Course-sharing? Make sure you follow these 4 quality assurance checks

As quality assurance tightens across online learning, colleges and universities can now better gauge how much value course-sharing consortiums are providing to students.

Online learning modalities are a must-have for many institutions trying to broaden their enrollment base. But as colleges and universities continue to leverage the new space, scrutiny around quality assurance and consumer protection is growing, too.

Thankfully, Quality Matters, a nonprofit organization focused on online and blended learning, has developed a new framework to help colleges and universities involved in a course-sharing consortium gauge how much value they’re providing to students.

Course sharing allows colleges and universities to work with like-minded institutions to provide courses when students need them. Erasing course gaps is a must-do for institutions looking to boost student success rates: 57% of students are currently in blocked completion paths, and students who can’t round out a full-time, 12-credit schedule are at a disproportionate risk of failing to graduate.

“This failure to prioritize leads to low enrollment sections, course cancellations, constrained tuition revenue and retention issues as students are blocked on their path to graduation,” says a University Business column written by Tom Shaver, CEO of Ad Astra, a higher education software provider helping students progress to degree completion.

Acadeum, one of the largest course-sharing marketplaces used by more than 500 institutions, consulted Quality Matters in creating its guidelines. Institutions using Acadeum can filter courses that align with the nonprofit’s quality standards.

“Online learning has proven to dramatically expand access to learners in a way that meets their needs and current life situation; but, too often it can be perceived as low quality or not up to par with face-to-face instruction,” Dave Daniels, CEO of Acadeum, said in a press release. “Today’s technology provides opportunities to pair best-in-class instruction with unprecedented student support.”

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The 4 qualities of a quality course

Quality Matters defines a robust course-sharing resource as follows:

  1. Transparency of expectations and requirements. Information is shared between engaged institutions, with students and with external stakeholders as necessary, to ensure student expectations are met and learning goals are achieved. Transparency is necessary to develop and support a course-sharing arrangement, inform students in the selection of courses and provide students with the information they need to complete.
  2. Recognition of learning. Student learning is recognized and transcripted at the home institution without required student action.
  3. Student learning experience and support: Students are supported from course selection to completion, resulting in a quality learning experience to achieve learning goals and further academic progress.
  4. Student progress and success. Students are provided with learning opportunities and support that help them succeed and advance their academic progress.

“This initiative is an attempt to help the Home Institutions identify and document their adherence to quality guidelines,” a Quality Matters spokesperson said in an email, “and to efficiently meet those particular guidelines that can be addressed by the selection of courses that are well-designed, well-supported and taught by qualified and well-prepared instructors.”

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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