Want to take a course on animal-computer interaction, but it’s not offered? Intrigued by a class called Pests, Plagues, Poisons and Politics at a different university? Now, students in seven Big Ten Conference institutions have the chance to dabble in a range of online courses outside their own university.

Through the new Big Ten Academic Alliance Course Sharing Program, degree-seeking undergraduate students at participating Big Ten schools can take one class each semester of the 2020-21 academic year at another school for transfer credit at their home institution’s tuition rate, with no additional fees. Registration for Fall 2020 started this week for students at UMD, and is also open for students from Indiana University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, the University of Nebraska, Penn State University and Rutgers University-New Brunswick. 

“We recognize the need to think of new and innovative ways to approach teaching and learning this semester and beyond,” said Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. “As members of the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA), we are happy to find yet another collaborative opportunity with our fellow Big Ten institutions to support our students through this pandemic.”

The program builds on an existing one within the BTAA that opens enrollment to courses on less commonly taught languages. While planning how to offer instruction this fall semester during a pandemic, alliance members decided that “each campus would offer … courses that would have no prerequisites and would be open to other campuses,” said Betsy Beise, professor of physics and associate provost for academic planning and programs. “That kind of snowballed into a strategy everybody was very enthusiastic about.” 

A call to all of UMD’s schools and colleges for faculty to offer courses yielded a response that “far exceeded what our expectations were in terms of how many courses we’d be able to offer,” said Doug Roberts, associate professor of physics and associate dean for general education. UMD is offering 45 courses to Big Ten students. The robust selection is a “testimony to how proud our faculty are of their courses,” said Roberts.

The classes offered, among them courses like “Technology and Consequences: Engineering, Ethics and Humanity” and “Fake Checking: Battling Misinformation and Disinformation in the Real World,” are general education electives that aren’t a requirement for any particular majors. “Everyone’s general education offerings are creations of faculty, so they’re more (varied) than an intro-to-some-discipline type of course,” said Roberts.

Roberts hopes that UMD’s undergraduates will take the opportunity to explore the gamut of new courses available to them. “I think it would be great if our students could find something different and interesting that they could see from these other Big Ten schools and take advantage of it,” he said.