collaborative course sharing

Taking Flight: An Analogy in Collaborative Course Sharing Using Airline Alliances

Why should colleges and universities consider course sharing?

Especially when one of the most common objections we hear is “wouldn’t an institution want their students to NOT attend other colleges?


Not wanting your students to attend another institution is a reasonable initial thought, but collaborative course sharing can help colleges and students achieve their strategic and academic goals. Here’s an analogy.

In many ways, airline tickets are much like seats in a college or university class in that they are perishable. Once the plane takes off, the ‘inventory’ of tickets are gone. After all, you can’t sell an unsold seat when the plane is in-flight. The same is true with a college or university class. Once the add/drop deadline passes, you can’t fill that seat with a new student.

Similarly, both are largely driven by fixed costs. The cost of operating a 747 is different from a regional jet just like the cost of offering a 25 student class taught by an adjunct may be different from the cost of teaching a 300 student lecture by an endowed chair. But the cost of offering the flight (for an airline) or section (for an institution) isn’t highly dependent on the number of people in seats. A 747 flying half-full will cost pretty much the same amount as when it is full. Similarly, the cost of offering a section with 10 filled seats and 10 empty seats is about the same as with all 20 seats full.

Breadth of offering is also important. If an airline doesn’t offer a flight on the route you need at a time that works for you, then you can’t take that flight. The same is true for students. If the section of the course they need isn’t available at a time that fits their schedule, then they are unable to fulfill the requirement. And, in most cases, they will inevitably fall off track.

Plane

Finally, the same objection applies: Delta wouldn’t want you flying on Air France, right?

Well, as it turns out, Delta is part of Sky Team, a collaborative alliance of airlines to “codeshare” flights. You can buy a ticket from Aeromexico and end up on a Delta flight. You can be on a flight that you thought was run by Delta and end up on an Air France plane instead. This isn’t unusual, and by now, it probably doesn’t even phase you because it’s happening all across the airline industry. American is part of One World Alliance, and United is part of Star Alliance.


So why should colleges and universities explore collaborative course sharing?

There are many benefits to this new type of collaboration. Here are just a few.

Increase On-time Completion

Students finishing their degrees or certificates on time is a key metric for many institutions. And in some cases, improvements (or declines) in completion rates drive funding. We all know some students will end up not being able to take a course they need at the time it’s offered. For example, the only available times may conflict with their schedule, or the student may need to repeat a course, or the student may even need to take a semester off.

But unless your institution is offering a section of every course, every semester – and at every time of day – there’s a good chance that at least some of your students are graduating late or not at all because of these conflicts.

Of course, offering a ‘full’ inventory of even one section of every course every term is cost-prohibitive for even the largest colleges and universities. There just aren’t enough students that need Genetics in Late-Start summer.

But with collaborative course sharing via the Quottly network, your institution can tap into tens of thousands of sections at other colleges and universities to provide this flexibility, without hiring more faculty or building new buildings.

Increase your Utilization Ratio

Since we’ve established that the cost of offering a section of a course is not dependent on how full the section is, ideally, in order to keep costs down for students, every section would be run at full capacity. That is, at a high utilization ratio.

However, uncertainty in demand and the need to offer multiple sections of courses for scheduling flexibility makes running at a high utilization ratio difficult for many colleges and universities.

Let’s say you generally offer four, 25-student sections of Stats 1 at four different times of day, and generally have 60 registrations between them. For that class, you have a 60% utilization ratio. Sixty percent is not ideal, but you’re not willing to only offer three sections because you know there are a handful of students who need each of your four sections because of scheduling conflicts. So if you close any one of them, you’ll leave some students in a lurch.

Now let’s say you decide to explore course sharing. With course sharing, you could offer three, 25-student sections and a course-shared online section through a peer institution at the fourth time. You may end up with 55 students across your 75 seats – a 73% utilization ratio – and five taking your course-shared course.

In this example, your college reduced your cost of instruction by 25% while only reducing credits taught by 8%. This is a huge win for your bottom line!

And this scenario is not even taking into account our next reason for course sharing.

Fill Empty Seats

In the previous example, a college can increase their utilization ratio by closing a section of Stat 1, going from 60/100 seats filled to 55/75, with five students taking credit elsewhere.

This approach reduces costs by 25% while only reducing credits taught by 8%. But it is a mistake to think that course sharing means fewer credits taught.

Your peer colleges with whom you are course sharing are also looking to offer courses they can’t teach at a specific time, or can’t teach economically. Just as you are sending five students to their institution, they might be sending five (or more!) students to you.

In this example, perhaps the college in question offers an online section of Stat 2 and an in-person section of the same class. And, the college typically fills 30 of the 50 seats, again for a 60% utilization ratio. The college chooses to continue offering both sections.

But while College A sends five students away to their peer college for Stat 1, their peer college sends them five students for Stat 2.

