Members Use Online Course Sharing Consortium to Boost Course Availability, Student Retention, and Enrollment

Woman wearing headphones holding book in front of computerThe CIC Online Course Sharing Consortium (CIC-OCSC) has expanded quickly since its launch in November 2018. And with 236 members today, Consortium membership has more than quadrupled in size since March 2020, when many campuses had to adjust their operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As member institutions have joined the Consortium, they have discovered innovative uses of course sharing to support student progress and to recognize program and revenue opportunities on their campuses. These features have been even more critical during the pandemic, when many campuses have moved to online instruction and have been grappling with increased retention and enrollment concerns.

“This particular partnership was an idea before its time,” said Springfield College (MA) President Mary-Beth Cooper, during a 2021 Presidents Institute session about online course sharing that she led with Cornell College (IA) President Jonathan Brand. “The retention rate is key, not only in terms of institutional rank, but as a promise institutions make to students and families,” she added.

The Consortium helps colleges address immediate course availability issues; improves revenue, retention, and completion; and streamlines payments and reporting. It also ensures that academic leaders maintain complete control of their own curriculum, adopting courses as needed to supplement programs or to help students stay on track to graduation. Unlike online program providers, the Consortium provides more than 3,750 courses that institutions can use to enhance existing majors, create minors, and open opportunities for faculty members to design new programs centered on existing curriculums. CIC makes the Consortium possible in partnership with Acadeum—an educational technology company that developed the course sharing platform.

Brand noted during the Presidents Institute that the Consortium “keeps our students moving toward degree completion and increases the likelihood of them returning to Cornell.”

University of St. Francis (IL) President Arvid Johnson, who led a meeting of CIC-OCSC presidents during the 2021 Presidents Institute, said that participating in the Consortium was an easy decision from a business perspective, but that it also created “an incredible opportunity for our students to learn and advance their degrees. From a student experience perspective, it’s second to none.”

The CIC-OCSC platform connects students at their home institution with courses at consortial partner institutions offering online courses. The connections between home and partner institutions, once made via the Acadeum platform, are seamless and require little staff involvement at either institution. When enrolled, students interact using the teaching institution’s learning management system, avoiding any requirement of coordination of learning management systems between institutions. The platform also provides secure links for the registrar, the finance office, and the financial aid office on both campuses.

Carol Schuler, vice president for State Council Programs and the Online Course Sharing Consortium, recently reported that along with Consortium membership increasing since the pandemic, Consortium usage—measured in student enrollments—continues to climb as well (see Figure below). “Once institutions begin to use the platform, they discover opportunities that they did not consider initially. Academic teams soon begin to identify courses that students need frequently and incorporate metrics that can identify students who may benefit from online options.”

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The trends in membership and usage suggest that the usefulness of the CIC Consortium will outlast the pandemic. “It is an empowering model,” noted Schuler. “It is flexible, cost-effective, requires no additional IT staff or resources, provides collaboration among similar institutions, and aligns with student needs.”

View additional information, including case studies and webinar recordings. CIC offers a new webinar for members and those who wish to learn more about the Consortium each quarter. For more information, contact Schuler at