The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound and lasting effect on our educational system. Colleges and universities are now exploring how they can reshape and improve these institutions in a post-pandemic world. The post-pandemic college trends will change the way colleges and universities educate and operate.
In-Person Tuition and Fees Will Increase Online School will not.
College tuition and fees have doubled or tripled over the last thirty years and placed many households with college students under financial strain. Many colleges and universities suffered considerable economic hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic. These schools will likely increase tuition in the coming post-pandemic semesters to make up for the losses. Students that take classes on campus can expect future tuition to continue to go up.
Virtual Learning and Online School is Here to Stay!
Virtual learning and distance learning are here to stay. In September 2020, over half of U.S. Colleges reported being fully or partially online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Education delivered through virtual learning or distance learning offers online classes that students can attend from just about any world location with an internet connection. Many colleges and universities offer courses and fully online degrees at a fraction of the cost of an in-person program. The colleges and universities that were not already participating have joined the movement out of necessity. Because of the flexibility and cost savings, virtual learning’s presence will only increase. The future trend in universities after the pandemic will include virtual learning as a staple.
More Micro Degrees and Nano Degrees from Online Schools.
Microdegrees and Nanodegrees are what they sound like – small degrees designed for quick completion and immediately applicable to a profession or job. They teach a specific practical skillset on a single subject. Students and professionals looking to earn a credential can boost their income quickly. Microdegrees and nanodegrees have been around for a few years. You can expect these degrees to become more popular post-pandemic. Companies like EdX have already partnered with universities like MIT to provide micromasters degrees with degree programs. Colleges and universities are thinking and operating more like businesses. A post-pandemic college trend you will see is schools incorporating microdegrees and nanodegrees into their curriculums to offer students more flexibility.
Here Come the MOOCs!
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are education genuinely geared toward the masses. They are free or inexpensive online courses with open online access geared towards unlimited participation. Companies like edX, Coursera, and Udacity offer independent courses or partner with brick and mortar universities to offer classes. The company edX offers 2,900 free or low cost MOOCs. Some MOOCs can be used for credit towards a microdegree or nanodegree. You can expect colleges and universities to have an increasing MOOC presence in the next few years.
Stackable Credentials Grow in Popularity in Online Schools.
Stackable credentials are a flexible way for students to earn credits by taking mini-courses . They are credentials designed for quick completion. As these courses or credentials are accumulated over time, or “stacked”, they build qualifications that allow the student to move along a career pathway to a promotion or a higher paying job. They are often designed to form a certificate or a degree’s academic requirements. Stackable credentials have been a component of community colleges for many years. They are expected to gain a bigger presence in four-year degree programs and master’s degree programs. You have probably already guessed that quite a few of the microdegrees, nanodegrees, and MOOCs are stackable.
More Competency-Based Education (CBE) in Online Schools.
Competency-Based Education (CBE) measures learning, or competency, instead of the time required to master a topic. CBE provides students with flexibility in how credit can be earned and personalizes learning opportunities. Learning can be online, blended, community-based, or early college dual enrollment. The tailored content leads to better student outcomes because learning is customized to each student.
Post-Traditional (“Adult”) Courses Increase in and Online School.
Another post-pandemic college trend is adult learners will increase. Four-year college programs have traditionally been a bad fit for adults over twenty-five. With the rise of virtual learning and online degrees, students with other life obligations can still attend college.
Colleges and Online Schools will Look to Alternative Funding Sources and Business Partnerships.
Traditionally, schools have relied on federal funding and donations to run their colleges or universities. Both types of financing have decreased over the last decade. Universities and colleges are exploring alternative financing sources. Industry and business partnerships can provide universities with more research and funding resources. The companies that partner with the universities also benefit. Many of these companies hire the students working on their research.
Guided Pathways Gain Momentum in Online Schools.
Guided Pathways is a movement that streamlines a student’s journey through college by providing a clear roadmap for students to achieve their college completion goals. A pathway is established, the college helps students choose a path, stay on the course, and ensures they are learning. Guided pathways are official ways for schools to make sure students graduate in a timely manner. They also help keep student debt low by basically having a plan for graduation.
Income Share Agreements Become More Common in Online Schools.
An Income Share Agreement (ISA) is a nontraditional way students can pay for their college education with their earnings after graduation. Based on the idea that a student should have a great, well-paying job after college, the ISA ties a student’s field of study to their financial success in a job or career after graduation. The agreement encourages institutions to be more transparent about evaluating a student’s post-graduation outcomes and can help colleges extend their budgets for more students. Some schools like Perdue University already use ISA’s.
Community Colleges and Online Schools offer More Bachelor’s Degrees.
Community colleges fill an essential gap in America’s higher education system but have traditionally been seen as subpar to traditional four-year universities. However, most community colleges serve populations that have few other resources for higher education. There are currently twenty-three states that allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degree program. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened awareness of college cost and accessibility. A larger movement for community colleges to create four-year degrees affordable and accessible will happen in the next few years.
Post-Pandemic College Trends and the Future.
The future trends in college and university operations will focus on cutting costs for schools and students. They will design systems that offer deliberate planning for a career and more flexibility in education credits. And they will provide creative solutions for paying for college.