As enrollment trends in higher education shift, it’s vital for universities to offer graduate programs in diverse formats that appeal to a variety of learners. Working teachers represent a strong pool of potential graduate students who often don’t have the flexibility or time to pursue traditional programs.
As a result of technology and an ever-expanding library of digital education resources, universities now have the opportunity to help working teachers achieve advanced degrees and strengthen their teaching skills by diversifying course delivery formats. Not only does this benefit teachers, but it can also help universities open up new revenue streams and increase revenue from existing channels by attracting more students.
The most popular formats for graduate programs today fall into three categories: on-site, online, and hybrid. Online programs can be broken down further into self-paced, remote (or synchronous), and asynchronous learning formats. Higher education leaders may choose to offer some or all of these formats depending on the unique strengths, challenges, and assets of existing graduate programs.
We’ve laid out the benefits of each option below to help you decide how your university’s graduate programs can attract more working teachers.
On-site learning is the most traditional form of learning. Students attend in-person classes with other students on a set schedule. While this format offers less flexibility than many online learning programs, some working teachers may prefer the hands-on learning that comes with in-person classes.
The primary benefits of on-site learning are:
- Teachers have the opportunity for more in-person interaction and hands-on learning.
- This option can be less stressful for some teachers due to less technology use.
- In-person classes could provide more options for feedback from peers, especially during mock teaching exercises.
Online learning can be broken down further into three categories: self-paced learning, remote or synchronous learning, and asynchronous learning (Top Hat Glossary, n.d.). Providing an array of online learning options can help universities attract working teachers with diverse learning needs and styles.
We’ll dive deeper into the specifics of each online learning format below, but, in general, the benefits of online learning include:
- Online classes provide more flexibility for working teachers with busy schedules.
- According to the Education Data Initiative, online degree programs tend to be more affordable than on-site or hybrid programs (Hanson, 2021).
- Online students have access to a more diverse student base and global networking opportunities.
Self-paced learning is the most flexible of all online learning formats. Because these programs allow students to begin at any time and don’t have set due dates for assignments, they offer working teachers maximum control over how quickly they progress through their program.
Competency-Based Education (CBE) programs are an example of an emerging self-paced learning model in higher education that provides more flexibility for working teachers. With this model, graduate programs are tailored to student needs based on a preliminary assessment that determines what skills they’ve already mastered (UMass Global, n.d.).
The key benefits of self-paced learning are:
- Working teachers have full control over their pace and can tailor programs to fit their needs.
- Students can review complex material as many times as needed to master new concepts.
- With CBE programs, working teachers can use their experience to earn their degree faster.
Remote, or synchronous online learning, requires students to attend regularly scheduled classes with their professor and fellow students. It operates similarly to on-site learning except that it takes place in a virtual environment. Assignments have specific due dates and students study the same material at the same time.
The major benefits of synchronous online learning are:
- Students have more opportunities to collaborate with peers and a greater sense of community without the need to commute.
- This approach offers more structure and accountability than a self-paced learning model.
- Students can engage in real-time discussion that allows them to share diverse perspectives.
Asynchronous learning combines self-paced learning and synchronous learning practices. Generally, there are no scheduled lectures or classes to attend. However, students still take the class with a cohort of other students and interact with peers through online discussion boards. With asynchronous learning, students are responsible for reviewing learning materials and submitting assignments on their own.
Some benefits of asynchronous learning include:
- This model offers working teachers more flexibility than synchronous learning while still providing opportunities for peer interaction through discussion boards.
- Students can set their own schedule as long as assignments are completed by the due date.
- Students can review course materials at their own pace and rewatch videos as needed.
For students who prefer on-site learning but don’t have the flexibility to meet in person on a regular basis, hybrid learning can be a great option. With this learning model, students meet in-person for scheduled classes, but complete a portion of the assignments and work online. Some lectures may also be held virtually rather than in-person.
The benefits of hybrid learning are:
- Working teachers receive the best of both worlds – the collaboration of on-site learning and the flexibility of online learning.
- Students can take as much time as they need to review materials on their own and then reinforce their knowledge through in-person discussions.
- Hybrid learning can be more affordable since students don’t need to commute regularly.
Much like the students they educate, teachers have different learning needs and styles. Universities can make graduate programs more accessible for working teachers by offering a variety of course delivery formats. Not only does diversifying course options to include in-person, online, and hybrid models expand the student candidate pool, but it also helps more teachers earn advanced degrees and effectively educate the next generation.
Partner with PLS Classes to Diversify Your Delivery Formats and Attract More Students
If your college or university is looking to offer graduate students more points of entry but can’t invest the dollars, consider partnering with PLS Classes. We offer more than 35 graduate courses for K-12 educators in multiple delivery formats including remote learning, on-site, online, and hybrid. Schedule 15 minutes with us to find out more.
Hanson, M. (2021). Average Cost of Online College. Education Data Initiative. https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-online-college Top Hat Glossary. (n.d.). Online Learning. Top Hat.
UMass Global. (n.d.). Apply Career Skills Toward Your Degree. University of Massachusetts Global. https://www.umassglobal.edu/why-umassglobal/flexible-ways-to-learn/self-paced