Let’s Get Flexible

It’s no secret that flexibility has become a staple of the COVID-19 era. Whether it comes to work schedules, childcare or health mandates, billions across the world have had to adapt over the last year-and-a-half to the ever-changing demands forced on them by the pandemic.

Two of the largest groups most affected have been students and educators. With most schools from elementary to university-level having taken the virtual approach to learning since the start of the pandemic, we’re now starting to see a shift back (or plans to shift back) to the old reality of in-person learning. But does that mean a complete halt to the virtual approach?

According to a global survey of 1,128 university students and 1,076 university institution staff conducted by Salesforce.org, 43% of students and 54% of staff said they prefer a hybrid approach to learning. In the U.S. alone, students noted that their preference for all-virtual instruction is now comparable to that of in-person learning. While many university students are eager for schools to reopen to in-person learning, and for the experiences that come along with it, the flexibility associated with virtual learning should not be overlooked.

It doesn’t appear that on a global level the majority of students and staff prefer to continue with an all-virtual learning approach. They seem to be looking for more hybrid learning options, an approach that allows students and staff to get the best of both worlds and gives them the freedom and flexibility to make that choice. According to Salesforce.org, a number of European institutions have reported a growing demand for more flexibility in learning, with eight of 10 students who participated in the survey noting that they prefer either full in-person or hybrid learning options.

Not only does a hybrid approach provide flexibility and options to the typical university student (about ages 18-21 in the U.S.), but many institutes of higher learning are also seeing the option as an opportunity to get older students back to campus. This is particularly prevalent in Australia, where six in 10 undergraduate students are age 30 or older. The flexibility of a hybrid approach, then, appears to be appealing to more mature students who have families and are working while attending school. But hybrid approach considerations are still important to universities as a whole in that 36% of students surveyed said that flexible course options would play a deciding factor on which school they’d ultimately enroll.

While the results of the survey proved that most students and staff still prefer an either all in-person approach or an all-virtual approach, the findings still provide key takeaways for universities at this pivotal point in this pandemic era regarding the demands for flexible learning. It remains uncertain as to whether this trend of increasing demand for a hybrid approach will continue, but for the moment it appears that hybrid offerings by universities could only benefit the institutions.

Internal Audit functions can assess risks associated with hybrid learning and perform analytics to help determine what your institution's hybrid approach should look like.

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