I have been working for the past seven years in higher education. With the shift to online and hybrid learning over the last year, I’ve seen students, faculty, and administration become more comfortable with the idea of online/hybrid learning. One of the most attractive parts of the college experience is the connections and networking opportunities you gain while in college. Because of this, I think you will see more hybrid (part online/part in-person) approaches to higher education. Colleges and universities may need to do this to stay relevant and attract new students. Naturally, I have been thinking about how education will shift over the next five to ten years.
It will be interesting to see how colleges respond and if things will go back to ‘normal” after the pandemic. Regardless, the landscape of higher education is primed for a significant shift in the way we approach the traditional college experience and modality. I want to explore the future of higher education and go over some ways colleges and universities can change their traditional approach to better meet the needs of their students and attract more students in the process.
A shift in modality
The future of higher education is a hybrid approach with a mix of online and in-person opportunities. We will see a blend of asynchronous and synchronous delivery. Students can watch pre-recorded lectures online and use the in-person class time to discuss material, build connections with their classmates, and have time for more project-based learning. Once students adapt to this approach, they will be more engaged in the college experience and will see more value in what they are getting.
I envision students spending their quiet hours listening to lectures and reading their materials, spending their class time working in small pods that will help build community with their classmates and help them develop mastery over the material. This shift in approach would help students with different kinds of learning styles, and you would see more students thrive in a college classroom.
A focus on lifelong learning
Colleges and universities should focus on creating learning opportunities centered on meeting students wherever they are in their careers. Helping students retool and learn new skills as the nature of work changes. Programs should constantly be iterating on what is being taught to attract learners looking to build on what they learned in their degree program. Colleges and universities are always looking for new students to tap into, which would be an excellent way to increase enrollment.
Traditional degree programs take up too much time and are too much of a commitment, so it will be essential to create shorter learning opportunities for students. This would mean creating learning opportunities outside of traditional degree programs. These shorter learning opportunities will mean that students will be very selective, so it will be essential to develop a genuinely individualized education. Students should pick the parts of a degree that will best help them reach their professional goals.
Throw the traditional schedule out the window
Colleges and Universities should alter the traditional academic calendar. Semesters should be shorter and more flexible, which will help attract more students and give them greater flexibility over their time. The colleges and universities offer a more relaxed approach while still focusing on what matters: having good up-to-date content and helping students build connections while they are in school. We will continue to attract students. It would be easier for students to stop out to complete internships or other short work experiences without getting too far off track.
Colleges and universities should be reducing the number of credits and seat time for students. Shortening the time it takes to complete a degree saves students time and money. Getting students into their professional careers quicker and then creating learning opportunities can add to their degree once they graduate and work full time. Students will have the opportunity to earn an income sooner, get some work experience under their belt, then come back to school if they decide they want to shift in another direction. Overall this would reduce the amount of student loan debt students would have to complete their degree plans.
The current way higher education is structured makes it hard to accomplish some of these things, so online programs like MyMBA will continue to rise in popularity and give students what they need. Change is hard and can be difficult, but it is often worth it. Every industry can make the changes they had to undergo during the pandemic and use them to drive innovation and better set themselves up for success over the long term. When you think about it could be an exciting opportunity for those willing to try.