Thanks to rapid vaccine distribution and the CDC’s new mask guidance, in-person instruction will return en masse to universities across the country this fall. But that doesn’t mean university programs with multiple learning modalities will fade away.
The pandemic caused universities to pivot and move most instruction online, but it also demonstrated the new educational possibilities multiple learning modalities can create. Online programming offered flexibility and convenience that many students never had before, making higher education more accessible. And with greater accessibility, universities reached new student populations.
Although most universities will have the ability to safely offer in-person classes this fall, most students want more flexible learning options moving forward. Universities that don’t offer programs with multiple learning modalities will risk losing enrollment opportunities with today’s learners–especially in major metropolitan areas where students have more abundant options.
Consequences of inflexibility
Learning flexibility has been a longstanding issue in higher education. Historically, in-person learning programs favor students who have the means to live on or travel to campus.
This narrow learning model discourages students who have personal commitments like a job or familial responsibilities from accessing on-campus learning. This is especially true for older students — only 11.4 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds and 2.3 percent of adults aged 35 or older are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Strict in-person learning programs also disadvantage students who experience unexpected life events and students from rural populations that don’t have convenient access to a college campus. For example, let’s say a student needs to move back home for a semester to take care of a sick family member. Without flexible online or hybrid education options, they’re often forced to put their education on hold and wait until the next class cycle to continue their courses.
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