Commission promotes increased collaboration between UM System campuses

Through the Intercampus Course Sharing initiative, UM System students can take courses from other campuses. But for the spring 2017 semester, the program only offered three courses to MU students.

The University of Missouri Review Commission recommended that the UM System develop more shared programs and classes across campuses in a report addressing shortcomings and outlining solutions to budget issues.

Commission Chairwoman Jeanne Sinquefield and Vice Chairman Gary Forsee presented the report the the Board of Curators at their Feb. 10 meeting. The state legislature created the commission to review the UM System in response to criticism of the handling of race-based protests at MU in Fall 2015.

“As they always say, necessity is the mother of invention, and if any time there is a time to be more collaborative across campus, it’s right now,” commission member Dave Spence said.

The commission investigated a variety of topics in groups of two, with Spence and his fellow commission member Michael Williams assigned to look at “Workforce Readiness, Program Analytics and Articulation.” The sharing of programs and classes across campuses falls under that section.

The pair met with leaders from each campus and the UM System and examined the efficiency of various programs.

“Each college and university probably has a reason that they’re doing things the way they’re doing it,” Williams said. “But we tried to give them steps we thought would make the system stronger so that all campuses are all pulling in the same direction.”

Some examples of shared courses and programs already exist, such as the Intercampus Course Sharing initiative, which allows for students to take courses taught at other UM System campuses through eLearning technologies, according to the UM System website.

The goal of the current course sharing program is to expand course offerings, give faculty more time to conduct research or teach other courses and allow courses with low enrollment to be offered by enrolling students at other campuses, according to a document on the UM System website.

But for the spring 2017 semester, only 20 courses were offered through the program. Only three of those classes were available to MU students, and only two MU courses were available to students at other campuses.

“In the business world, I don’t care whether your office is in Chicago or New York or Texas or Tennessee,” Williams said. “If we need to work together, we can do that with technology.”

This concept should be applied to higher education, Williams said.

“If you have someone who’s world-reknowned at Rolla in engineering, that person could teach a course at Mizzou, St. Louis or Kansas City all through the technology we already have on campus,” Williams said.

One issue with sharing programs is funding, specifically if different campuses are working on research together, Williams said.

“I think the hard unintended consequence is research dollars that might have gone to the Columbia campus would have to then be shared between Columbia and Rolla or Columbia and Kansas City,” Williams said. “So you’re not seeing that impact on each campus with this research grant being earmarked for this research project.”

According to a document on the UM System website, when a student took a course from another UM System campus, their home campus would lose tuition fees. However, the grant funding of the Intercampus Course Sharing program is designed to overcome this.

The committee’s report said collaboration between campuses should be focused on programs that are in high demand and that “meet the needs of Missouri employers. The report lists the Entrepreneurial Alliance program at MU as one such program, which could be “combined and coordinated with initiatives at other campuses.”

The program, which Spence and his wife were the founding sponsors of in 2011, incorporates unconventional methods and fosters close relationships between students and faculty. Many graduates and students of the program have started their own businesses, Entrepreneurship Alliance director Greg Bier said.

“A lot of studies say that the real barrier to undergraduates or 20-year-olds starting their businesses is a lack of guts, and you can’t teach guts in a classroom,” Bier said. “And that’s where the Entrepreneurship Alliance here at Mizzou has taken a little bit of a different track.”

Students attend an acting retreat and visit a ropes course in order to gain self-confidence and become comfortable with risk, interact one-on-one with faculty outside of the classroom and interact with guest speakers during social sessions.

With this model, a student on another campus would need more than just the ability to take an MU course online or through video, Bier said.

“[Taking a course online] is possible, and it does add value,” Bier said. “But, there needs to be a coach or a mentor. This could happen through Skype, if you really connected with a coach or mentor on another campus, but it’s a little more difficult because they’re not as accessible to have coffee with in the morning.”

Presentations from guest speakers could be viewed by students at other campuses with technology, and students could go on joint field trips, Spence said.

“I think the model is very easily reproducible with other campuses,” Bier said. “It would be really interesting to have student collaborations between campuses. I’ve got a student right now that has a great idea, but she really needs some IT help and there’s a smaller pool of that here at Mizzou. There’s a big pool of them at Rolla. I would love to see her as [an] MU student collaborate with Missouri S&T students on a venture.”

However, collaboration isn’t just for programs that are in demand, Spence said.

“If there’s declining support for a program and it isn’t in high demand, you have to take a look at it and say, ‘Do we give our resources to something that’s declining,’ or do we collaborate with another campus so that people can still get that education,” Spence said. “We can cut back on those resources and devote them to something that is expanding.”

It is now the responsibility of UM System and the state government to decide how to implement and provide resources for shared programs and courses, Williams said.

“I just think we need to promote and share ideas across campuses and see how we can help each other,” Spence said. “If somebody has a business idea, how can we nurture that? How can we bring that to fruition?”

Edited by Madi McVan |

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