Last winter, a pair of Historically Black Colleges and Universities embarked on a course-sharing initiative for students to keep them on paths to completion. Benedict College’s agreement with Dillard University worked so well—80% of students passed online classes—that it became the inspiration for a bigger plan of inclusion at more institutions.
On Thursday, the Southern Regional Education Board launched a new HBCU-MSI Course-Sharing Consortium through provider Acadeum that will give students at seven colleges and universities, including Benedict, the opportunity to continue their studies unimpeded as they work toward graduating on time. As students weigh many options and question the value of postsecondary education, the goal is to provide more relevant and flexible courses every semester and keep them on campus.
“We need innovative ways to clear obstacles that stand in the way of students completing their degrees and entering careers that fuel our economy,” SREB president Stephen Pruitt said. “When course sharing helps a student get the class she needs for graduation or broadens her study with a class from a different college, that’s a win for all of us.”
At Benedict, senior students who were behind by six credit hours in winter 2021 were given opportunities to take classes online through its partnership with Dillard and a grant from UNCF. Most of them were able to get back on track for graduation in the spring. For students at HBCUs and MSIs, that kind of initiative and the one being forged now by SREB are critical in helping students maintain their academic standing and have successful outcomes.
“Enabling students to access courses from other HBCUs and MSIs, while providing the support and resources of these richly diverse institutions, is the next step in a collective effort to realize the full promise of HBCUs and MSIs as critical sectors in America’s higher education ecosystem,” said Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis, president of Benedict College and co-chair of the Collaborative.
The group of institutions participating in the coalition on course sharing also includes Albany State University and Fort Valley State in Georgia, Clinton College in South Carolina, Langston University in Oklahoma, Texas Southern University and Southeast Arkansas College, a community college that is excited to get started.
“This initiative is about helping support learners along their journey to and through college with the resources of the HBCU-MSI community,” said Dr. Steven Bloomberg, president of Southeast Arkansas College. “Course sharing is a terrific innovation that expands the options for learning and ensures expanded course access in a way that works for each and every learner.”
The benefits of course sharing
Part of the magic of course sharing is that it not only helps students but also gives like-minded institutions a chance to fill gaps in courses. Acadeum, which works with more than 400 colleges and universities, has 40,000 online courses in its catalog and can work to bring together similar institutions like the Collaborative above. An alliance can provide big benefits for institutions and for students, including:
- The retention of more students who might otherwise search out courses elsewhere to graduate, or even transfer, if certain courses are not available.
- Giving students credit and financial aid for courses taken from their own institutions, throughout that collaborative network.
- The potential to earn more revenue and fill more classes by offering up their own courses, while also reducing instructional costs, or by simply noting that courses in the network are available to students.
- Offering up more spots to students through the network during otherwise slower periods like summer sessions.
- A more comprehensive array of courses for student-athletes, who often need flexible options but might be seeking classes that are unavailable.
- For those who have participated or will participate in graduation ceremonies but still have credits they need to finish, course sharing may provide a quicker solution.
- And most intriguing is that colleges and universities can try out new academic programs or experiment with existing ones to see how much interest there is across the network.