Online College Education and a Post-Pandemic Business World

While the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly altered the college experience for many students, displacing them, forcing them online, and offering an uncertain future, schools that have continued to operate with minimal disruption demonstrate benefits of an online education that may have previously been overlooked: stability, quality and preparation for a virtual business environment. Walsh pivoted to 100% remote delivery of all classes and student services such as advising, financial aid, career services and tutoring in under a week, enabling students to continue their education as many schools scrambled to transition online amidst the pandemic.

Statistics show enrollment in online classes is rising. The most recent enrollment report from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that between 2016 and 2017, the number of college students taking at least one class online grew by nearly six percent. Students attending entirely online grew to more than 15 percent. At Walsh, 96 percent of students attend partially or entirely online and receive the same level of quality and curriculum as a student attending on ground.

While online education has been a practice for years (Walsh has offered courses online since 1998), misconceptions still exist about quality, experience, academic integrity and return on investment. The fact is, there are many high-quality online programs offered by non-profit, accredited institutions offering a collaborative, interactive and personal experience. Class sizes at Walsh are small, approximately 25 students per class, and students regularly interact with faculty and their peers in virtual meeting settings, online discussion boards and hands-on skills development exercises.

An accessible and interactive college education

“The technology we use allows us to modify our hands-on learning exercises for a remote format,” said Dave Schippers, D.Sc., Assistant Professor and Chair, IT/Decision Sciences. “Students collaborate via voice and screen shares to practice skills they will use in the workplace, and I log in to interact and offer guidance, just as I would in our on ground Cyber Lab.”

Curriculum that is both rigorous and convenient to access is important. Walsh’s online learning team and faculty collaborate to develop academically rigorous, engaging curriculum that is accessible across all platforms, devices and operating systems. Coursework is taught asynchronously, allowing students to build school into their schedule, or in real time. Some courses follow a flipped format where students review materials in advance and use class time for discussion and to clarify concepts. As with any institution of higher education, maintaining academic integrity is a primary focus. Along with proctored exams and clearly defined academic misconduct standards, Walsh proactively educates students about what constitutes academic misconduct and how to avoid unethical behavior, whether it’s intentional or not.

A full college experience is about more than academics. A study from Babson Survey Research Group shows that online students still want access to on-campus resources. Walsh students can remotely connect to academic advisors, career services, library resources, study groups, tutoring, and even virtual student life events.

Preparing students for a changed business world

Attending college online prepares students with necessary skills for a business world where, in the midst of COVID-19, temporary telecommuting may become permanent for many. Twitter recently announced some employees will be able to work from home permanently and the Brookings Institution predicts remote work will continue long after the pandemic. “Business and technology students must be able to effectively collaborate, build relationships and be productive in a remote work environment. The authentic business experience Walsh students receive is a strong return on investment for their education,” said Patti Swanson, Vice President, Chief Marketing and Enrollment Officer.

At some schools, faculty are using COVID-19 as a living case study opportunity for students. “In my virtual class settings, my students are discussing in real-time how they would respond to the current crisis, building critical and swift thinking skills that are necessary in any industry,” said John Moore, Ph.D. and Chair and Professor of Finance and Economics at Walsh. ”They will emerge from this situation more flexible and with knowledge of what it’s like to live through a crisis, and that experience will better prepare them to lead in business.”

As students and their families evaluate college during a pandemic, a traditional on-campus experience may feel uncertain and even unsafe. A quality online education can provide stability, safety, and a sound return on investment.

Flexible offerings for students

Walsh’s fall semester will be focused on flexibility. Students will have the choice to attend classes on ground, online (asynchronously or in real time) or a hybrid option combining online and on-ground attendance. Academic and student services will continue to be offered virtually, with in-person access available by appointment. Student Life meetings and events will continue with options for students to participate in person with limited available reservations and unlimited virtual access. Food service will be unavailable and community and corporate event rentals will remain on hold.

“Walsh is known for flexibility and this fall will be no different,” said Swanson. “We are ready to welcome new, continuing and guest students. We will be following federal and state guidelines for safety and are poised to flip to 100 percent remote delivery within 24 hours if the need arises.”

On-ground classes will be moved into larger spaces to ensure proper social distancing. The percentage of on-ground classes that will be offered is being finalized.

All Walsh students receive a free Zoom Pro account when they enroll in classes and have access to the Navigate app, which allows them to schedule appointments with academic advisors, form study groups with classmates and receive reminders to help them stay on track with classes.

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