The trappings of a normal campus life were largely absent for many students this past academic year. The remote learning experience that replaced the traditional residential experience was seen as lacking by many Gen Zers and their parents.
- Higher ed took a hit from the pandemic—not only financial but also reputational.
- A recent poll by Gallup and the Carnegie Corporation of New York found nearly half of parents of current students wished there were more options beyond a four-year college available for their children.
- Even before the pandemic, Americans on a whole were losing faith in higher ed. They think it costs too much, doesn’t prepare students for jobs, and professors too often bring their political views into the classroom.
The big picture: COVID-19 offers colleges an opportunity for a reset. Rather than every college providing a comparable set of majors with a familiar pathway to graduation—all while following similar pricing strategies—this moment offers a chance for institutions to diversify and try something different.
published this month by education-technology company, Top Hat, outlines one vision for the post-pandemic university. The manifesto, dubbed the “New Higher Education Value Equation,” is an important read for college leaders trying to figure out what to retain and what to discard from the last year of remote learning.
- As an ed-tech company, Top Hat isn’t obviously a disinterested observer. But the report doesn’t simply advocate colleges go all in on digital. Rather its approach is very student- and faculty-centric. It encourages schools to supplement well-tested teaching methods with technology to create more engaged learning experiences.
“Without a concerted effort to enable faculty to combine technology with proven pedagogy, we won’t move the needle on creating learning experiences that are more accessible, more relevant and more valuable to today’s students,“ the report notes.
The report echoes what I’ve been hearing from campus leaders, including those who run teaching and learning centers, that some of the changes in how courses were taught during the pandemic are here to stay.
- Come fall, students should expect more lectures to be pre-recorded by faculty members so in-class time can be used for discussions or group work.
- Pressed to rethink their courses during the pandemic, faculty realized the ultimate value is student learning, not simply earning a grade (that’s why some professors are even giving up grading students on class participation).
- This fall, students should also count on fewer tests and more low-stakes quizzes—and more flexibility with deadlines on assignments.
The Top Hat paper borrows an idea from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
by laying out four fundamental conditions that allow for students to thrive: Value, Engagement, Belonging, Access.
- Stuck at home and learning from their childhood bedroom, many Gen Zers complained about the lack of community this year. Helping this generation discover “belonging” on campus is a critical component to restoring higher ed’s value proposition.
- Institutions need to equip students and faculty with “tools to nurture human connections, wherever learning takes place,” the report’s authors wrote.
- There’s always been a divide between faculty and students by age. But the demographic divide on campuses is also wider now around race, ethnicity, and income.
- Gen Z is the most diverse in history. So, they are very different than the instructors teaching them. That makes it more critical than ever that professors better understand the lived experiences of their students.
Bottom line: Teaching in the pandemic has reinforced the idea of "belonging” in the classroom because everyone—including professors themselves—felt vulnerable at some point over the last year as they grew accustomed to new technology and different ways of teaching and learning.