Covid-19 has accelerated the rise of blended learning, making programs more accessible to prospective audiences that may not have considered applying previously and opening up new marketing opportunities for higher education institutions, desktop research by Fundamental Media found.
The measures taken to prevent the further spread of Coronavirus have made it very difficult for universities to continue to deliver their courses as they have always done. Institutions are now faced with serious questions about what forms of education will be feasible over the next few years.
The virus has already severely disrupted regular student life, with classes now being taught online and many social events cancelled or changed drastically to adhere to social distancing rules.
Studies have suggested that many students are unhappy about the idea of part or all of their courses being delivered online, or about the possibility of missing out on the true university experience due to the need for social distancing.
Perhaps partly in an attempt to stave off the prospect of deferrals, 87% of universities will offer in-person social opportunities to students, such as outside events and wellbeing and sporting events in line with the government's social distancing rules, a survey by Universities UK found.
Carried out among 92 universities, the survey also revealed that 97% plan to provide some in-person teaching at the start of the next academic year, with the other three institutions saying they would provide teaching online.
However, some institutions, including the universities of Cambridge and Manchester, have already announced that lectures will be provided online in the autumn. The University of Manchester has said that smaller group teaching will be provided in person, while Cambridge left that option open.
The University of Leicester has already embraced blended learning for the year ahead. It has recently launched Ignite, a blended approach that combines face-to-face, on-campus study with flexible digital learning.
But even before Covid-19 Higher Education institutions faced unprecedented levels of change. The larger focus on lifelong learning is changing the mindset of students when it comes to how they study and what they study towards. A study by LinkedIn and CarringtonCrisp among 1,150 prospective and current students found that between 74% and 78% of each generation of students are interested in stackable degrees, saying they would consider a short program leading to a certificate, with the option of credit for further study leading to a degree.
Furthermore, students of all ages expect online learning to play a growing role in business education. Across all generations, 65% to 68% of prospective students agree that they expect more learning to involve blended study over the next three years, the LinkedIn study found. But openness to entirely online courses varies by generation, with Gen Z (52%) and Millennials (47%) the most open to it and Boomers (45%) and Gen Z (40%) less so.
As all age groups recognise the importance of online course options as well as the value of face-to-face learning, blended learning provides significant opportunities to business schools. The sheer range of potential blended learning experiences means business schools will be able to develop distinctive and compelling propositions and grow their addressable markets.
Blended online delivery will also make programs more accessible to prospective students who may not have considered making an application previously. As a media agency, Fundamental L&D can support universities and business schools with finding new potential markets and adapting messaging to appeal to these audiences.