Introduction

The Indiana Partnership for Statewide Education (IPSE) has made a great deal of progress since its inception in the planning and delivery of distance education opportunities throughout Indiana. The IPSE has been able to take advantage of the many considerable strengths already in place among the member institutions in order to develop not only the concept of the partnership itself but the actual delivery of courses as well. Without these inherent institutional strengths, the development of the IPSE would have been an even greater challenge than it has been.

Much of our attention in the near future will be on ways to extend vital academic and student support services to distant students who do not have ready access to such services on an existing campus or educational site. It is understood that such services are crucial if distance education students are to have the same high quality educational experiences and levels of support as our campus-based students. As part of such an effort, the IPSE proposes to establish a centralized enrollment service center that will provide one-call or one-stop services to distant students.

Home institution

A fundamental principle that provides the foundation for the concept of an IPSE enrollment service center is the establishment of a home institution for each distance education student. By definition, the home institution is the institution that records enrollment; issues course grades and grants credit; provides financial aid services; issues billing and collects (its own) tuition and fees; certifies enrollment; and provides other student services. In short, the home institution is the institution of record for the student.

There are two ways in which a home institution may be determined: namely, through an established institutional affiliation or by way of assignment. First, an affiliated institution is one at which the student has applied and has been accepted, whether degree or non-degree. Second, a temporarily assigned institution is one that, in the absence of an established affiliation, will be assigned provisionally by the IPSE to become the home institution. (Students are permitted to enroll in a maximum of twelve credit hours of 100- and 200-level courses without an established institutional affiliation. Students who wish to enroll in courses beyond this twelve credit hour limit must have an established institutional affiliation.) Student preferences for making temporary institutional assignments will be honored to the greatest extent possible.

Originating institution

It is important also to understand the concept of an originating institution and how that is different from either type of home institution mentioned above. The originating institution is the one that provides the instructional origination (via technology) and management for an IPSE course. The instructor/professor for such a course will be responsible for the content and statewide delivery of the course, as agreed via the peer review process, and will deliver the course to all IPSE enrolled students regardless of home institution. Thus, the originating institution provides the statewide instruction for a given course on behalf of all the IPSE participating member institutions that elect to enroll students in that course.

Centralized enrollment services

The IPSE recognizes the need to develop the capacity to deliver to distance education students those academic and student support services that will be necessary to student success, as noted above. Some of these services, particularly academic support services, will be delivered through learning centers, which will be discussed in another informational piece. The services in question here, such as providing general information about the IPSE, information regarding the establishment of a home institution, course schedules, etc., are intended to be those that will complement the information and services to be delivered directly from the home institutions that will assist students with course enrollments. The center staff will not act in the role of an academic advisor, nor will they provide financial aid services beyond those that are informational in nature. Initially, the center will provide a single point of contact for students who may be making their first contacts with the IPSE. Beyond that, the center will offer any help students may request that will facilitate course enrollments and that are consistent with member institution policies and procedures. In short, the staff of the center will be in a position to act on behalf of, but not in place of, any participating member institution in ways agreeable to both.

Beyond the enrollment service functions noted above, the center will provide an informational database, voice and email services that are within the resource limitations of the participating member institutions and the IPSE, and an enrollment database. This enrollment database will be created and maintained for purposes of providing aggregate data on IPSE courses and will in no way replace the need for official student records to be maintained by the respective home institutions.

Discussion

The concept of a home institution offers several distinct advantages, particularly for students who may be served by the IPSE, but also for a number of the institutions/campuses as well. At the same time, a number of interesting concerns are raised that are likely to challenge us as we seek acceptable solutions, even if doing so means we may be asked to re-evaluate some of our time-honored beliefs regarding inter-institutional relationships.

Among the advantages to students to have an identified home institution is that enrollment in courses, credits and grades earned, tuition and fees to be paid, financial aid services provided, academic advising, and all other such academic and student support services will be provided by and handled through one institution. And, with the exception of those students who may be new to the IPSE and may need to have a home institution assigned provisionally, this home institution will be the one with which the student already has an established relationship. This arrangement offers very significant advantages over one that would require students to enroll in multiple institutions and run the gauntlet with each in acquiring needed services. There is little doubt that such service-oriented relationships with students will offer a much higher quality of service to them.

Concurrent with these advantages come several challenges. First, this arrangement calls for students to be enrolled in courses at the home institution that are originating from another IPSE member institution. While this means that the home institution does not have to assign an instructor of record, do a local wrap-around, or be concerned with licensing agreements with the originating institution, it does imply that the home institution will accept as its own the course grade and credits reported by the instructor at the originating institution. Over the years we have grown comfortable with accepting appropriate transfer credits from one another. This arrangement would call upon us to take yet another step forward and recognize our respective faculties as worthy of each others confidence, capable of serving as adjuncts across institutional boundaries in accordance with established articulation agreements for the benefit of students.

Another advantage of this type of relationship is that a home institution will be able to offer courses to distant students with minimum effort by using courses being originated by partner institutions. It is being proposed that the majority, if not all, of the tuition income collected be forwarded to the originating institution to cover development and production costs associated with the technology-based course, but that enrollment headcounts remain with the home institution. This produces a win-win situation in that the originating institution will receive tuition income forwarded from the enrolling home institution that it would not likely otherwise receive, and the home institution has the incentive of the enrollment headcount to promote the partnership course. It is expected that over time as enrollments grow and more IPSE courses become available from more participating member institutions, the apparent sacrifice of enrollment headcounts by an originating institution for one course may be offset by its use as a home institution of other courses originated by other IPSE institutions. Should it become apparent that inequities do indeed exist over time, appropriate adjustments could then be made.

Clearly, such proposals challenge traditional methods for conducting the enterprise of higher education. However, when the needs of students become the primary focus for our partnership efforts, these ideas warrant careful consideration.