This fall presents the best opportunity we’ve had in years for colleges and universities to return to “normal” and deliver the experience on-campus students expect. So why are we talking about online and hybrid courses?
One reason online is still relevant is that student expectations for the college experience have shifted since the emergency remote pivot of 2020. Students now expect more choice and flexibility in course delivery. Even traditional, on-campus, undergraduates still want to register for an online or hybrid course or two each term.
Another reason we are still talking about online…it’s time to apply the lessons we’ve learned from serving students remotely these past three years. There might be opportunities to grow by serving new students who don’t need a room in a residence hall or a parking space on campus.
In this post, I’ll discuss why it’s smart to still offer online and hybrid courses, even on campus. Read to the end to learn how you might have room to grow by offering your existing online and hybrid courses to new audiences.
Here are a few thought starters to consider for your situation:
- Does your institution offer online and hybrid courses for your on-campus undergraduates?
- Could your institution offer those online and hybrid courses to off-campus students?
- Building on what you’ve learned, could your institution offer more robust online and hybrid courses, or programs?
“Let’s just get the Pandemic classes through and things will return to normal. After that, we won’t need to offer the hybrid and online classes anymore.” Does that thinking sound familiar? Let’s consider why it might be smarter to continue offering online and hybrid or why you might start doing so.
Online and hybrid options were the way forward for many campuses during the Pandemic return to campus. Now that we’re “back” in the full return to on-campus mode, many campuses still offer a mix of on-campus, online, and hybrid sections for the same course.
Students have had some experience with having a mix of an on-campus, online, and hybrid course schedule, and something a bit surprising has happened – they like it. Are you noticing traditional on-campus students still enrolling in the online and hybrid course sections? Is the online enrollment sometimes even higher than the on-campus versions of those courses? This does not appear to be an isolated situation. The Chronicle observed that traditional-age students now expect online and hybrid learning options to be part of their undergraduate experience. Let’s examine this important shift in student behavior and the opportunities this might present.
Why are on-campus students still enrolling in the online and hybrid course sections? The reasons behind this behavior vary and in some cases, overlap. Students cite caretaking of others, illnesses and disabilities, and responsibilities at work. These reasons may have arisen or been first recognized during the Pandemic, or just eased by the availability of online courses. Either way, the recognition of how online courses fit with their needs has created a warmer embrace of online courses by some students. There could be many other reasons students prefer to take some online and hybrid courses. Continuing to offer such flexible options may be a worthy retention initiative.
By the way, students are not alone in their warmer views toward online learning since the Pandemic. Research suggests faculty hold more positive views toward online courses. Parents and potential employers also have reported increased acceptance of online learning according to the 2023 Online College Students Report.
What does this mean for the future of online and hybrid courses and programs?
If your institution is interested in growth, there are exciting opportunities to offer more robust online and hybrid course options. Perhaps there are new markets to be explored for the programs you already offer online or hybrid. Or, you may be able to design new non-credit offerings based on existing courses. Now is the time to capture and apply the learning from the Pandemic pivot. If your institution was considering a pullback to a fully on-campus, in-classroom delivery mode, consider what could be gained by retaining some online and hybrid options for students. What might you be able to accomplish by building on all you’ve learned about online and hybrid over the past three years?
Talk with the experts at Dutcher LLC about the right mix of on-campus, online, and hybrid options for your students. Online is no longer an all-or-nothing proposition. The right mix will help you find and serve the students who value what your institution does best. You might find you have room to grow, without the need for a new building or parking lot.
Dutcher LLC is a company of experienced college administrators who have sat in your seat. Our team of experts has deep experience with the challenges you face every day. We’re focused on real solutions, not long-winded reports. Let’s face the new landscape of higher education together.