This Insights article was contributed by Dr. Evan Duff, Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs at North Carolina Wesleyan College.
It’s no secret that adult students consider a variety of options when contemplating a return to college. Some schools have been pioneers in this for decades by offering correspondence, accelerated and evening courses. With the rise of the internet, there has also been a huge transition to fully online courses and degrees over the last 15 years.
Many would think adult students now have all options available to them, but do they really?
While this is not a new trend, smaller private institutions have an opportunity to set themselves apart even further from for-profit mega universities and public institutions.
Research indicates that adult students choose online classes based on commitments that limit their ability to take traditional on-campus classes. Those commitments include long work hours, shift work, corporate travel, family, childcare and social responsibilities. They also tend to feel insecure about their ability to succeed in distance learning, find instruction that matches their learning style, and have sufficient instructor contact, support services and technology training.
A growing practice that many – but not enough – private colleges have adopted for the last 10 years is offering a variety of formats to include online, face-to-face and hybrid classes mixed with accelerated, evening and weekend offerings. Hybrid courses have certain potential advantages over both face-to-face and online courses that can concretely improve the quality of student learning. Besides the reduction in seat time, hybrid courses also allow faculty to gradually introduce varied ways of learning into face-to-face classes.
By offering the complete mix of formats, colleges and universities are able to compete for the greatest number of students because no one is excluded based on their preference of learning format.
The most exciting trend is private colleges’ use of satellite campuses through partnerships with corporations and community colleges. Any college with capital can lease a building in a community and slap its name on the front. It takes much more strategy, finesse and collaboration to partner with another entity to have a fully embedded community partnership offering degrees at a satellite location. This strategy can pay off with higher dividends and a more positive community relationship.
The new concept or trend making its way into the limelight is taking education to students in the multiple formats they want in order to provide them with the ultimate flexibility to attain their degree.
More partnerships need to be developed to offer degree programs in the training rooms of employers’ buildings and in the classrooms of community college campuses. Most adults who spend two years at a community college would be thrilled to complete their four-year degree in those same classrooms. This is the opportunity that colleges and universities need to address in educating a growing workforce and adult student populations.
Accessibility, flexibility and affordability are the three keys that should be a part of every college’s mission statement for adult learners.
Dr. Evan Duff has been working in higher education for the last 16 years and prior to that he worked in private industry for a global call center as well as for a credit union. Dr. Duff has taught at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral level. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in business administration, his master’s in general administration and his Doctor of Education in organizational leadership. Dr. Evan Duff currently holds the position of Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs at North Carolina Wesleyan College.
Dani Somers is the Assistant Director of Admissions for North Carolina Wesleyan College’s Adult & Professional Studies. She started her career with NC Wesleyan College in 2016. NCWC offers students the ability to obtain their degree in an affordable and conveniently formatted program. Please visit www.ncwc.edu/BelieveNow or email [email protected] for more information.
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