The DISC initiative utilizes a long-standing, Big Ten Academic Alliance-created, synchronous-learning technology called CourseShare and its administrative framework to increase student access to specialized courses and faculty expertise that are spread across Big Ten Academic Alliance institutions. The CourseShare structure is based on the notion that each course is taught as a cluster composted of a host campus, where the course is physically taught, and distance campuses, where the classroom exists digitally via video-conferencing technology. There are additional opportunities for virtual collaboration and face-to-face interaction, including a campus visit by the instructing professor once a semester.
Established in 2004, CourseShare is a framework created by the Big Ten Academic Alliance that utilizes digital classrooms to allow students to take specialized courses offered at other Big Ten Academic Alliance institutions from a distance. The CourseShare framework allows students to register for shared courses at the same time and in the same manner as regular courses. Grades and credits are reported on the student’s home university transcript, and there are no additional fees associated with shared courses. In the case of DISC, courses taught through CourseShare follow the schedule of the host campus.
The home/receiving faculty liaison will work with the relevant university/department contact in order to assign a local course number for the course. Students would then enroll in the course, using the registration system at their own institution.
Students attend the course in one of two ways. If the university the student attends is hosting the course, they will attend the course as a normal class and interact with the professor as is established at their university. If the student attends the receiving university, they will attend a digitalized version of the course. This means that they will attend a class in a lecture hall, seminar room, or another learning environment adapted for distance learning. The professor and their presenting materials are viewed by the student digitally and they will be able to interact live via video conferencing technologies. This specific setup will vary by institution, but all students will be able to fully engage with the professor and other students live during the course of each class meeting. Additionally, the participating professor will visit the academic campuses of the receiving universities in order to more fully integrate and support students at each campus. To supplement this support, each institution also has an adjunct lecturer or teacher’s aid specifically designated to the course for the duration of the semester.