A hybrid return to campus – what does it look like
Hybrid learning provides a choice for students – to stay on line or return to a face to face (F2F) regime. It is not about retail and real estate – it is about student choice.
GCA/UBSS has decided to remain fully online in T2, 2023 given the overwhelming student feedback (95%) of students currently wish to stay on line. In the absence of a direct instruction from the Department of Education and Training (DET) on international student education our May 2023 (T2) commencement will be online.
We anticipate a return to F2F, in one form or another, in T3, 2023. Coupled with a likely mandate that 30% of delivery to international students will be allowed fully online - the mode under consideration is a hybrid return to campus, allowing students to decide which mode best suits them – and at the same time providing for the F2F option as required.
Throughout the COVID-19 period (it is important to remember it is still with us) UBSS moved to a fully online mode. This presented a range of challenges – for both students and staff. In terms of staff effort – the change was considerable given that no one had previously been recruited for their online expertise – up until that point teaching of international students was F2F only. The shift required training, encouragement and a deal of courage - https://www.ubss.edu.au/articles/2021/may/the-digital-convicts-of-covid-19/
My own institution has been thorough in terms of the gauging of student feedback through a range of ongoing surveys over the last three years. It is essential to observe student (and staff) feedback at all times - https://www.ubss.edu.au/article/mba-measure-business-always/
Student Feedback on Units (SFUs) has remained stable throughout the COVID-19 pandemic period suggesting high levels of student satisfaction (as per prior to the pandemic) currently sitting at 4.3/5 - https://www.ubss.edu.au/student-satisfaction-sfus/?tab=About%20SFUs
The annual Graduate Outcomes surveys has returned a massive 95% satisfaction most recently (2022) with the pandemic period (2019-2022) averaging 93% - a better outcome than pre-pandemic (averaging 65% in 2014-2018). Clearly students have been satisfied with the current mode - https://www.ubss.edu.au/media/4557/graduate-outcomes-survey-2014-2022.pdf
The annual QILT outcomes also demonstrate high levels of satisfaction throughout the same period especially in the domains of student support, learner engagement and quality of teaching - https://www.ubss.edu.au/student-satisfaction-qilt/?tab=QILT%20SES%202021
The trimester grade distribution results have remained stable throughout the pandemic period – in fact essentially the same for the last 17 trimesters.
And, most telling – the recent surveys (T1, 2023) on preference to stay online or return to F2F classes on campus have demonstrated that 95% (98.5% in the case of postgraduate students) wish to remain online. The small percentage of those wishing to return could be accommodated efficiently and effectively in the proposed hybrid model - https://www.ubss.edu.au/article/the-challenges-and-logic-of-online-blended-and-hybrid-learning-delivery/
What does the hybrid return model look like?
UBSS operates three campuses – Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
In terms of the Sydney campus, given that all classes are currently delivered on line in the lecture studios, the notion of hybrid is very straight forward. Students would be permitted back on site – should they choose to do so in a COVID safe manner – and become part of the classroom – not unlike a television studio arrangement. Staff would deliver on line and simultaneously interface/interact with students sitting in the classroom.
Melbourne and Adelaide campuses present a different challenge. Students would be permitted on campus to watch the live presentations on large video screens (currently available across the campuses) being delivered out of Sydney. Academic mentors/experts would be employed to support students while in classrooms ensuring maximum learner engagement and expert guidance.
Ideally, moving forward, Melbourne and Adelaide would host subjects – that is deliver live sessions to other campuses. This would be trialled in T3, 2023.
Hybrid – highly desirable and appropriate
The shift to a hybrid mode (proposed for T3, 2023) is the most logical and safest approach. It will be interesting to see the take up with students who currently would prefer to stay fully online. This preference may be thwarted if the relevant authorities decide otherwise. Ideally, the wisdom of student choice – coupled with the evidence of student satisfaction, preference and performance – will prevail.
Emeritus Professor Greg Whateley is the Deputy Vice Chancellor at UBSS and Vice President (Academic) at GCA.