The Online Consortium of Independent Colleges and Universities (OCICU) was launched in January 2005 after several years of successful classroom-based partnerships, a failed attempt at a previous online collaboration effort, and extensive market research. Beginning in 1990, New Ventures of Regis University formed partnerships with independent, notfor- profit (NFP) colleges across the country. These partnerships focused on helping colleges develop and implement classroom-based, accelerated degree programs for working adults based on the experiences of the Regis adult education programs which had been established in 1979 (Husson & Kennedy, 2003). In all, New Ventures assisted over thirty colleges to launch or improve their adult education programs.
There are many examples of academic consortia in higher education, most of which are classroom-based. A consortium may be defined as formal collaboration that offers members the opportunity to leverage and pool their institutions’ respective resources to other members toward mutually-beneficial goals (Baus & Ramsbottom, 1999). Such an arrangement enables students to register, pay tuition, and gain academic credit at their school while technically attending classes at a member institution. OCICU is founded on the same principle. However, the colleges may be located anywhere within or outside the United States since geographic boundaries are non-existent. There is also an inherent benefit of consortium courses over transfer credit. Transfer credit does not generate any tuition for the member while OCICU courses provide tuition revenue. Opportunities for financial aid also exist at the member institution. Overall, OCICU helps to retain members’ students because of the flexibility provided.
By 2007, the OCICU, a totally online “virtual” consortium with no degree-granting authority, was comprised of 64 member colleges and managed by New Ventures of Regis University. The glue that holds the consortium together lies in the nature of the member institutions. Like-minded, philosophically similar colleges form a bond by the very essence of their respective missions, usually having to do with their emphasis on the personal approach to their students (Ekman & Kennedy, 2007). A large majority of the institutions are members of the Council of Independent Colleges.
The three levels of membership in the OCICU (charter, enrolling, and provider) provide cost-effective alternatives for the delivery of online courses. Members use the courses to complement, supplement, reduce, or replace their own academic offerings while presenting flexible alternatives to their students. In all, over 500 undergraduate and graduate courses are made available to OCICU members by major, general, and niche or specialty providers. (Figure 1)
Key Terms in this Chapter
Charter Members: The initial 40 colleges that committed to becoming OCICU members.
Enrollment: An enrollment represents registration in one course regardless of the credit hours assigned to that course.
Enrolling Members: Member institutions with few, if any, existing online courses available to their students.
General Providers: Member institutions with less than 50 online courses available to other OCICU members.
Virtual Consortium: A consortium that shares totally online courses and programs as opposed to classroom-based or combinations of classroom and web-assisted courses.
Major Providers: Member institutions with 50 or more online courses available to other OCICU members.
Provider Members: Member institutions with significant experience and reputation for their online programs that make their courses available to OCICU enrolling members’ students.
Consortium: A formal collaboration that offers members the opportunity to leverage and pool their institutions’ respective resources to other members toward mutually-beneficial goals.
Niche, or Specialty, Providers: Member institutions with unique academic courses that might enrich the students’ education at other OCICU member institutions.
Hybrid or Blended Course: A course that is delivered partly online and partly classroom-based.
Academic Consortium: A collaboration among member institutions that deals only in sharing credit bearing courses and programs.