When we think of hybrid learning, we think of a relevantly new concept, but the truth is, it has been around since 1840!

The hybrid learning that we know today is very different from how it was in the 19th century, but distance courses, that were written in shorthand, sent via mail, and then returned to be graded, did in fact happen.

Over time, hybrid learning has rapidly progressed, with the Covid-19 pandemic accelerating the timeline in a matter of months. Even though the progress has been fast and almost unpredictable, the actuality is, the journey is only just getting started.

Higher Education institutions have adapted quicker than other industries to deliver world-class education to their students; this adaptability puts Higher Education in a fantastic position to learn from the pandemic and create their own journey, for their own students, and for their own progress.

To understand the future direction of Hybrid learning, we must first look to the past. Just over a decade ago, a policy encouraging freedom, flexibility, and efficiency fully embedded itself in the Higher Education landscape – Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).


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How BYOD started it all...

Back in 2013 (which is somehow a decade ago - how time flies!) a Higher Education study showed 95% of institutions allowed personal laptops to be used on school networks.

Higher education has always been adaptable, using ever-advancing technology to its advantage. The study concluded that putting technology in students’ hands was transforming the educational experience. BYOD was fuelling the transition as educators moved from traditional lecture-based instruction to new models of learning, teaching, and collaboration. It also noted how rather than institutions resisting the revolution in education, more and more institutions were embracing it.

We’ve found through our expansive community of higher education partners across the globe, student expectations drive innovation throughout the higher education landscape.

“We all understand our mission, we take it seriously, and we think it’s a noble endeavor to prepare students to go out a succeed in the world”

- Tim Pearson, Director of Infrastructure & Security, Pittsburg State University, USA

When BYOD became a student expectation, institutions embraced the changing environment and implemented it undoubtedly always with an eye on how to enhance and increase freedom, flexibility, and efficiency further.

So, when the Covid-19 pandemic affected the Higher Education sector, many institutions were prepared and ready to act in an instance to offer online and remote learning as BYOD 2.0!

Education before the Pandemic

Before the pandemic, a traditional university experience would consist of in-person learning with virtual learning being considered an add-on or rare exception to the experience. However, virtual learning has now become an essential component of higher education!

When the pandemic hit on a global scale, the entire world had to be reactive. However, higher education had reacted and adapted at a far greater speed to ensure students received the education promised. Colleges had already adapted to provide digital equity amongst their students. What the pandemic did, was prove the necessity of a BYOD structure but also highlighted the industry's need to support students from any location and at any time.

How the pandemic sparked change

Universities and colleges across the globe have increased their online and distance courses meaning access to software has become a key strategic objective. Although this is the case for many institutions, keeping the traditional university experience in classrooms, lecture halls, workshops, and labs is still a necessary offering universities and colleges want to provide for their students.

So, when it comes to “Online, In-Person, or Hybrid?” the answer is… Yes! All of them!

“I don’t think it’s ever going completely back to in-person, and I think we’re always going to have a little bit of hybrid and flexibility. It’s going to become the new normal and we’re only going to get better at it.”

- John Levay, CIO, Niagara College, Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic saw an acceleration in several technological trends, including an increased reliance on remote learning. Previously, developments in this area were slow in higher education however, the pandemic gave many universities and colleges the motivation needed to make remote learning a permanent and cost-effective solution. Urgent technological solutions had to be found to provide more one-to-one student engagement and give students a traditional learning experience online.

A thought forecast by Nick Johnson, AppsAnywhere CEO.

“I think when we talk about the future of education, what is really interesting is that during the pandemic, time scales got accelerated. We read of solutions being implemented in weeks rather than months and there being no proof of concept. There was no pilot. Institutions had to establish solutions very quickly.”

“A friend of mine has just gone through clearing and it was interesting to hear that Sheffield Hallam, one of our customers, have called it out early in their clearing process that 50% of all their learning will be online. We know Sheffield Hallam well, and knowing them as a great customer of ours, they can deploy software to students remotely, which makes sense to continue to deliver that way."

“It’s interesting to see how in one sense, the student experience has become so welcoming of a remote approach yet, in turn, has provided an abundance of collaborative opportunities.”

“Overall, the higher education landscape is changing.”

