Small universities provide students with a great environment to foster lifelong relationships, broaden their worldview, hone their craft, and prepare them for the next step in their lives. But over the past few years, it’s been harder for these institutions to provide this experience for their students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like everyone else, they were constantly pivoting to find the best ways to keep their students safe while still providing them with a valuable education. And now, as freshman enrollment begins to “recover,” it is more important to adapt to our new world.
Some of those changes implemented during the height of the pandemic were out of necessity, but some were beneficial to students, especially those at small universities. As we approach 2024, and as we move further away from this time, it’s important that universities use the information they learned from the pandemic to continue to improve their operations. Using our expertise in the higher education space, we’ve compiled a few ways universities can continue to innovate on their current experiences.
Embrace Your Size
A huge benefit to being small is the ability to make changes quickly and pivot back if necessary. This means it may be easier to rethink course structure or your academic calendar based on students’ needs. With a smaller student body, you may also be able to tap into their feedback more and actually apply those changes as you see fit. This also has larger colleges to think and act like a small university.
Stop Chasing Rankings
An important skill that a young person can learn is that comparing yourself to others is an unfulfilling plight. This is something that many universities could benefit from as well. Rather than focusing on the competition, it’s important that institutions look inward and align their values with their students and faculty. Spend the resources that are put towards boosting your rankings on your faculty and students and celebrate their hard work and success. Yes, knowing your peer institutions and following their efforts and success can be very helpful, as well as having a finger on the pulse of the broader national higher education landscape.In 2024 and beyond, focusing on your own academic program quality and student successes will reap your university the biggest rewards.
Celebrate Your Value
Higher education provides students with a great opportunity to receive an education that will prepare them for the first step into the career of their choosing. While this value is apparent to those who are in the industry, it isn’t as obvious to the public. It’s especially important that smaller universities effectively communicate their commitment to affordability, convenience, and career-readiness learning to prospective students. One way of showcasing this is through case studies, providing a look at how past students have found success post-graduation and how the university prepared them for that initial step.
Explore Immersive Technology
Due to the pandemic, nearly every student has now become familiar with online classes and how they differ from the traditional in-person class. For some students, their class structure didn’t stray too far from what they were used to in their in-person classes. But for others, it was a difficult transition. Many students who participated in labs missed out on valuable hands-on experience that you can’t get through a computer screen. The introduction of virtual reality (VR), the Metaverse, and augmented reality (AR) combat this issue, providing technology that can immerse students within a scenario that an on-person classroom may not even provide. Students now have the ability to communicate and collaborate in their own virtual office, rather than a Zoom call. And with this technology still in its infancy, who’s to say that students won’t be able to put on their VR headsets and walk the streets of Ancient Rome for their history class? Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the demise of all but the top 50 colleges and universities, with technology enabling elite schools to maintain their financial health by increasing their enrollments tenfold.