The COVID-induced move to hybrid learning could lead many institutions to evolve and innovate in myriad beneficial directions

3 things that could make hybrid learning permanent


The COVID-induced move to hybrid learning could lead many institutions to evolve and innovate in myriad beneficial directions

Institutions turning to a hybrid learning approach during COVID-19 could be on their way to becoming more student-centered, according to a recent report.

Research from Deloitte’s Center for Higher Education Excellence and Strada Education Network explores changes in three critical areas–academic affairs, student success, and the campus workforce–that may contribute to a more permanent hybrid model at universities.

COVID-19 forced an abrupt shift to online learning on campuses across the globe, and with that shift came an increased focus on longstanding issues such as tech infrastructure and financial sustainability.

But “in the long term, however, the staggering disruption to higher education’s traditional residential, face-to-face delivery model may also have an upside: a radical reimagining of the way colleges and universities conduct operations and serve their students,” according to the report.

Instructors revamped courses and put a renewed focus on student engagement, calendars were reworked to allow for more flexibility, and campus services were retooled to be available remotely. All of these changes, the authors note, have led to “a burst of innovation on most campuses” and have many higher-ed leaders asking what comes next.

Despite challenges in enrollment and revenue, the pandemic may have given higher education the chance to focus on improving the student experience through new investments in digital technology.

For universities to become hybrid campuses, three major shifts must occur. Some (but not all) of the ideas and prompts in the report include:

1. Rethink the academic portfolio

  • Accelerate hybrid education by identifying academic programs and individual courses that can be delivered in a hybrid format.
  • Rethink the academic calendar to cycle students through campus beyond the traditional semester schedule, opening up possibilities to increase capacity or use the campus in new ways.
  • Improve students’ understanding of how and what they learn in different contexts (i.e., classroom vs. work) with a virtual curriculum that can help them craft a narrative for life after college.

2. Redefine the student experience for lifelong learning and success

  • Enhance academic advising with e-advising and virtual sessions so that face-to-face sessions can focus on building mentor relationships and are less transactional.
  • Build a virtual community that complements, not competes with, the in-person campus. It should provide a sense of belonging, interaction, and cooperation.
  • Design “third-place” spaces away from classrooms and residence hall rooms where students can access synchronous social learning experiences.

3. Reshape campus work, the workforce, and the workplace

  • Rearchitect existing workflows, and push outside the bounds of a department or college view to better understand the full picture of where and how work should be performed across campus.
  • Develop a robust technology infrastructure to support hybrid and virtual interactions, including collaboration tools for video, text chat, discussion boards, simulations, and virtual private network connections.
  • Develop and deliver training for faculty and staff to use new tools effectively and understand how they can engage across campus.
  • Support the workforce with smart campus and AI capabilities.

During talk of what the post-COVID campus will look like, stakeholders must also what it should look like, and there are a few critical actions for college leaders and governing boards to consider during the hybrid transition:

1. Ensure strong and visionary leadership from the president as well as vice presidents of every major area of campus, from academic and student affairs to technology and human resources.
2. Inculcate an institutional culture that puts the student at the center.
3. Employ a data and technology strategy to gain a clear idea of the student journey.
4. Explore new financial models and incentives.
5. Communicate the vision of the hybrid campus clearly and frequently.

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Laura Ascione

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