“Going back to the point of the higher ed industry being incredibly innovative, I’m sure in time we’ll see the introduction of AI and automation into all areas of the student experience. The technology isn’t perhaps there yet, but it’s certainly on the horizon."

“We see the demand with AppsAnywhere to progress the analytics functions and delve deeper into the student use trends for a majority of reasons spanning student wellbeing and financial."

“With all the technological approaches surrounding remote working, we’re also going to see geographical restrictions broken down. With a rise in working vacations, there is a comparable rise with student expectations. The pool for student applications has grown considerably too. We’ll see more students studying overseas and more students broadening their horizons in search for the best possible student experience."

“The interesting aspect to look at is who and where meets the expectations most effectively first.”

- Nick Johnson, CEO & Co-Founder, AppsAnywhere

The Future of HEIT after the Covid-19 Pandemic

Three years after the pandemic and there are still interesting questions surrounding what this means for higher education in the future. How much education delivery should remain as in-person learning and how much should be online learning? Is Hybrid learning a clear-cut 50% split? What are the consequences of a fully online offering? What traditional methods should be preserved? How can we continue to meet student expectations effectively, regardless of their individual preferences?

“As institutions settle into the hybrid learning pattern that students are starting to expect, it is paramount that their digital solutions offer both convenience and simplicity. This can take the form of better guidance for the less technically skilled or by selecting tools with the most straightforward user experience. But whatever approaches are taken to assist users in the hybrid world, accessibility is by far the most important consideration.”

- Spencer Vale, Product Manager, AppsAnywhere

A Higher Education IT Priorities Survey by AppsAnywhere

We conducted a survey among our Higher Education partners across four continents to find out the IT priorities in the higher education sector following the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Generally, trends in results have shown that COVID-19 has had a real impact on institutions' IT's immediate priorities, creating an appetite for flexibility in learning and teaching. The most sought-after solutions provide a seamless, relevant experience for students whether working on a managed device in a campus computer lab, or from their own device off campus and at home.

Almost three-quarters (70%) of those surveyed responded that the next academic year of their university could be described as Hybrid/Blended learning, meaning both on- and off-campus study.

74% of respondents are working toward online learning initiatives. This is a similar concept to making university resources available off-campus but also encompasses the acts of delivering seminars and lectures remotely too. An online learning initiative should result in students technically being able to complete their course entirely remotely.

Read the full survey

With many institutions adapting their Covid-19 pandemic measures to more permanent solutions, the Higher Education sector has clearly adopted the next phase of its hybrid journey. With such a sudden and successful switch, the question begs – what's next?

A thought forecast by Peter Cooke, AppsAnywhere COO.

“It'll be interesting to see how we as an industry evolve now. Do we think that with all the changes that the pandemic caused overnight, there has been a fundamental shift in where the Higher Ed Industry is going?"

“I think the biggest challenge isn't necessarily anything to do with the students. It’s more of an organizational problem for institutions. Across the world, we hear of the great resignation. We've been talking about remote learning, hybrid approaches, and meeting student expectations whilst also experiencing financial and technical pressures. Institutions can't physically deliver all of this if they’re working to a reduced IT overhead."

“We've been in the industry for a long time and our customers always demanded the on-premises nature of our products and what we've seen especially in the last three years is a total shift away from that."

“So, I think that might be the next big thing that we start to see talked about. How do vendors offer more IT assistance to institutions? How do institutions partner with other organizations? How do we implement automation and artificial intelligence into IT strategies?"

“These are the questions institutions are looking to answer as we come out the back of the pandemic. Regardless of the answers, students are always at the forefront of every institution and what we’re trying to achieve here at AppsAnywhere as well."

“So, the newest question in the Higher Ed industry is one that’s actually been around for years. Simply, how do we continue to innovate and continue to improve the student experience?

- Peter Cooke, COO, AppsAnywhere

Webinar | Online, In-Person, or Hybrid? Yes

The opportunities and needs for technology-enabled learning in higher education have changed significantly over the past three years. Faculty members now have a great deal more experience using technology tools to support their teaching, and pedagogical conversations about how to use technology to advance learning goals have matured rapidly.

Attend this webinar featuring AppsAnywhere CEO, Nick Johnson, and participate in the latest discussions about optimizing modalities to help students achieve learning outcomes through intentional course design, strategic adoption of technologies, and tested approaches to faculty engagement.

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