Alliance History

A Culture of Collaboration

Since its creation in 1994, Great Plains IDEA has evolved from a group of academic administrators in human sciences who shared a common interest in educating rural professionals using distance technologies and shared courses, to a premier distance education collaboratory providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs in human sciences and agriculture. 

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, and both alliance and institutional interests govern decisions. In this alliance, agreement on principles precedes agreement on policies.

Great Plains IDEA's Core Principles

  • Behave as equals
  • Share leadership
  • Respect and accommodate institutional differences
  • Simplify student access
  • Documentaries About Great Plains IDEA

    How Great Plains IDEA Began

    This 15-minute documentary, produced in 2004, explains how Great Plains IDEA began. Hear from founding members, faculty, and students who were part of the alliance from the beginning.

    Why Great Plains IDEA is Still Relevant

    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.

  • 1994-2004

    1994 – Dr. Joan Laughlin, associate dean of human resources and family sciences at the University of Nebraska, brought together deans of human sciences colleges in the Midwest to identify potential partner universities to gauge interest in offering a master’s degree together. Seven institutions that took part in this initial meeting would subsequently become founding members of Great Plains IDEA.

    2000 – The first distance courses were offered in the Family Financial Planning program.

    2000 – Eight Great Plains IDEA universities received a three-year FIPSE LAAP* grant to create a policy and practice infrastructure.
    *U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education Learning Anytime Any Place

    2001 – The ten founding universities formalized the alliance with bylaws and a memorandum of understanding.

    2003 – The finance team created the common price model which was implemented during the fall semester.  Learn more about the common price.

    2003 – Faculty and staff began using the “Members Only” restricted web pages to store documents.  This would soon give way to a new website.

    2003 – Iowa State University developed the first centralized student information system using a Microsoft Access database that was accessed through a Virtual Privacy Network (VPN).  The Institute for Academic Alliance would later receive a U.S. Department of Education grant that included funds to develop an inter-institutional web-based student information system. Using the original database as a model, in 2006 K-State’s Office of Mediated Education created a secure web-based system named ExpanSIS. 

    2003 – Graduate programs in Gerontology and Youth Development were added.

    2004 – The Institute of Academic Alliance (IAA) was established at Kansas State University.

  • 2005-2015

    2005 – Graduate programs in Merchandising and Community Development were added.

    2006 – Graduate programs in Family & Consumer Sciences Education were added.

    2007 – Agricultural Systems, Management & Technology content was added.

    2008 – AG IDEA joined the Great Plains IDEA organization, leading to the second board of directors and the formation of the Cabinet.

    2008 – Graduate certificates in Food Safety & Defense and Grassland Management launched.

    2008 – A master’s degree in Dietetics was added.

    2009 – The Cabinet, responsible for overall policy and direction, convened for the first time.

    2010 – Great Plains IDEA was awarded a grant sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The Military Academic Advancement Program (MAAP) provided funding to engage land-grant universities in supporting military-connected students. 

    2010 – A graduate program in Family & Community Services was added, as well as a bachelor's degree completion program in Early Care & Education for a Mobile Society.

    2011 – The membership process was revised so that all new members enter the alliance through program affiliation. 

    2011 – The Swine Science undergraduate certificate, the master's degree in Agricultural Education, and the Horticulture program were launched.

    2012 – The Program Assessment Initiative began. The annual program-level assessment ensures that learning objectives are met and that learning objectives are current.  Programs develop their assessment plan, collect data, and send a final report to the appropriate academic board of directors. 

    2012 – The Agricultural and Environmental Law undergraduate certificate launched.

    2014 – The Animal Science graduate certificate was launched.

  • 2016-Present

    2016 – The Human Sciences Board of Directors launched an Instructional Enhancement Initiative that provided opportunities to ensure quality teaching and learning through activities in five areas including: adoption of quality principles for effective online teaching and accompanying best practices; faculty professional development workshops; university resource inventories; mini-grants for course enhancement; contracting of instructional design services.

    2016 – The Quantitative Genetics and Genomics graduate content area was added.

    2017 – Great Plains IDEA upgraded to a new website that includes an interactive, four-year course planner, integration with our student information system, ExpanSIS, and a member's-only resource section call the Member Portal.

    2017 – The Student Excellence Award was established by the Great Plains IDEA Cabinet.  This $1000 award is granted annually to five students and may be used for educational expenses such as tuition and books, or towards other costs of attendance like childcare or educational technology.

    2018 – Alliance members participated in a content strategy workshop that ultimately leads to the creation of our brand platform. The development of this values-based language provides all alliance members with a common language to explain who Great Plains IDEA is, what we do, and what we stand for. A brand usage guide was then created to provide tools to help members put our content strategy into action.

    2019 – Faculty and New Student Orientations were created to help new faculty, staff, and students better understand how the alliance works, who to contact if they have questions, and to provide access to resources available to them.

    2019 – The first edition of the Alliance Insider was distributed. This e-newsletter provides faculty and staff with important information about alliance-wide announcements and resources, professional development opportunities, and more.

    2020 – In response to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the Human Sciences Board of Directors created a Student Emergency Award Fund. The board provided $500 awards to 72 students who were impacted by the pandemic.

    2020 – The Great Plains IDEA podcast was launched. Get Online... was a podcast that helped students and faculty align expectations around online education. Each episode included expert advice and creative resources to inform and enrich the online educational experience.

    2020 – The Cabinet voted to approve a Diversity and Inclusion Statement. The statement declares Great Plains IDEA's commitment to building an inclusive online environment where different types of people and different perspectives are valued. Read the statement and learn about how it was created.

    2021 – Due to COVID-19, the 2020 and 2021 annual conferences were held in an online format. Conference attendees used Zoom to participate in program meetings, watch keynote addresses, join a virtual happy hour, and relax with morning yoga. At the end of each day, awards were given to attendees and faculty groups who showed their conference spirit and submitted screenshots of the best Zoom backgrounds, the most unique "office" space, the best hat, and the most entertaining "Brady Bunch Family Photo." The management team provided updates through a morning newsletter, announced GP IDEA award recipients through a video, and shared their annual report using their podcast platform.

    2022 – The first course was offered through the AG IDEA Exchange, a program which exists to put AG IDEA courses in the hands of non-partner universities who need them. Through this partnership, students from the University of Missouri-St. Louis were able to take a course, Introduction to Regulatory Science in Agriculture, from North Carolina State University.

    2023 – The Cabinet announced on October 17, 2023, that the alliance would transition in name from Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (Great Plains IDEA and AG IDEA) to Innovative Digital Education Alliance (IDEA).

    2023 – The University of Mississippi joined the alliance.

    2024 – A graduate certificate in Early Childhood and Family Policy began offering its first classes in January.