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Hybrid, Whatever that Means, Will Dominate the Future of Online Learning

In a recent survey, nearly all higher education chief online officers (COOs) expected online learning of some kind to be a part of the typical student experience within the next three years. While survey respondents did not necessarily agree on how much online would become the norm, it's clear that hybrid models are favored to dominate instruction by 2025.

The findings come from CHLOE 7, the seventh edition of the Changing Landscape of Online Education report from Eduventures and Quality Matters. In January and February 2022, the organizations surveyed 311 chief online officers (or individuals in the closest equivalent leadership role) at public, private and for-profit two- and four-year institutions across the country about trends in online learning, student and faculty support, quality assurance and more.

Respondents' projections on online and hybrid learning varied strikingly by learner type. While COOs expected the traditional undergraduate experience to lean toward "majority on-campus, some online," they anticipated a greater role for majority-online learning for graduate students. A balance of on-campus and online received high marks across the board for traditional students, adult undergraduates and graduate students.

CHLOE 7 data

"COOs expect that hybrid models, providing a balance between online and on-campus, will characterize the anticipated experience for the vast majority of students regardless of type. But there is a wide range between 'majority campus, some online' and 'majority online, some campus' and many possible permutations. 'Hybrid,' in other words, still lacks definition," the report commented.

The report tied student interest in online learning back to the pandemic. The majority of COOs in the survey agreed that student interest in online learning increased in Fall 2021 compared to Fall 2019, regardless of student type. In fact, a healthy portion considered student interest "much higher." Only about one-fifth of respondents said student interest in online learning had not changed, and less than 5% said interest had declined. COOs were also asked to project student interest in online going forward: Again, respondents anticipated more interest among students, but most predicted "a bit higher" interest rather than "much higher."

Related Reading

For more insights into online learning trends, check out CHLOE 6 coverage from last summer:

"When asked to project the prevailing modes of learning at their own institutions three years hence (2025), COOs predicted that few students would be studying exclusively on-ground (4% of traditional-aged undergraduates and 1% of adult undergraduates and graduate students), or exclusively online (2% of traditional-aged undergraduates, 9% of adult undergraduates, and 17% of graduate students)," the report elaborated. "Instead, online leaders predict that the great majority of students at all levels would be combining on-ground and online experiences through a variety of blended and hybrid formats at both the course and program level.

The full report is available on the Quality Matters site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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