4/9/2009 volume 1 issue 2

Optimizing Academic Opportunities: Students use CIC programs to access specialized courses

Story Highlights:

  • CourseShare capitalizes on distance-learning tools to offer specialized courses to participating campuses
  • Traveling Scholar allows doctoral students to temporarily relocate or commute to another university
  • CourseShare is the CIC’s fastest growing academic program
  • Traveling Scholar is the CIC’s oldest continuous collaborative academic program

Dale Rosenthal, a statistics Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago, needed to delve into a specific mathematical theory to solve the problem in his dissertation. When he couldn’t find a campus course on the topic, he located one across town at Northwestern University.

Ohio State University political science professor Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier and her colleagues wanted to build a larger community of scholars in quantitative methods while offering advanced political methodology classes to more students.

Both found ways to accomplish their goals in two unique CIC programs that increase student access to specialized courses and resources. The programs are particularly attractive because students experience no change in registration procedures from their home university, or additional tuition.
  •  The CIC’s fastest growing academic program, CourseShare capitalizes on technological distance-learning tools such as video conferencing and online tools that enable participating campuses to offer specialized, low-enrollment courses to a broader audience of CIC students. 
  •  Traveling Scholar is the CIC’s oldest continuous collaborative academic program. Available to doctoral students, it requires participants to temporarily relocate or commute to the other university. Over its history, more than 6,500 students have used the program, including 175 in the 2007-08 academic year.

Faculty are increasingly turning to CourseShare to collaborate with respected peers at CIC universities, expand course enrollments with talented students, employ new technologies, fill curricular gaps, preserve specialized courses, and strengthen student recruitment.

Most CourseShare classes employ video conferencing technology that has live audio and video in real time. Often, it’s as close to being in the room with people as one could be, while still being on different campuses.

Box-Steffensmeier’s political methodologies course is team-taught and involves a community of students and faculty from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Minnesota, Ohio State, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“There’s more demand in general for sophisticated methods training for the average political scientist,” she said. “Now we’re seeing people need these classes just to read the literature. We’ve had an explosion (of interest).”

Students utilize Traveling Scholar because they are seeking an opportunity that may not exist on their home campus. For Rosenthal, it was a specialized course. For others, library resources, a laboratory, or a particular researcher at another campus would significantly add value to their graduate education and research.

Rosenthal commuted two hours from Chicago’s South Side to north suburban Evanston for the Northwestern courses on optimization. “The people I learned this from at Northwestern, they’re some of the best in the world,” he said.

Now an assistant professor of finance at University of Illinois-Chicago, Rosenthal found the program so integral to his studies that he now advocates it to his UIC students and has several from Northwestern in his own classes.

“It’s rewarding to give back and encourage this program that helped me to get to where I am with the work that I had to do on my dissertation and the knowledge I got at Northwestern,” Rosenthal said.