Colleges and universities today are facing a myriad of challenges. From declining enrollments and completion rates to questions about the cost and value of higher education, today’s environment is challenging at best. To address these challenges, many institutions are looking to course sharing as a way to drive institutional innovation and improve student success.

What Is Course Sharing?

Simply put, course sharing is a strategy where two or more institutions collaborate to make their courses available to each other’s students to count for credit at their home institution. Course sharing can occur among public systems, consortia, and even individual schools that opt in to a network of shared courses. 

There are two models of course sharing in practice among higher education institutions, each supporting several variations. One version builds on existing transfer equivalencies, and is also known as cross registration.

This post focuses on the other approach to course sharing: an institutional agreement model where a home institution selects courses from a teaching institution and offers those courses to its students as though the courses were their own. While the institutions sign agreements to allow adoption of each other’s courses, to the students, the process is seamless. Even though students may have to log into a different LMS to take the course, the shared courses appear on their transcript and count towards their degree and GPA the same as other courses. They can also apply financial aid to these courses as they would with courses taught at their home institution.

Behind the scenes, the home institution evaluates the teaching institution’s courses and instructors at the section level to ensure that there is a one-for-one match with a course at their institution. This helps to ensure that they are meeting all accreditation requirements as defined by their regional governing body.


What is the difference between a home institution and a teaching institution?

A home institution is the primary college or university where a student is enrolled and where the student will receive their degree. A teaching institution is the college or university that teaches the course the student is taking. When taking a shared course, the student is not enrolled in this institution nor do they receive a degree from them.


What are the benefits of course sharing for the home institution?

Home institutions benefit from course sharing in a number of ways. Course sharing enables them to expand academic opportunity for students by offering more course and section options so students can stay on track to completion. And it helps to drive efficiencies and reduce costs because the home institution doesn’t need to add additional sections and staff to support the additional options they are offering to their students.


What are the benefits of course sharing for the teaching institution?

The teaching institutions also benefit from course sharing. First, they are able to fill empty seats in their existing courses. Second, they are able to increase instructor utilization. After all, the instructor cost to teach a class that is 50% full is exactly the same as the cost to teach a class filled to 75% or 100% capacity. Finally, teaching colleges are able to boost revenue from the additional students who take their courses.


What are the benefits for the students?

Course sharing offers many benefits to students. First and foremost, it helps them stay on track for an on-time completion. When their home institution can offer more course and section options, there is a higher likelihood that a student will find the course they need at the right time in their academic career. 

Course sharing also ensures that the courses they take will count towards their degree, unlike traditional transfer credits that may – or may not – fill the requirement. With course sharing, their home institution has already validated that the course they are taking meets their degree requirement. And that means students can register with confidence that they are staying on track to completion.

But most importantly, course sharing improves student success. When students can easily find the course they need, when they need it, they are more likely to persist and complete their degree, certificate, or program. And they are more likely to complete it on time and on budget.


How can I get started with course sharing?

Getting started with course sharing is not difficult, but it does require some planning and collaboration as well as the right technology to make the process seamless for the home institution, the teaching institution, and the student. You should also understand the differences between the two approaches. This blog post provides more detail about cross registration to help you determine if that approach is right for you and your institution.

If you’re looking to get started, you should also be aware of common pitfalls to avoid so that your course sharing initiative is set up for success, right from the start. 

With course sharing, your institution can navigate today’s challenges in a new, collaborative way that benefits both your institution and your students.

About the Author

Quottly

Quottly is the largest and most comprehensive course and program sharing platform in higher education, helping institutions accelerate and boost student pathways toward degree completion.