Hybrid is here to stay – and not just in the classroom
Everyone is going hybrid, and you should too.
While I wish life were normal enough to be talking about cars, I am talking about learning. Colleges across the country are creating hybrid models to deliver courses in response to the pandemic. While a foreign concept to traditional higher ed just a few years ago, hybrid learning is quickly becoming the norm. I think we can expect it to stay post-pandemic even in the most traditional educational environments. For those of us not in the classroom, we need to get ready to follow our academic leaders in our administrative functions and programs.
For someone who has worked in elite private higher ed most of her career, this is a pretty bold statement. So why do I think this? Simple: it’s cheaper, more accessible, and doesn’t actually change the way people learn. In fact, I would argue this is how young people learn and engage best and is just more convenient for everyone else.
As institutions struggle to defend the rising costs of attending college and how to make it more accessible, hybrid models give students and alumni the freedom to make choices that save them time and money while not really changing their experience. Is there really much of a difference between sitting in a lecture hall with three hundred students and watching a lecture online? While not much different for students, it saves institutions money on space now and will eventually on faculty. What about that faculty lecture for your alumni? That downtown hotel ballroom is not cheap. Or office space for your employees who don’t interact with students or even each other on a regular basis? Let’s be honest with ourselves, we are not thinking about our prospective and current students and young alumni who are all digital natives when making our plans. It is those of us teaching and planning programs who are digital immigrants that need to change our perspective and processes to fit current needs.
As higher ed administrators, it is time we looked inward and determine where a hybrid model could better fit our programs too. Alumni relations in-person program attendance was on the downturn pre-pandemic, travel for campus visits as part of an admissions applications process is getting more expensive for families, office space costs are skyrocketing, and institutional spending on sending representatives for recruitment, engagement, and fundraising out in the field has also increased. Is it time to pull the plug on these expensive and inefficient processes by plugging in?
For those programs that have a person standing in front of a crowded room and a Power Point deck projection, programs could easily go online. Those resources could instead be directed to opportunities for people having meaningful conversations and technology to support developing personal connections. While I recognize that most institutions have made these changes this year since they had to, my guess is that many are also ready for things to settle back to their old tried and true ways. But I argue that there’s no going back. While I am sure you would like to blame your lower application numbers or decreased donations this year on the fact your representatives were not out in the field, I just don’t believe that is the case. Do you still have doubts about staff productivity while working from home? When the dust settles, I have no doubt research will reveal that institutions that invested more in their digital presence fared better than those who did not.
While the pandemic is causing a lot of hardship to a lot of people and organizations, some good can come of institutions rethinking the way they have always done things. Higher education has a real opportunity to examine access and affordability post-pandemic without moving away from their core missions. Seemingly small but beneficial changes can happen all over campus and have the potential to add up very quickly.