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UMass announces distance learning initiative

University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts AmherstBlake Nissen for the Boston Globe

The University of Massachusetts plans to make courses on each of its campuses available to students elsewhere across the UMass system, under a new distance-learning initiative inspired by efforts undertaken when the schools shifted to remote instruction this spring.

The plan was announced Tuesday at a meeting of the UMass Board of Trustees Committee on Academic and Student Affairs. The new Inter-campus Course Exchange, or ICX, will provide undergraduate and graduate students interested in a class not offered on their home campus with an “expanded pathway to equivalent courses at another campus,” UMass officials said.

UMass compared the effort to the Amherst-area Five College Consortium, which allows students at UMass Amherst, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College to cross-register for various courses.

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“ICX is an innovation that was technically feasible in the past, but simply didn’t rise to the level of implementation until the COVID pandemic taught us a lesson about what we can do with Zoom and other tools,” Katherine Newman, the UMass system’s chancellor for academic programs and a former interim chancellor of UMass Boston, said.

“It will now become a permanent feature of our academic landscape and will help us maximize efficiency during a period of financial constraints,” Newman added.

UMass said it plans to develop a website “to inform students about what courses are available, the necessary prerequisites, the number of open seats in each course, and what each course syllabus covers.”

Students will need approval from academic advisers and department chairs to enroll.