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What Will Quality Undergraduate Education Look Like in the Fall?

Written by Molly Forman on Jul 13, 2020

Related content: Higher Education, Digital Education

Undergraduate education is rooted in a transformative learning experience, inclusive of high-quality coursework, meaningful social relationships, campus culture, and engaging pedagogy. But with the path of the pandemic unclear and concerns about a second wave in the fall, the picture of a traditional four-year on-campus education is being turned on its head. The future is uncertain, and current and prospective students are hesitant to enroll after spending the past few months in limbo.

Now, higher education has the runway to decide how to adapt—and institutions are preparing for a multitude of different scenarios. Below, learn why adopting a hybrid learning model is a promising high-quality solution for universities.

Navigating a realm of possibilities

Colleges and universities across the U.S. are spending this summer determining how to operate this fall. A variety of different scenarios have been proposed—but the reality is that no one has complete certainty about the threat COVID-19 will pose a few months from now.

Harvard University intends to offer remote education, work, and research—with essential staff on-campus only. Carnegie Mellon and Boston University plan to provide a combination of on-campus and online classes. NYU has announced it will likely move certain student activities online and reduce the density of students living on-campus. Amherst College recently shared its intention to bring 60% of its students back to campus and reimagine larger, lecture-style courses through a high-quality online format supported by 2UOS Essential.

Some schools have issued formal plans in accordance with their state’s health guidance, but still many have yet to share what’s next for their students, faculty, and the broader university communities. They’re considering a series of solutions for the fall, including opening on campus as planned, hosting some students online and some on campus to free up space for social distancing, and delaying the start of the semester.

Finding a way forward

A majority of institutions are aiming to offer on-campus instruction in the fall while preparing to deliver some coursework remotely. This hybrid—or blended—learning model has the potential to help colleges implement safety and social distancing measures while still delivering an engaging and effective student experience.

A 2018 study found that the overall success rate of students in a given semester was 91% for those in blended programs, 90% for those in online classes, and 87% for those receiving face-to-face instruction. Previous literature has found that student satisfaction with hybrid programs is tied to the efficiency and effectiveness of the program design.

A recent survey of U.S. students found that 75% miss interacting with their peers and faculty in-person. But the same study found that 36% of students are open to a blended learning model, 41% prefer synchronous online learning, and 48% value asynchronous learning.

It’s clear that students understand online education may be an essential component of their lives in the future. Their receptiveness will largely depend on the quality of the educational offerings presented to them.

Welcoming the new education landscape

The keys to optimizing student outcomes and satisfaction with hybrid learning are twofold. Programs must use the proper modality for the material—for instance, students may complete asynchronous online reading and lectures, participate in class-wide polls remotely, and then come prepared to ask questions and discuss their thoughts synchronously on-campus or in a live classroom online.

Another important component of successful blended learning is creating opportunities for interaction and engagement both online and on-campus. Alongside leading university partners Simmons University and the London School of Economics, 2U now powers high-quality undergraduate programs that combine asynchronous and synchronous online elements.

Multi-dimensional hybrid programs will likely grow in popularity as wariness about in-person interaction continues. These programs can help reduce the density of students on campus, deliver high-quality courses, and fulfill students’ experiential needs—creating new college traditions as a generation faces unprecedented circumstances.

Learn more about us.

At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help universities thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.