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Nearly Half of Students Want Hybrid Classes, While Majority of Faculty Still Prefer Face-to-Face

Flexibility remains a key priority for students pursuing higher education, according to a new "College 2030" report from Barnes & Noble College Insights, the research arm of Barnes & Noble Education. In a survey of 2,600 students, faculty and administrators at colleges and universities across the country, nearly half of learners (49%) said they prefer a hybrid class format. In contrast, just 35% of faculty members said they favor a hybrid environment, and 54% preferred fully in-person instruction. Only 18% of students and 11% of faculty favored fully remote classes.

Despite differing with faculty on class format, students' views on the overall value of a college education have improved compared to the early days of the pandemic. Thirty-three percent of students said the value of higher education has increased over the past two years — an increase of 15 percentage points since Barnes & Noble College's first College 2030 survey in late 2020. Thirty-one percent of faculty agreed. Thirty-six percent of students and 45% of faculty said that the value remains the same, while 31% of students and 24% of faculty thought the value has declined.

The survey asked faculty and administrators what makes higher education most valuable. Their top responses:

  • Access to talented instructors (cited by 55% of respondents);
  • Opportunity to build soft skills (48%);
  • Earning potential (45%);
  • Access to top programs/courses (42%);
  • Access to internships (31%);
  • Access to network building (30%) and
  • Campus resources, such as libraries (27%).

Students, faculty and administrators were in agreement on key areas where schools should offer more value. Affordability was top on the list, followed by career planning and student life services.

The report suggested that institutions can enhance the value of higher education by offering more career preparation support for students. Most students said their courses have prepared them well for their careers — 73% feel prepared for the industry or field they want to pursue; 67% feel prepared for the job they want; and 65% feel prepared for graduate school or a professional degree — yet they want help developing soft skills, such as leadership (cited by 42% of respondents), self-motivation (41%) and clear communication (41%). Students are also looking for their institution to provide career tools and job search help, the report found. Forty-six percent of students said they need networking assistance, 43% want résumé help and 41% need help determining where and how to search for jobs. Other career services on students' wish lists included mentors, interview coaching, job fairs and mock interviews.

The researchers concluded with three key themes, distilled from the survey results, that they believe will define the higher education landscape for 2022:

  • The value of a college education will continue to be challenged. "Inflation and economic concerns, dwindling governmental aid, shifting employer expectations and lower birthrates, which negatively affect future enrollment numbers, will all have an impact on college's perceived value," the report noted. On top of that, the student debt crisis remains a major factor. "With financial pressures around repayment and graduating students entering a competitive job market with employees leaving their jobs for higher pay and more personally fulfilling opportunities, institutions must continue to deliver strong student outcomes, success, and career preparedness to help graduates secure financially sufficient employment and a return on their investment."
  • Students require seamless, holistic support that goes beyond academics. "Critical to student success is fostering a seamless support network," the report asserted. "This means academic and mental health resources; a diverse, equitable and inclusive campus culture; and career and life preparedness."
  • Flexibility and continuous pivots are the new norm. "Institutions must evolve their program offerings, support, and experiences to adapt to the continued disruption of industries stemming from the pandemic," the report said. That includes curriculum updates and new learning methodologies as well as non-degree/certificate pathways to serve non-traditional students.

The full report, including data on the state of student loans, student and faculty mental health, and diversity, equity and inclusion, is available on the Barnes & Noble College 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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