Course Sharing is Much More Than an Improved Credit Transfer System

This post is part of Acadeum's "Introduction to Course Sharing" series, designed to provide an overview of how course sharing works, and how colleges and universities can get started.

Even in the eyes of seasoned higher ed professionals, course sharing may, at first glance, look like an updated version of the traditional process of transferring credits from one institution to another. But it’s far more than that; a well-planned course sharing strategy can make a world of difference to students and institutions alike.


The Traditional Course Transfer System

Colleges and universities have accepted transfer credits for decades, and in that time millions of students have transferred credits from one institution to another. They have many reasons to do this: to switch to a different four-year institution, to transition from a community college to a four-year institution, to graduate early by taking summer courses at another school, or to navigate obstacles and setbacks in their educational journey.

With the high number of non-traditional students pursuing degrees , and the well documented issues of credit loss in the transfer process, one might think that higher education would make it easier to transfer credits. Unfortunately, even after all this time, that change has been slow coming. Students continue to report confusion and frustration.

In many, if not most cases, transfer credits are still handled as one-off requests. A student asks for prior approval to take a course for transfer credit or—just as often—appears on the institution’s doorstep with credits in hand, hoping the school will accept all, or at least some of them. But in both those scenarios, the process is fraught with uncertainty. Registrars and faculty must review courses to determine their equivalency to what the home institution requires. That means looking into course names and descriptions, reading syllabi, and even assessing faculty qualifications.

In some cases, pre-defined transfer or articulation agreements can reduce the hassle. But those are relatively uncommon. As a result, in most cases the decision is subject to a process that is at best cumbersome, and, at worst, can lack consistency, transparency, and fairness to the student.

How Course Sharing is Different

Enter course sharing. On a basic level, course sharing delivers that much-desired consistency, transparency, and fairness to the process of granting credit for academic work done at another institution. But that doesn’t begin to capture its benefits to both the student and the school.

At its heart, course sharing is a strategy for student and institutional success. It embraces, rather than reacts to, the reality that flexibility and innovation are increasingly important to the continued success of the higher education industry and the millions of students it serves.

As we detailed in last week’s post, An Introduction to Course Sharing, Acadeum helps like-minded institutions partner with one another to make online courses available when they are needed most, without the hassle of navigating a maze of transfer approvals.

In that way, it is the antithesis of the traditional, one-off system of approving transfer credits.

Importantly, course sharing offers additional benefits to students, including:

  • Financial aid eligibility
  • Transparent payment processes
  • Ability to transfer grades as well as credits
  • Assurance that completed courses will be accepted and transcribed by the home institution

For the institution, course sharing reduces the workload typically associated with transfer credits by:

  • Eliminating the reactive maze of determining course equivalency and transfer eligibility on a one-off basis
  • Providing quality control over which courses are available for students to access

Certainly, no one believes that traditional transfer credits are going away. That system has its place, though much can be done to improve it.  Our hope here is to illustrate how course sharing can be used strategically to advance an institution’s interests, and the interests of its students.