Eduvation Blog

Adapting to Serve Part-Time Students

In the last episode, Ken laid out his case for the rise of “invisible” part-time students on college and university campuses. Now we review some of the many ways in which higher education institutions are adapting their program delivery models and services to better serve part-time and commuter students. Business schools offer flexible MBA programs, such as the “MBA Before Breakfast” at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School and the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School. Colleges seem to cater to night owls more than early birds, with extended class timetables until 10pm (at Algonquin College) or even 3am (at the College of Southern Nevada, in Las Vegas). Many colleges use technology to allow part-time students to participate in asynchronous online learning as part of a blended or hybrid program, such as Algonquin College (which delivers 20% of all full-time programs online). Some universities are using a “boot camp” model of intense, brief residency on campus, such as Royal Roads University’s professional masters degrees, or Brock University’s “SuperCourses” (which allow a student to complete an 8-month course in just 2 very dense weeks). Some colleges are allowing students to complete a full-time program by spending just one day a week on-campus (such as Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, or Sergeant Reynolds Community College in Virginia), or a few days on campus and the rest of their studies online (such as Fanshawe College’s “Weekend College”).

Beyond flexible delivery, some institutions are rethinking the program model entirely, moving to a modular approach. PEI’s Holland College is migrating 26 programs to a course-based enrolment model that allows students to gradually pick away at a credential over time. At Stanford University’s, a working group has proposed what they call the “Open Loop University”, 6 years of non-linear education instead of 4 straight years on campus. Kellogg Community College offers micro-modules at their Regional Manufacturing Technology Centre, on-demand computer-based workforce training available in small segments without an appointment. Algonquin College has proposed a system of “Provincial Learning Units”, discrete competency-based modules that could be packaged into courses, but might allow students to more readily transfer part of a course to university for credit, potentially saving the province millions of dollars in unnecessarily duplicated coursework. Likewise, a task force at MIT concluded that the course itself may be an outdated concept, and that courses should be unbundled into discrete learning modules.

If we’re moving toward a world of “just-in-time” education, all of these approaches — time-shifting classroom work, fragmentation of curriculum, online and blended delivery — all will make it more and more challenging to grow student engagement as measured by NSSE (the National Survey of Student Engagement). We already know that there’s a great solution for student engagement: one institution has NSSE scores that exceed all others, and we’ll look at its unique approach in a future episode.

Finally, just #ICYMI, we share clips from Simon Fraser University’s slick new anthem video, “Engage the World”.

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