Online: Trending Now

Unique biweekly insights and news review
from Ray Schroeder, Senior Fellow at UPCEA

After the Pandemic

Even as budgets are slashed and enrollments dip, we must strive to emerge from this crisis with more resilient and responsive programs.

We have endured the most extraordinary spring semester, and soon summer, in the history of higher education. Remote teaching and learning have been implemented in incredibly short time frames of a few days to two weeks. Faculty developers, instructional designers and faculty themselves stepped up to make the best of the very difficult situation caused by the pandemic. It is testament to our commitment to the students that we have responded in this fashion. This has not been merely an American initiative — higher education around the world has responded in similar fashion.

Recently, at the kind invitation of Abdullah Alwalidi, director at the Saudi Arabia National Center for e-Learning and the facilitation and moderation by Fahad Al Shahrani, general manager of academies at Human Resources Development Fund KSA, I had the most rewarding opportunity to engage hundreds of faculty members from Saudi Arabia in a webinar on the future of e-learning. We shared the same concerns about the impact of the virus on learning and our aspirations to offer enhanced learning opportunities in the future. Worldwide, the higher education challenges are the same: to become more resilient to disruption by disasters and more responsive to students and the workplace.

It is certain that this past semester and summer will bring about changes in the way we all deliver learning. We have learned that our delivery mode must be more resilient that our physical campuses can be. We have known that our campuses can be vulnerable to hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters, but now we are acutely aware that “the way we have always done things” is vulnerable to epidemics. Wisely, we are considering ways we can be more resilient.

So, what are our options?

Certainly, we can offer more online classes. Though some early studies show that many students were disappointed with the hastily drawn remote teaching by faculty members inexperienced in distance teaching, there still seems to be a likelihood that students will appreciate the safety of that distance in the fall or until this epidemic is largely resolved. Michael Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute says, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see enrollment in residential college programs drop by roughly 10 percent or so in the fall, and revenue to fall around 20 percent if students won’t be able to attend in person in the fall,” Horn told CNBC Make It. “On the flip side, I think we will see enrollments in online programs rise quite a bit, driven by adult learners — many of whom have been recently laid off — looking to wait out the recession and use their time productively by skilling up.”

We can hedge our bets by offering more blended classes. By blending classes, we can mix both online and on-campus sessions. In the case of lab classes, some of the otherwise lecture or discussion sessions can be online while the labs can be scheduled on campus. In this way, if a second wave of the pandemic occurs or some other disaster hits, our students and faculty members are already prepared for online sessions. In this case, we can attempt to strategically schedule online sessions to minimize disruption.

One more option that is gaining traction is the “HyFlex” or “blendflex” model in which a course is built in both the online and face-to-face delivery mode. Experimentation with this model has gone on at a small scale across many universities over the past 15 years. Students may choose to attend as many online or on-campus sessions as they wish as the semester progresses.

“They can seamlessly at any time during the semester move back and forth within that course delivery,” said Carol Lee, director of educational technology at Central Georgia Technical College. The mode may have originated with Brian Beatty, now associate vice president for academic affairs operations at San Francisco State University, who called his new mode HyFlex when he conceived it in the mid-2000s. According to Beatty, approximately 20 institutions have experimented with variations on this learning mode.

Of course, this model requires faculty to, in effect, offer two concurrent sections — one online and the other on campus. However, it gives the greatest flexibility to students and provides an instant response to an emergency that may close the campus. It is uncertain, of course, whether we will see a second wave of the pandemic or if we will see another widespread disaster of that scale and scope in the near future that may close campuses, but the possibility exists.

How is your university preparing for the fall? Are you ready for the next disaster that may close campus? Who is leading the initiative at your university to prepare for a better environment for transitioning classes for your students?

This article was was originally published in Inside Higher Ed’s Transforming Teaching & Learning blog.

Ray Schroeder 2016 Summit for Online Leadership

Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow at UPCEA. Each year, Ray publishes and presents nationally on emerging topics in online and technology-enhanced learning. Ray’s social media publications daily reach more than 12,000 professionals. He is the inaugural recipient of the A. Frank Mayadas Online Leadership Award, recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame Award, and the American Journal of Distance Education/University of Wisconsin Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award 2016.

Other UPCEA Updates + Blogs

People & Programs: New Online Graduate Certificate Programs Create ‘Stackable’ Pathway to University of Texas at Austin Master’s Degree

The Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin has launched a new program allowing learners to pursue career-focused course bundles that can be applied as academic credit toward a graduate degree. Starting with two 100% online graduate certificates — a Mechanical Engineering Controls Certificate and a Petroleum Engineering Data Analytics Certificate —…

Read More

Evolving the College Model to Meet Demands

By SmartBrief Editors This post is produced in partnership with UPCEA. As the Associate Vice Provost for Professional and Continuing Studies at the University of Delaware (UD), Dr. George Irvine has spent the last six months transitioning his division’s programs from in-person to wholly online due to the pandemic. He chaired a university-wide committee to…

Read More

UPCEA Supports New Community College Workforce Education Study

UPCEA is excited to be supporting a new study of community college workforce education, funded by Lumina Foundation and spearheaded by Opportunity America. Opportunity America and Lumina Foundation are partnering with Wilder Research to conduct this national study.   What. The study aims to answer the following questions: How extensive is the workforce education offered…

Read More

New to Teaching Online? Avoid Reinventing the Wheel: Interview Results From Experienced Online Instructors

During the COVID-19 pandemic, remote education has become increasingly relevant for large numbers of instructors, students, and higher education professionals. Many have found remote teaching to be daunting, and have wondered how to provide equivalent learning opportunities to students without the face-to-face contact, as well as resources, offered in classroom settings. However, professionals in online…

Read More

Supporting Faculty and Staff in the Development of High Quality Online Experiences: Crowdsourced Resources for the 2020-2021 Academic Year

Earlier this summer, at the suggestion of Aaron Brower and Ryan Anderson of the University of Wisconsin Extended Campus, UPCEA led the crowdsourcing of resources to support higher quality remote teaching for the 2020-2021 academic year. The project was bold, audacious, and one that proved to be challenging for a host of reasons, mainly due…

Read More

The New Adult Learner: Lessons Learned from Reality Television

When reality television exploded into our culture two decades ago, I will admit that I was hooked on Survivor. I enjoyed the principles of competition, teamwork, manipulation and human behavior as they apply in life and in the workplace. It was also about intergenerational and diverse communication in a semi-survival situation (although we know that…

Read More

Whether you need benchmarking studies, or market research for a new program, UPCEA Consulting is the right choice.

We know you. We know the challenges you face and we have the solutions you need. We speak your language and have been serving leaders like you for more than 100 years. UPCEA consultants are current or former continuing and online higher education professionals who are experts in the industry—put our expertise to work for you.


UPCEA is dedicated to advancing quality online learning at the institutional level. UPCEA is uniquely focused on excellence at the highest levels – leadership, administration, strategy – applying a macro lens to the online teaching and learning enterprise. Its engaged members include the stewards of online learning at most of the leading universities in the nation.

We offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model.


Click here to learn more.

The Nation's Top Universities Choose UPCEA Consulting

Informed decisions. Ideas that work. The data you need. Trusted by the top universities in the nation.