College Choice and Increasing Student Interest in Hybrid Learning

Becky Morehouse

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Routinely, Stamats asks prospective traditional, graduate, and adult students to prioritize the college choice characteristics that matter most as they evaluate their options.

Increasingly, we see items related to the teaching-learning experience aggressively climb the list of items considered most often.

In many respects, this is not surprising. Students are, after all, pursuing an education.

What is surprising, however, is students’ growing interest in hybrid learning. Hybrid learning is a combination of traditional face-to-face instruction with distance and offline learning.

While students may not use the terms hybrid or flex learning, they intuitively understand what it means. For example, they routinely demonstrate their interest in a teaching-learning experience that is:

  • Robust
  • Both synchronous and asynchronous
  • Personalized
  • Intuitive
  • Seamless in its use of technology
  • Integrative across platforms

These words and phrases, we know, are central to what hybrid learning is all about. In fact, they are pretty much a definition of hybrid learning.

Flexibility

The research findings also highlight another trend. Again and again, students of all ages use the word flexible as they think about their college experience.

However, they use the word flexible in two distinct ways.

First, flexibility involves a teaching-learning experience that easily incorporates and accommodates traditional lectures as well as group discussions and online resources.

Second, flexibility means they are able to decide that morning whether they want to attend that day’s lecture in person, online, or later when it is more convenient.

Take care not to overlook this point. Each day, students want to decide whether to take that day’s classes in person on online. Not the entire course, but that day’s classes.

Technology

There is, finally, one more insight. While students love technology, they are quickly frustrated when technology does not meet their expectations. They expect technology to be sophisticated, simple, intuitive, and largely transparent.

As colleges and university administrators and faculty consider the future of teaching-learning on their campus, it is incumbent on them to keep the heightened needs and expectations of students central to the discussion. As part of this conversation, we believe, they need to begin offering or transitioning to the most dynamic hybrid learning experience possible for all the students they serve.

Of course, we are way beyond Zoom™ here. At best, Zoom has whetted students’ appetites for hybrid learning and opened their eyes to greater possibilities. We expect students to become ever more sophisticated as they tease out which schools offer true hybrid education and which do not.

Beyond the pedagogical implications of hybrid learning, we know there are marketing ones as well. Those schools that seek legitimate, enduring points of differentiation in their brand (and messaging) should consider incorporating hybrid learning.

Elevated Experience

Finally, a robust hybrid teaching-learning experience solves a thorny problem. Many students, forced to learn from a distance during the pandemic, were angry and frustrated that they were still being charged full tuition for an educational experience that they felt was sub-par. A hybrid learning platform will quickly elevate the teaching-learning experience and help ease students’ frustrations over tuition costs even when they are given the choice to continue to learn remotely or return to campus.

Looking ahead, even as we transition out of the pandemic, we expect student interest in hybrid learning to continue and deepen because it offers both the robust educational experience they demand and the flexibility they need.

Interested in exploring how students rank key college characteristics in their college-choice process? Drop me an email to schedule a call. Thank you. Becky Morehouse at becky.morehouse@stamats.com

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