First convened in 1994, the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (Great Plains IDEA) has evolved from a collegial group of human sciences academic administrators who shared a common interest in educating rural professionals using distance technologies and shared courses, to a premier post-secondary distance education collaboratory providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs in human sciences and agriculture.  

Visit our timeline of events to see how the alliance has grown over the years.

This 15-minute documentary, produced in 2006, explains how Great Plains IDEA began.  Hear from founding members, faculty and students who were part of the alliance from the beginning.

While continuing and online education looks different today than it did when the alliance began, our principles and purpose are the same.  In this five minute video, produced in 2017, listen to Great Plains IDEA administrators, faculty and students as they share why the alliance is still successful and relevant despite the ever-changing landscape of higher education.

Early alliance initiatives included:

  • Informing faculty about the changing marketplace for graduate education.
  • Training faculty in the use of technologies to promote engaged, graduate-level learning at a distance.
  • Developing a marketplace for sharing distance education courses.

The notion of shared governance is so pervasive in this alliance that formal memoranda of agreement about program and alliance participation were initiated only after effective working agreements were informally arranged and tested.  In this alliance, agreement on principles precedes agreement on policies.

From its initiation, Great Plains IDEA has organized itself into a culture where:

  • Administrative leadership is shared.
  • Policies are designed to facilitate academic innovation.
  • Faculty participants provide academic leadership.
  • Both Alliance and institutional interests govern decisions.

Program development was supported by the following:

  • Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service
  • Department of Agriculture, under Agreement Number 98-EATP-1-0403 administered by the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC) and under Agreement Number 00-38857-0998.

Major obstacles in the early years included:

  • Lack of internet connectivity
  • Lack of commercially available and easy to use courseware
  • Lack of distance education experience of the faculty

In 2002, the ten founding universities approved the alliance bylaws, and a memorandum of agreement for alliance management. With this step, the alliance leadership team formalized the working relationship that began in 1994.

Collaboration Benefits for Inter-institutional Distance Education Academic Alliances

There are many benefits to universities that participate in academic alliances.  We have outlined those we feel provide the greatest impact. Learn more about the benefits of collaboration and how the Institute for Academic Alliances (IAA) has influenced higher education.