well,” Sebesta says. “We’re starting to show it can work for community colleges.”
Acadeum recently began offering its first Coursera certificate, which is embedded in an online marketing course
from Trine University, a private institution located in Indiana. The interest and potential to scale more nondegree credentials are there, according to Davis.
Glasper says the course network model helps two-year colleges be nimble in meeting employer demands with workforce-aligned credentials:
“Skills and demonstrated competencies are increasingly important in community colleges. Accessing certificates via course sharing enables our colleges to pivot on a dime in response to changing skills demands from employers.”