WICHE Internet Course Exchange—A Solution for Institutions with Declining Budgets

Guest post by Kelley Brandt, Assistant Director of Distance Education at Boise State University.  Kelley also serves as the WICHE ICE PIC Coordinator organizing communications and activities among the participating institutional representatives. 

Broadening student access to experts through collaboration

Social work students at the University of Alaska Anchorage currently enroll in online courses taught by University of Wyoming faculty without becoming a UW student or leaving Alaska. These UAA students participate in a Master’s in Social Work program at their home institution, which prepares them for meeting the needs of rural residents in their state. Likewise, UW students enroll in social work courses taught online by faculty at UAA. Together, these two state-supported institutions are giving their students an opportunity to learn from faculty with different expertise in the social work field. Plus, both programs can offer more course options without incurring additional costs.

This past spring semester, 30 Boise State University students enrolled in three online workshops on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) taught by University of Alaska Anchorage faculty without becoming a UAA student or leaving Idaho. These students were given access to the Arctic FASD Regional Training Center resources through the workshops, a resource not available in Idaho. One student who enrolled in the course said, “I chose to take this class because I currently work with high school students who have emotional/behavioral disabilities, many of whom have an FASD diagnosis. I also foresee myself pursuing a possible Master’s degree in social work or similar so I knew the knowledge would be beneficial. The fact it is online is a real bonus for me as a working mother of two and a full-time student. The convenience is invaluable! Finally, I was able to meet an upper division elective credit, so bonus again!”

These are examples of the kind of collaboration that occurs among members of WICHE’s Internet Course Exchange (ICE).  Via ICE’s robust administrative tools, institutions share information about selected online courses and securely exchange student data that enables students, through their home institutions, to seamlessly access high quality online courses and programs offered by other four-year and two-year ICE member institutions. Students are advised by their home campus, register for the courses there, and pay for them using their financial aid.  The ICE-exchanged courses are also transcripted by the home institution. WICHE ICE handles all the financial transactions between the institutions. The collaborative model fosters faculty engagement, resource sharing, and innovation.

Institutions find relief with ICE

Finding resources to develop new programs at public institutions has become a challenge in recent years. The University of Alaska Anchorage did not have to beg and borrow to create new course options for its Social Work program. Instead, UAA found a partner. Boise State could have requested funds to hire experts in the field of FASD. Instead, Boise State found a partner. Resource sharing is the cornerstone of WICHE ICE.

At many institutions, it could take years before a new program is set-up. Finding and hiring faculty, developing a curriculum, and building online courses take time and money. Through ICE, two or three partner institutions can divide up the curriculum and course development, dramatically cutting program development time and greatly decreasing the cost to one institution. Then, they can share students to make the program more sustainable over time. On a smaller scale, maybe a faculty member is going on sabbatical and your institution needs to find an expert who can teach a program-required course. Why tell students to wait a year for the class to be offered again when an ICE-member institution with the same program could offer several seats in the same course and help your students stay on track to graduation?

During the past three years, I have worked on the ICE project at Boise State University. As the ICE PIC (Program Information Coordinator), I am constantly chipping away to bring more opportunities to our students. This summer, the University of Wyoming offered an upper division geography course. When I approached the geography department chair to seek approval for offering the course, he said “This is great because we have never talked about developing an online version of this course.” It can take 3-6 months for an instructor to develop a new online course and here we offered a new course in just a week.

The ICE database is very flexible and so it supports several different types of exchanges and partnerships.  In this era of shrinking resources, but also one in which technologies make new ways of operations possible, isn’t it time to think about how we can form new partnerships among institutions to better meet our students’ needs? ICE stands ready to help!

Read The Time is Right for the Internet Course Exchange to find several additional examples of how ICE could benefit your institution.

To learn more about how ICE functions, see the WICHE ICE Operations Manual.

Finally, check out the perspectives of ICE users at UAA.

Kelley Brandt
ICE PIC Coordinator
kbrandt@wiche.edu

One Comment

  1. Posted September 9, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    It’s great to hear of the benefits of sharing classes across institutions. The decreased turn around time of developing courses alone, aids students in having more choices sooner at their current or home institution.

    Also, this method of ‘sharing’ directly benefits students by providing them with more choices (or in some cases, their only option) of attending an online course that is needed for their degree.

    Thank you for sending this out.

    Betty Miller

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