So, taking this into account, the college has the following benefits:

Before:

Course Sections Offered Seats Used Ratio
Stat 1 4 60/100 60%
Stat 2 2 30/50 60%

After:

Course Sections Offered Seats Used Ratio
Stat 1 2 55/75 (-5 shared) 73%
Stat 2 3 35/50 (+5 shared) 70%

College A is able to reduce their instruction cost between these two classes by 20% (five sections to four). And they can do this while keeping credits taught constant!

College B experiences the same benefit, but in reverse. This process can repeat across the hundreds or thousands of courses offered by each institution.

With collaborative course sharing, institutions can fill empty seats and increase their overall efficiency. And this leads to better student outcomes at a lower cost. When properly implemented, everybody wins.

Expand the Breadth of Courses

Your college might love to offer a full suite of, say, Ancient Greek, in order to offer a traditional classics education. But perhaps there are only a handful of students interested in that subject – and certainly not enough to hire a faculty member. Referring back to our airline analogy, it’s similar to how Delta might love to offer a flight to Marseille, not just Paris, but just can’t see enough demand to add a route themselves.

With course sharing, you can offer courses to your students as elective, enrichment, or specialization opportunities that you would not otherwise be able to afford to offer. It’s just like how Delta can offer flights through their partners to more than 10,000 destinations, while only flying about 2,000 routes themselves. In both cases, neither your institution nor the airline needs to hire more staff.

Maintain Control

Some administrators worry about making this a ‘free for all.’ But with course sharing, the college or university can remain in control of what opportunities are offered to their students in order to maximize the benefit for both the institution and the student.

Your institution can implement rules like “the student is not allowed to take a shared course unless a section at the home college is unavailable.” It’s just like how Delta will only offer you a ticket on Air France if they don’t have a similar flight with an empty seat.

You can enforce these rules automatically, without causing additional administrative overhead.

So as you can see, course sharing offers numerous benefits to your institution – and to your students. By expanding access through collaborative course sharing, you can improve student completion rates by helping students find the course they need, when they need it, while simultaneously improving operational efficiency. The result? More students stay on track and finish their degree on-time, without more spending.

About the Author

James Gibson

Co-founder and CTO at Quottly.


Transfer Process

Simplifying the Transfer Process

Ask any student who transferred from one college or university to another if the process was easy and you’re likely to hear an adamant “NO!” But just because transferring has been a complicated and difficult-to-navigate process in the past doesn’t mean it can’t get better. We can make the transfer process an easier and more seamless experience for students.


Many students experience “credit-loss” when transferring. In this case, a student’s credits typically count as electives instead of counting as a general education requirement or as a course within their planned major area of study.  In fact, according to the National Center for Education Studies (NCES), students lose an average of 13 units or 43% of their credits, which adds up to a staggering 186,000 years of college credit loss by the nation’s 342,860 transfer students*. But a study by Monaghan & Attewell in 2014 concluded that when 50% or more of a student’s credits successfully transfer into general education requirements or their major, graduation rates increase two and a half times.

A new research report by The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) shows a 7.9% decline in undergraduate transfer enrollment in Spring 2021. In the community college sector, the decline was 15.2%. The pandemic and its related effects appear to worsen the situation for students who want to transfer. And as the pandemic rages on, it’s unlikely to improve any time soon.

“Fixing” transfer continues to be a complex issue.  Many factors come into play, including how colleges position transfer and what resources, such as counselors and transfer centers, are available to students. Take community college students as an example. These students comprise 50% of the transfers to 4-year colleges with 80% saying that they want to complete a bachelor’s degree. Yet, only 13% actually do so. (source)


However, there are two technology-based tools that can help simplify and improve the transfer experience.  One is an up-to-date and comprehensive transfer database of articulations.  To be of real service to students, transfer articulation data needs to be searchable in ways that students can use effectively.  Students need to be able to see whether – and how – a course will transfer to the institution that they wish to attend.  Searching by specific general education requirements and by courses in their target major are two ways that students can avoid credit loss. The California Virtual Campus – Online Education Initiative (cvc.edu) and Maryland’s new ARTSYS are two examples of such systems that give students a powerful tool to find courses and ensure that the courses they take will transfer appropriately.

The other tool allows students to map their pathway through their education.  By mapping agreed-upon pathways (e.g., California’s Associate Degree for Transfer for community college students to transfer to the California State University system) and providing students with an individual dashboard for scheduling courses and tracking their progress towards a credential or degree, students can stay on track to transfer successfully.  Additional tools such as a mechanism to compare a student’s completed coursework to the requirements for transfer provide an easy, ongoing way for students to stay on top of their progress.

Quottly provides the tools institutions need to simplify the transfer process and help students find the courses they need to successfully complete their degree or program.

The process to help students prepare for and eventually transfer can be a more student-centered and productive experience for both the student and the institution.  If we can do that, students will not only save valuable time and money, but they will also be more likely to graduate.  And as we all know, graduating with a college degree brings many added benefits such as increased earning potential, greater job satisfaction, and even better health.

* National Student Clearinghouse yearly estimate – Published in the Hechinger Report, Nov. 22, 2016

About the Author

Jay Field

Senior Vice President of Institutional Partnerships at Quottly


Collaboration

The Age of Collaboration in Higher Education: An Evolution

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