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Making borders obsolete in the hybrid world of education

Online learning is here to stay. Each day, we can observe how all kinds of borders become extinct in our hybrid world of education.


Annika Konttinen

lehtori, matkailuliiketoiminta
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Anu Seppänen

lehtori, markkinointi ja viestintä
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 12.11.2021

The term hybrid campus has been introduced to describe a more holistic view of blended learning. It extends the current idea from blended learning to other educational services, for example academic advising and career services.
The hybrid campus is quite similar to the retail model that combines both the physical and digital worlds. We have come to the point where physical experiences are merging with digital ones in education, too. The implementation of a hybrid campus needs some planning, though.

To offer students an easy and meaningful path, where studies in both the physical and virtual setting work seamlessly, the academic calendar should be reconsidered and student preferences identified. Also, creating and developing courses that use technology to bridge the digital and physical worlds are essential steps in planning a phygital campus.

Online learning democratises learning

Online learning has allowed students to customise learning to their needs and to make it more student-centered. It is now possible to complete an entire degree online, or to take individual courses at prestigious universities like Yale or Stanford through Coursera.

Students living in parts of the world where it is difficult to commute to a school or university can access online education, for example, through Khan Academy. The lack of internet connections may not be a problem either as Loon, a subsidiary of the Alphabet (Google’s parent company), is flying solar powered balloons high up in the stratosphere to bring internet access to the remote rural areas of Africa.

Tech-savvy teachers and students

Students and teachers alike have become more tech-savvy in the borderless classrooms. Both are now more ready to enter the future world of work where digital skills are essential. Working alongside robots and AI-powered tools requires a certain level of technological know-how. The pandemic has already made us accustomed to involve more technological solutions in our daily lives.

We all know Zoom, the miracle maker and meeting enabler of the pandemic. It went from a small business to a giant practically overnight, giving a huge boost to the online education market around the world. In fact, the pandemic has changed the culture inside educational institutions and made them more open to adopt e-learning. The next normal is not going to be on campus education only.

Hybrid models are already at work in Haaga-Helia. This autumn, half of the third semester students of Porvoo campus took part in the Design Sprint online and half of them completed the course on campus. Classroom technology has also evolved during the pandemic, with many rooms now equipped with microphones and cameras to make it possible to develop hybrid models of learning where borders can be crossed.

The world is our classroom

The pandemic has enabled us to take part in online trainings, seminars and webinars to learn about new ideas without travelling anywhere. The world has become smaller and made internationalisation rather easy. It is now convenient to be a global citizen and attend interesting online events in London, Johannesburg and Toronto.

The technology has also brought us a more diverse group of students and teachers. We can now have classes with the students of Chongqing University in China and also have access to a wider range of guest lecturers from around the world.

Some students have become interested in making podcasts of their own and even hosting webinars. Voicing their opinions or talking about a certain topic over a mic can be a fun virtual activity but also a powerful phygital experience. Furthermore, the audience can participate and even blend their daily lives into the virtual experience, e.g., have lunch and pet the dog while listening to and commenting on what is being said in the virtual event.

When crossing borders with digital solutions, we still need to pay attention to cultural differences, just like we did when we actually made the border crossings physically. We still need to work on methods to make the online experience equal to a physical presence as well as to learn powerful ways to engage the audience in a digital setting. We have made a lot of progress, but there is still a lot to do!

Read more:

Selingo, J.,Clark, C., Noone, D. & Wittmager, A. 2021. The Hybrid Campus. The Deloitte Center for Higher Education Excellence.