Course sharing is gaining momentum in higher education as a way to drive institutional innovation and boost student success. But deciding which model of course sharing is right for your institution isn’t always easy – or straightforward. In this post, we’ll break down the differences and provide you with some questions to help guide your decision.

First Things First: What Are the Different Models of Course Sharing?

  • Institutional agreement model: 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.
  • Cross registration: builds on transfer equivalencies and, using technology, provides an automated enrollment, registration, and tuition experience that can even make use of a student’s financial aid.

How Are the Two Models of Course Sharing Different?

While it’s true that both models provide similar benefits to the students, there are some fundamental differences. And it’s these differences that help guide your decision on which model is right for your institution. 

The fundamental difference between the two models of course sharing is the type of agreement that is in place between your institution (the home institution) and the teaching institution. Ask yourself this simple question: do existing transfer articulation agreements already exist between your institution and the teaching institution? If the answer is yes, then cross registration is for you. 

We find this situation often occurs when institutions belong to the same system. For example, the Montana University System uses cross registration to expand access to courses for its placebound students across the state. 

But what if you want to share courses with an institution where transfer articulation agreements do not currently exist? Well, there’s a course sharing model for that, too. In this example, you’ll want to adopt the institutional agreement model. Why? Because in this model, you’ll build those agreements so that your institution can offer courses from the teaching institution in a seamless way. Institutions that form informal consortiums across state borders often look to the institutional agreement model of course sharing to support their initiatives. 

We know the term “agreements” sounds daunting, but in reality, it’s not. These agreements are simply put in place so that you can adopt each other’s courses and allow your students to count them to count for credit, just as if they were ones you offered yourself. In fact, even with cross registration, institutions usually put a simplified agreement in place to deal with full-time status, tuition, and financial aid.

Will One Model of Course Sharing Meet All Your Needs?

The final question you must ask yourself is whether or not a “one size fits all” course sharing model works for your institution. If the answer is “no” (and this is likely the case), then it’s critical that you select a technology partner that can easily accommodate both models of course sharing. 

We built the Quottly Platform with flexibility in mind, allowing institutions to implement it in support of cross registration, the institutional agreement model, or both. Regardless of the model—or models—of course sharing you choose, our platform provides the capabilities your institution needs to make the process easy and seamless for your students and your staff. 

And, if you are implementing the institutional agreement model, we also provide recommendations and best practices that guide you through the process to establish sharing agreements between you (the home institution) and your partner (the teaching institution). We’ll use our experience to help you navigate the questions you need to ask – and answer – to ensure you are set up for success. 

Course sharing is a collaborative way for your institution to innovate and keep students on track. And with the right partnerships—and the right technology—you’ll be set up for success.

About the Author


Quottly helps higher education systems, consortia, and institutions expand academic opportunity, create new pathways to completion, solve transfer challenges, and drive efficiency. Explore Quottly solutions…