Multiple learning modalities let institutions achieve greater enrollment, build more diverse student populations, and align learning with industry

3 reasons higher ed will move to multiple learning modalities


Flexible learning environments let institutions achieve greater enrollment, build more diverse student populations, and align learning with industry

Accessibility to higher education was a pervasive issue before the pandemic. But with the recent developments in hybrid and online learning, it doesn’t need to be.

The critical opportunities of multiple learning modalities

The shift to online and hybrid learning won’t be a blip on the radar in the history of higher education–it will be the way of the future. Universities have a valuable opportunity to meet the needs of current and future students while also making education more accessible to diverse student demographics. Here’s why multiple modality programs are the future of higher education. 

  • Increased student enrollment

Multiple modalities mean more options for students–and more options for students can translate to greater enrollment and diversity.

We’re already seeing the proof of this concept. When most universities reduced in-person learning for the fall 2020 semester, enrollment at primarily online institutions saw a 7 percent increase for the same period. In addition, enrollment for online higher education institutions rose by 2.2 percent for the spring 2021 semester. And part-time education programs, which provide another accessible pathway for students, grew by 5.1 percent at online-based schools. Unity College in Maine also saw record enrollment after shifting its entire class structure to hybrid and online learning.

Universities can adjust their programming to meet the growth trends seen across institutions. For example, Northeastern University’s Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice program is available to students on campus, online or in a combination of both settings. This structure allows students to learn in the environment that best suits their week-to-week schedule. 

  • More diverse student populations

Online education technology enables faculty to connect with students from almost anywhere, which can lead to greater diversity in university student bodies.

Geography no longer needs to dictate the educational program a student chooses. If a student from Idaho is interested in a program from a university in Boston, online learning can make that wish a reality without forcing the student to move. As a result, programs can expand their student cohort and open the door to a richer learning experience for everyone.

As hybrid programs make accessibility easier for more learners, classroom discussions can benefit from students with a variety of life and career experiences. Unity College saw this happen when it changed learning models–the average age of its student body jumped from 19 to 30 years of age since the start of the pandemic.

  • Real-world alignment

Higher education institutions should be designed for students to succeed in real-world industries. With many companies moving to full-time remote or hybrid work models, multiple modality education programs can help prepare students for this new normal.

By learning in online and hybrid learning environments, students can learn to work collaboratively in a similar virtual setting, preparing them for their future careers. So instead of being caught off guard by a professional remote or hybrid work environment, students can be ready to thrive in it.

Universities can get a head start on the new normal of higher education by investing in multiple learning modalities and making education more accessible for the long run. By offering flexible learning environments, institutions can set themselves up for greater enrollment, achieve more diverse student populations and align program structures with industry work models.

eSchool Media Contributors