Academic journal article College and University

Increasing Course Availability for ONLINE COLLABORATIVE PROGRAMS with Multi-Institution Registration

Academic journal article College and University

Increasing Course Availability for ONLINE COLLABORATIVE PROGRAMS with Multi-Institution Registration

Article excerpt

Colleges and universities have developed strategies to improve completion rates, particularly among adult and online learners. One innovative practice has been to increase the availability of courses, particularly in high demand subjects. This article describes the University System of Georgia's first-year successes and challenges implementing a multi-institution registration system to expand course availability in online collaborative programs.

An innovative new idea very often succeeds not because it is noble but because it can serve a useful purpose both for the larger system as well as for its proponents. -Anonymous

INTRODUCTION

Adult learners represent one of the largest groups to further the goals of college completion. Enrollment increases by individuals over the age of 25 are expected to exceed those of younger students through 2016 (Cordes 2009). Many adult students already will have earned some college credit, making them prime targets for completion efforts. Still, the United States lags behind other developed countries in the number of adult learners who complete college: The percentage of young adults in the United States between the ages of 25 and 34 years who complete college is 37, compared with 52.8 percent in Korea, Japan, and Canada (cael 2008).

Barriers to college completion are well-documented in the literature (Gray 2004; Miller 2007; Smith, Edminster and Sullivan 2001; Tinto 1975 ). Barriers include onerous remedial education courses, inadequate student advisement, and lack of pre-college preparation. Studies of distance education course attrition indicate that students who drop or fail a course are more likely to believe that distance education courses are easier than traditional classroom courses (Nash 2005). Studies that examine college retention among African American adult populations identify social and cultural factors that contribute to attrition, including negative faculty attitudes, lack of minority faculty and staff members, and lack of sociocultural support (Johnson-Bailey 2001; Rosser-Mims, Palmer and Harroff 2011). But an emerging body of evidence suggests that course availability also may play a role in thwarting college completion, particularly by nontraditional students (Martin and Meyer 2010). A recent study by the Pearson Foundation indicates that nearly four in 10 students (37%) are unable to enroll in a class because it is full (n.a. 2011). Increasing student enrollments coupled with reductions in numbers of faculty numbers may tax the capacity of institutions to offer sufficient numbers of course sections to enable students to complete their degrees in timely manner.

In response to increased demand for course seats, higher education institutions are pursing innovative solutions that include rethinking traditional registration practices and procedures. Strategies include packaging schedules to reserve course seats, working with academic departments and leaders to forecast high-demand courses and plan accordingly, and better aligning course offerings-particularly for summer terms-with the needs and interests of students (von Munkwitz-Smith 2007). While these efforts hold great promise for alleviating the paucity of seats in high-demand courses, technology also can play a major role in facilitating greater course seat availability, particularly at institutions offering online programs as part of an effort to better serve adult and military students. This article describes the University System of Georgia's (uSG^s) first-year successes and challenges related to implementation of a multi-institution registration system to facilitate the sharing of seats in online collaborative courses. The study sought to answer the following questions:

* To what extent does ingress enable the sharing of course seats across multiple institutions participating in usg online collaboratives?

* What are the perceptions of registration staff in terms of administrative workload and task complexity associated with ingress ? …

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