We’re entering a new era in higher education: the Age of Collaboration.

A time where colleges and universities are collaborating in new ways. And bringing forward new solutions to age-old challenges. A time when more students will graduate on time. And the dial on student success will (finally!) start to move in a meaningful way.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we talk about where we’re going, let’s step back and look at where we’ve been.

The Age of Construction

At the end of World War II, higher education experienced a surge in students like nothing ever seen before. Veterans, returning from the front lines, were seeking out degrees under the GI Bill. Others who stayed home to support the war effort also provided a seemingly unlimited new market for higher education. Simply put, the ability to attend college became an option for more people. As a result, enrollment numbers began to climb. Traditional college and university campuses were filled to capacity with eager learners. And as colleges and universities across the country struggled to find space to accommodate this increase in demand, local high schools often became makeshift lecture halls.

Quickly, institutions realized that they needed to expand. And so began the Age of Construction. During this time, many state universities began to build satellite campuses, located in regional centers throughout their state. Now, students could experience college life closer to home, while institutions expanded the number of courses and degrees they could offer.

And these regional institutions opened their doors just in time.

The Age of Constriction

As the newly-educated started families of their own, parents began to expect their children to follow in their footsteps and seek a higher education degree. Students applied to college in record numbers, forcing admissions officers to become gatekeepers. Their job? To determine who was worthy of attending their institution.

Because filling seats wasn’t an issue, finding the room to accommodate the demand became the new challenge. So instead of building more campuses as they had in the past, institutions became more selective. And they chose to admit only the best and brightest students from their pool of applicants.

But as so often happens, after the feast comes the famine.

The Age of Competition

As the number of traditional college students began its decline, institutions were no longer turning qualified, prospective students away. Instead, they were competing with each to fill their incoming freshman class. Admissions officers were looking for new ways to meet their enrollment goals. They began looking beyond the traditional applicant pools to engage with international students. They added online programs to appeal to the changing demographics of students. And they began creating sophisticated marketing programs to tout the benefits of their college or university and woo students to their campus.

While many institutions faced significant declines in the traditional college age population and in enrollment overall, they wondered how they could survive.

The Age of Collaboration

Meeting enrollment goals is only one part of the challenge. Once the students arrive on campus, the challenge shifts to helping those students succeed. And graduate, of course, preferably on-time and on-budget. One of the biggest barriers to students successfully completing their degree on schedule is course availability. Many times, students simply don’t have access to the courses they need to graduate on time. It may be that the course isn’t offered the term they need it. Or their institution may offer the course, but the timing conflicts with something else in their schedule. Balancing the need to provide a variety of courses and schedule options with the demand for increased utilization is a challenge for institutions. And for many, offering more classes or more sections simply isn’t a financially-viable option.

That’s where collaboration – and course sharing more specifically – comes into play. At its core, course sharing is a collaborative effort among colleges and universities to share courses and programs across their institutions. This collaboration expands reach, access, and completion for students. It means that institutions can offer their students more choice. And that gives them a better chance of finding the courses they need to stay on track and complete their degree on time.

While the value of collaboration to support student success is clear, there are other financial benefits as well. Course sharing helps colleges and universities fill seats in empty sections and increase instructor utilization. They can offer a more diverse roster of courses. And, they can provide more schedule options, without having to open new sections or hire more instructors.

A recent report by EY Parthenon entitled Why Collaboration is Key to the Future of HIgher Education states it well:

“Collaboration in this new era involves colleges and universities coming together as seemingly one institution to change their future direction.”

I firmly believe that collaboration is not just an option but a necessity for colleges and universities today. And Quottly is leading the way by providing the technology and expertise needed to help institutions navigate course sharing. By rethinking the traditional paradigm of when and where students access the courses they need, institutions today can take big steps forward in their efforts to improve on-time, on-budget completion rates.

So what do you think? Are you ready to join the collaboration movement?

About the Author

Jeff Jones, PhD

Vice President, Institutional Partnerships at Quottly