The latest article to circulate around the postsecondary learning innovation bloodstream is The Hybrid Campus: Three Major Shifts for the Post-COVID University.
The report comes from Deloitte Insights and the Strada Education Network, and the lead author is Jeff Selingo. (So you know it is going to be smart).
If you haven’t downloaded, read, shared, and maybe discussed The Hybrid Campus, then you should. Now is the time for your institution and mine to be planning for the post-pandemic university.
What is the hybrid campus? Selingo and co-authors help frame this question by asking us to think of the evolution of retail shopping. They write:
Think of the hybrid campus as similar to the retail model that sits somewhere between the physical and digital worlds, with little distinction between the two. Many retailers that started online also operate physical outlets to spark sales on their websites and increase customer loyalty. Most customers, however, don’t make a distinction between the two.
Retail is not a bad framing mechanism for the hybrid campus, as we all understand the value of seamlessly moving between a store’s online and physical locations. We like having the choice of finding and purchasing an item on a website or at a physical store. We might choose to pick up the item in person or have it delivered to our home. The same goes for returns. The more integrated the digital and physical shopping experience, the better.
Contrast the pre-pandemic higher education digital/physical experience with other industries. It is only at a few colleges and universities where students can easily and always choose between enrolling in the same campus and online courses. Mixing face-to-face and online course schedules happen at many schools, but it is far from universal.
The Hybrid Campus offers three areas in which institutions can focus: 1) A rethinking of the academic portfolio. 2) Redefining the student experience for lifetime learning and success. 3) A reshaping of campus work, workforce, and workplace. These opportunity spaces for institutional change are elaborated on in the report with a series of granular suggestions, augmented by real-life campus examples.
Reading all the ideas, suggestions, and best-practices presented in The Hybrid Campus can feel a bit overwhelming. We are all trying to survive our days. Tackling big projects like revamping our student information system (SIS) from matriculated students to lifelong learners may be a terrific idea, but who has the bandwidth for an enterprise software project nowadays?
My recommendation is to pick one idea from The Hybrid Campus. Your campus should read and discuss the report and then get critical leadership mass around one idea. Pick the concept that is the most doable in the shortest amount of time. Lavish the project team charged with enacting that change with resources, status, and attention.
Right now, at this moment, it is more important to be doing something to prepare for the post-pandemic university than it is to do the “right thing” – or to do anything perfectly. We are at a moment where a bias towards action has never been more essential. The risks of reverting to the pre-COVID-19 status quo are likely more significant than any risk of doing things differently.
Moving to the hybrid campus – an idea that I think makes total sense – will not be done all at once. This is a case where fast-incrementalism is called for.
Reading, sharing, and discussing reports like The Hybrid Campus is one way our schools can move from talking to action as we plan for higher education after COVID-19.