How Higher Education Can Support Students in an Evolving New Normal
Students, faculty, and administrators are all asking the question: What does the ‘new normal’ look like at your institution? Despite the emergency shift to online brought on by COVID-19, colleges and universities learned how to provide flexible options for everyone, everywhere, anytime. Yet, this forced explosion of options is not without consequences. Hybrid learning? Online? Blended? On-campus? As we move into the next chapter, institutions must respond to the new needs of students and faculty—but how?
While educators around to world have spent the past 18 months pivoting to meet the needs of students, their path forward is not yet clear. In a recent poll, 84% responded that hope their institution will impose a flexible or hybrid model. In the same poll, another 45% of respondents said that their biggest challenge this fall will be an increased desire for flexible technology tools as part of the learning paradigm. In this highly anticipated webinar, Dr. Barry Schwartz shares his perspective on how the right balance between autonomy and restriction can empower students to imagine their future, and how this may be achieved through hybrid learning—when done right.
Finding the Right Balance and Navigating the “Choice Problem”
Our world has never had to make so many choices: Where to live, what to study, what to eat, what to wear—the list goes on. How can faculty and institutions achieve an equilibrium that fosters student success? According to Dr. Barry Schwartz, the vast choices faced by students is “essentially making education completely or largely consumer driven.” In doing so, he says that students feel anxious with the lack of clarity.
So where’s the sweet spot when it comes to student success? Dr. Schwartz believes it’s in the balance between freedom and autonomy; giving the students enough room to grow agency, but not so much that they become overwhelmed. This requires institutions to set clear expectations of everyone—and to stick to them.
Leveraging Technology to Uphold the Right Balance
Higher education faculty and staff recognize the benefits of hybrid learning as part of their approach to education–and Schwartz agrees: “It doesn’t matter where they went to school. It’s how they went to school.”
In the webinar, Schwartz recalls a conversation with his colleague Tim Rennick, then-newly appointed dean at Georgia State University: Students were not graduating. He said that most may have assumed that students were simply failing their courses, but that wasn’t the case. The school unpacked the issue and Rennick found that students were, in fact, passing their courses—but had no guidance on what courses they needed to actually graduate. So, to fix the issue, Rennick turned to a system that would alert the Georgia State administration if a student was not progressing as expected. According to Rennick and Schwartz, the system ended up saving the university money and increased student graduation rates. As it turns out, that system was D2L’s Brightspace platform.
According to Schwartz, learning management systems (LMS) are tools that complement and enhance the student experience. He doesn’t feel that the LMS should replace the student experience. Instead, he believes that they are a mechanism to better meet the individual needs of students. And we couldn’t agree more.
You may also like: