By Douglas Fehlen
Check with the admissions department or the registrar's office at your college to see whether an institution offers courses through a consortium of other postsecondary schools. A consortium is a partnership between colleges that allows students to access academic resources at partnering schools. Consortium partnerships are common, and in most cases partnering institutions are geographically close so as to enable easy accessibility for students.
It's important to do your research before taking a class at a school partnered with your college. Sometimes academic arrangements between institutions are applicable only to specific programs or resources. Colleges also typically have different stipulations about who is eligible to take courses at partnering schools and how credits transfer to your home institution. You will need to check with the administration to get all of the details.
The full range of classes your school offers may not be evident in a listing of campus-based classes. Find out whether your school is also among the more than 190 accredited colleges that offer online courses. You should be able to get a full listing of online classes offered at your institution on the school's website. Search there to see if a class you want to take is available online. Your registrar's office will have more detailed information to help you sign up.
If your college doesn't offer online courses directly, or if the particular class you're looking for isn't available from the school, you can still take the course online. Your institution may accept credit for online courses offered by another accredited college. You'll want to verify that the credits for your online class will transfer before enrolling. Tuition and class credit may be different for online courses - both those offered by your school and other institutions - so it's a good idea to check with an adviser before taking this route.
In the span of just over a decade, OpenCourseWare has gone from being a novel concept to a veritable force in higher education. The practice of making college course materials available for free online was championed early on by MIT and has since been embraced by many other renowned institutions, including Michigan University, the University of California - Berkeley and Yale University.
What this means for students is unprecedented access to free high-quality courses in a wide range of academic subjects from some of the leading postsecondary schools in the world. At this point, completing OCW classes will not typically earn you academic credit. But rounding out areas of your knowledge while demonstrating an independent commitment to learning is impressive and fulfilling in and of itself. Search for classes at the website of the OpenCourseWare Consortium.
The Petition Option
If you still can't find the course you want, you might petition your school's administration to add a class. In the petition, detail all of the ways a course would benefit you and the college as a whole. Make sure to follow all of your college's policies and procedures for filing a petition to make sure that your effort is given full and proper consideration.
As you undertake this effort, get the support of other students, including those in your discipline. Contact the school newspaper and other university media sources to gather public support. Even if a class is not added immediately so that you can take it, there is the possibility that your petition will initiate an administrative dialog that one day leads to the class being added.