Hello! Welcome to my official blog as President of Bay Path University. I’ll be using this space to share ideas, research, and perspectives connected to Bay Path and our unique role as an innovative, transformative institution. Through this blog, I hope to encourage dialogue and inspire critical thinking about topics that impact our mission, our students, and our community.
I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you and invite you to join the discussion. My inbox is always open firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anywhere the struggle is great, the level of ingenuity and inventiveness is high.” - Eleni Zaude Gabre Martin
According to many of the higher education news stories I’m reading, there’s an ongoing narrative suggesting that the pivot to online courses has predominantly been met with student dissatisfaction and disappointment. However, at Bay Path, our students are telling a different story. In non-pandemic times, the Bay Path campus, just like thousands throughout the country, hums with dorm life, study circles and performances, but as we’ve gone online, we’re finding that our traditional students are actually adjusting quite well to remote learning. Our traditional students, 99 percent of whom receive financial aid and 56 percent of whom are the first in their families to attend college, are having an overwhelmingly positive experience with their remote classes. The flexibility to learn at their own pace is working for them. Many are more comfortable openly sharing strong opinions and bold ideas in online forums, leading to exciting discussions and critical thinking that doesn’t start and end when the hour does.
As we consider how the typical American student is handling this state of being off-campus, it’s important to note that a 2010 report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities found only 16 percent of all college students actually qualified as ‘traditional students’; those who are 18 to 22 years old, financially dependent on parents, living on campus and attending school full time.
In 1999, more than ten years before that study was conducted, Bay Path understood that the traditional on-campus model and the profile of the typical American college student didn’t match up with the millions of degree-seeking women who worked, had families and were balancing a packed schedule of competing responsibilities.
In order to serve the needs of these women, we needed to analyze the campus-based model, imagine alternatives to it and extensions of it, and then create new learning and teaching models, relevant content and seamless course delivery. We needed to make college more accessible to these learners, and to keep them engaged, focused and excited about their education in the face of so many outside responsibilities and distractions.
As technology evolved, we embraced the online modality, and in 2014, created The American Women’s College, the first and only dedicated online bachelor’s completion program exclusively for women. For the past six years, we have constantly been refining its implementation and monitoring its effectiveness.
Using nationally recognized, award-winning tools for teaching and learning and consistently aligning our course content, teaching methods and support systems with the amazing capabilities of these tools means we’re in a very different position than most colleges and universities, where the pandemic strategy has been to create an adequate filler semester to get their students through, and look toward the day when everyone can return to the quad.
Since we’ve been consistently guided by the question “How can we best serve our students?”—which is not the same as “How can we bring the on-campus experience online?”—we’re able to offer our traditional students an intentional, high-touch, consistently evolving online education model that’s been twenty years in development.
While the pandemic has forced an academic, social and financial reckoning at so many institutions, at Bay Path, we viewed this moment as an opportunity to empower the rich diversity of students we serve to learn in a way that makes the most sense for their individual learning styles and goals.
This experience will drive us toward a new blueprint for higher education, one that blurs the lines between on-campus and online learning to deliver the most relevant, engaging and affordable educational option to the students who need it most.
The changing profile of American college students, the ongoing demographic shifts that are challenging long held higher ed business models, and the incredible technological innovations that are reshaping teaching and learning; these inevitable transitions mean the day we all return to the quad isn’t coming. It’s time to embrace this transformation—and the promise it holds for institutions, educators and most importantly, students.
A survey conducted by the Strada Education Network in September found that 44 percent of Americans who expressed interest in enrolling in an education program at some point in the next six months prefer work-based learning, a nontraditional online program, or employer training over college programs, up from 1 in 3 Americans in May.
The growing acceptance and adoption of online learning will only lead to further research, innovation and improvement in the ways we create, offer and deliver more options to more types of students.
This is excellent news for the “other” 84 percent of college students who are deservedly proud of the education they’re working so hard to obtain—and that we’re working so hard to deliver. Whether they’re studying between work shifts, after the kids go to sleep or during a moment of unexpected quiet, the world is waking up to what they—and we—have known for a long time, there’s not just one great way to get a great education.