Students walking on campus of Northwestern College
January 7, 2021

Our Take on what Hybrid Learning Means for the Future of Higher Education

Our Take on what Hybrid Learning Means for the Future of Higher Education

Will online learning become a staple for America’s colleges and universities, even after the coronavirus subsides? And if it does, what will that mean for existing and future buildings on campuses across the country? These have become fundamental—even existential—questions that many of our higher ed clients are pondering. Of course, online learning is not expected to replace classroom learning over the long run. But it may change the way things are done. What might that change look like?

What is Hybrid Learning?

Hybrid learning hinges entirely upon technology. Many institutions are already leveraging technology to offset the impact of social distancing regulations. The shift toward learning from home could also spur greater demand for physical data centers and infrastructure investments.

The embrace of hybrid learning, however tentative, comes at a time when universities are met face-to-face with some stark economic realities. The higher education industry is expecting at least a 10% revenue reduction as a result of the coronavirus. The suspension of classes and the evacuation of student housing were major hits to many schools’ revenue streams. Not to mention that it may prove impossible for schools to justify what they charge for tuition if courses are delivered online…

Rethinking Your Spatial Needs

This pandemic is giving universities an immediate reason to reconsider their assets to figure out how they might fit into longer-term sustainability plans. In fact, somewhere around 30% of a typical campus footprint is currently being used for administrative and faculty space. Institutions would also benefit greatly from thinking about alternative uses for dining facilities and recreation centers if their on-campus populations are going to get smaller.

We think priorities may shift in direct correlation to building needs, with a weighted focus toward more adaptation of existing buildings or enhancement of building systems. It’s fair to say that the pandemic will reinforce the rise of renovation and adaptive reuse projects, a trend we’ve already been seeing much of in recent years.

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