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Hybrid Model to Expand from Learning to Campus Services

The hybrid approach being taken by most colleges and universities to get through the pandemic could turn out to have the positive effect of making those schools more student-centered, not just in education but across the board. That's the takeaway in a new report by Deloitte. The consultancy's Center for Higher Education Excellence and Strada Education Network, a nonprofit that works to improve access to college and degree completion, convened a group of people from across the sector to discuss what's next. The group met several times through the summer and developed a report to share their findings.

As the report noted, in the past, universities have frequently "erected divisions" between online and in-person education, with different leadership, tuition rates, completion requirements and even instructor compensation. Students couldn't easily "mix and match" the online courses and the "face-to-face experiences." And in many settings, only those students on campus could access services such as career advising or financial aid.

The pandemic has put those long-held operational traditions and practices into disarray while, in some cases, placing the very sustainability of individual institutions at risk. But likewise, it also has provided a "radical opportunity for experimentation." As the report noted, schools "face a series of choices. They can either approach the exercise by returning to the old way of doing business" or by embracing hybrid approaches and reshaping "how their campuses operate, diversify their offerings and differentiate themselves."

The term "hybrid" in this context means a "technology-enabled student experience." While the concept includes hybrid instruction, that's not all: The hybrid campus, as the report explained, "can deliver everything an institution offers." The blended approach can be followed for any number of operations, "from academic advising to courses to career services."

The retail sector offers an example. Brick-and-mortar stores have adopted online operations and in the best versions, customers can move almost seamlessly between the physical and digital as their needs require.

For campuses to shift to the hybrid model as dramatically, they'd need to do three things, according to the report:

  • Rethink their academic portfolio, including creating new alliances and collaborations and revising their academic calendars;
  • Reshape campus work, the workforce and the workplace, by rearchitecting workflows and identifying what work is core to the mission; and
  • Redefine students' experiences for "lifetime learning and success," such as building virtual communities and building deeper ties with alumni.

In all three areas, technology underpins the work. The rewards could be ample: As a result, the institution would serve existing students even better than before and "expand its market to more students ... including those outside the traditional student population."

The report suggested that administrators set up a task force similar to the one they probably created for their "return-to-campus" work during the pandemic. In this case, however, the job would be to develop the vision for a hybrid campus and identify what resources are available and which ones would be needed through partnerships.

Recommendations also touched on the use of data, rethinking the financial models and communicating the vision "clearly and frequently."

"The hybrid campus: Three major shifts for the post-COVID university" is openly available on the Deloitte website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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