One of America’s most prominent groups of research universities have announced plans to share courses starting this Fall in an effort to mitigate losses caused by coronavirus.
At least seven members of the ‘Big Ten’ group, which is made up of 14 mostly public research institutions, have agreed to share some undergraduate courses in an initiative “designed to enhance educational opportunities for students during the COVID-19 crisis.”
The ‘Big Ten Academic Alliance Online Course Sharing Programme’ will allow undergraduate students at participating universities to access one course per semester at a partner institution with no added costs.
Participating universities include Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, the University of Maryland, and Michigan State University.
The initiative will likely give over 200,000 students the opportunity to take a class at a partner university. In 2018, the seven participating institutions enrolled over 230,000 full-time undergraduates - over half of the Big Ten’s 415,000 total undergraduate intake.
"Big Ten universities compete on the field, but until this fight against COVID-19 is won, we are united in the critical research to battle this virus, and united in the classroom," said Lauren Robel, Indiana University Bloomington provost and executive vice president and chair of the Big Ten Academic Alliance board.
Examples of courses available on the scheme are Insect Biology, Introduction to the Built Environment, and Design Thinking and Creativity.
The scheme is one example of how US universities are using technology to tackle the challenges presented by COVID-19, with many already announcing plans to mainly teach online during the Fall semester.
It is also an indication of the potential for a shift to a more collaborative model of higher education in the future.
Speaking to Inside Higher Ed, Robel said the course-sharing scheme was designed to give students the chance to pursue “a great course you wouldn't normally have access to" at a time when many opportunities such as study abroad or taking on a placement, "are shut down."