How Course Sharing Helped Becker College Graduate 91 Students Before Closure
"Course sharing is about bringing people together for academic needs."
Teach-outs are difficult for anyone touched by them, whether campus leaders decide to wind down under-enrolled majors and programs, or an institution makes the difficult decision to announce its closure. It’s a challenging topic to discuss, let alone experience as an institutional leader, faculty member, or student. But teach-outs are a reality that most higher-ed leaders will face at one time or another. At Acadeum, we’ve helped a number of institutions navigate the challenges that accompany teach outs—we’ve learned that, when institutions collaborate to ensure that impacted students are supported, there are many bright spots that shine through.
At Becker College, which voted to close in Spring 2021, students needed to develop a plan to transfer or complete their degree before the college closed this year. Thanks to collaboration with peer institutions, over 90 students graduated during the summer term through systems set up and executed by the Becker College team. These students were able to graduate due to a combination of forces: support from student-centric experts on campus; the flexibility of course sharing; and the selfless, quick work from partner colleges in the Acadeum network who stepped in to lend a hand.
As Jennifer Ethridge, Registrar at University of St. Francis, noted: “Course-sharing is about bringing people together for academic needs.”
Experience With Course Sharing When It Was Needed Most
Becker College started course sharing over a year before the school announced its teach-out plan. During that time, Becker students took courses on the Acadeum network for summer and intersession terms, for everything from GPA recovery to speeding up degree completion. Amber Vaill, Ph.D., Becker's former Vice President for Academic Affairs, said: “By broadening our summer course offering through Acadeum, and sometimes making them available at a lower price point, we saved students time, without having them take on the responsibility of finding courses elsewhere.”
Becker’s team had only been enrolling students in shared courses for a few terms, but they’d already established processes and raised awareness of course sharing benefits on campus. When they decided to leverage course sharing as part of the teach-out plan, they were confident they had a solid foundation in place. “At that point, we were looking for a solution that would help as many students graduate as possible,” Vaill said.
Professional Advisors: A Strategic Approach
To identify the students who needed assistance to graduate, the Becker administrative team, along with the College’s professional advisors, pulled a report of students who were within a semester of graduating. Advisors worked with students individually to find the right path toward completion, or a new home for their academic journey, recommending shared courses from the Acadeum network when applicable.
To streamline the process, all advisors were on-boarded to the Acadeum course sharing network and could browse the courses available. “We built our own summer courses that were unique in some of our majors and offered them ourselves—like the Interactive Media Design program,” said Vaill. “We used Acadeum for General Education and elective courses and those in commonly-offered majors such as Business or Psychology. For any courses that counted as major requirements, we made sure those classes aligned to our curriculum.”
Support from Institutional Partners
Becker College administration began working with Acadeum to reach out to Teaching Institutions within the network to find courses that Becker students needed. Time was of the essence—students needed to select summer courses quickly to be eligible for graduation in August. “The wide variety of courses offered by Acadeum member institutions, including the range of options for course term lengths, were very helpful to students selecting summer courses to complete their degrees,” Vaill said.
At University of St. Francis in Illinois, faculty worked to deliver final grades a week before a course ended to support two Becker students. “Our USF faculty answered the call to help by allowing the students to submit coursework early and immediately calculate final grades,” said Jennifer Ethridge, USF Registrar. “Next, we worked with the IT team and Acadeum to open the portals early for entering final grades. Becker College was able to immediately access the grades, and the students expressed gratitude [for the support].”
St. Joseph’s College in New York also had to move quickly—Summer 2021 was the first time they’d offered courses on the Acadeum network, and their course “Biological Control Systems” was needed by a number of Becker students. “We were still finalizing [the process] to onboard students,” said Ashley J. Benson, Associate Director of Online Programs. “Student services, student success, the registrar’s office, and admissions all came together. We really do everything we can to provide support.”
It’s a testament to the best-in-class support from Becker’s administrative team, and the collaboration from partner schools all over the country, that so many Becker students received their degree in August 2021.
“It was so helpful for us to have this availability of courses,” said Vaill. “Not having to teach those courses ourselves saved us money, time, and resources, and allowed us to help more students complete their Becker degrees.”
Strategic Pivots: Teach-Outs and Beyond
The thousands of high-quality courses available on the Acadeum network have helped institutions and students working through a variety of teach-out scenarios. Tiffin University is currently using course sharing to support the teach-out of their English curriculum, and Illinois Wesleyan University, whose French and Italian programs “won’t continue beyond this school year” is looking to the Acadeum network to ease the transition. These difficult decisions often lead to strategic pivots to invest in areas that offer the most value to the student experience.
Teach-outs are never easy, but through collaboration, colleges and universities can ensure the greatest number of students stay on the path to completion. Said Benson of St. Joseph’s: “We were glad to help students in need and see them achieve their goals.”
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