For a variety of reasons, many of them economic, some of them cultural, institutions of higher education must adjust to meet the needs of students in this post-industrial economy. The easiest way for change to take place is for universities to embrace new learning models that not only have proven success rates but also the potential to lower costs for both students and institutions.
Here are some of the latest insights about four innovative learning approaches that, when used judiciously, have the potential to improve the quality of education, lower drop-out rates, and promote inclusivity.
Although there has been a year-to-year increase in online classes of 3.9 percent, the overall favorability of online classes has declined slightly from its high in 2014. Analysts attribute this decline to a hardening of opinion about distance learning – some schools simply don’t want to offer it, citing budgetary concerns and the resistance of faculty. There is also the very real concern that online classes have a significantly higher attrition rate, up to 20 percent higher than traditional classes.
Hybrid or Blending Learning
As distance learning’s star falls a bit, hybrid learning models are on the rise. Sometimes called blended classes, they offer the best of two worlds – the expediency of an online learning platform and the personalized experience of a traditional classroom setting. When properly designed, both components of a hybrid class are aligned to maintain student engagement; the hybrid class provides an element of supportive mentorship that can boost the lower retention and success rates of the online only format.
Centers of Excellence, Guided Pathways, Shared Services Models – these are just some of the approaches taken by institutions of higher education with more than one campus. Rather than offering the same basic course selection at each satellite location, the distributed model concentrates differentiated degree plans at each. “Centers of Excellence,” for instance, tailor specialized programs to match the economic needs of a particular community, while “Guided Pathways” lets students complete their entire degree program at the same campus, encouraging them to stay focused.
Based on constructivist learning theory, student-centered learning places the student in charge of their own learning outcomes by provided individualizing plans based on a given student’s competency. There are two different ways that institutions of higher learning can engage student-centered learning models. One is through restructuring classes so that they engage multiple learning methods rather than just focusing on traditional lectures. Another is to design programs to fit the needs of different student populations such as returning students and non-traditional students.
Many of these emergent learning approaches fall under the bigger umbrella of competency-based education. They hold institutions to a higher level of accountability not only by adopting an approach that is more student centered but also by bringing in outside partners to guide the development of programs.
Whether these changes will be successful ultimately depends on each institution’s ability to select the right approach for their student demographic, to maintain a high level of engagement, to engage in careful planning at the early stages, and to develop ongoing communication among faculty, board, and administration.