The more buffets are compared to hybrid learning the more similarities appear. There aren’t many buffets around anymore, and the rapid closure of many restaurants over the past year due to pandemic restrictions demonstrate the urgency to adopt to the needs of the customers (a.k.a. students).

Diners might decide to eat at a buffet restaurant to simply cure their hunger, or to enjoy as much of the selection as possible, or typically a bit of both. Let’s say the ones who come in to cure their hunger are the students whose priority it is to get their credential.  

Students who want their degrees are the Diners who want the fries and don’t care to eat the roast beef. But a Chef (instructor) who spent all morning preparing a roast beef might get slightly agitated that a Diner walks away with only a plate of fries. The Diner glances at the roast beef but walks on. The Chef wants the diner to at least try it but the Diner is fine with the plate of fries, although they would prefer to eat it at home. That’s not an option the restaurant offers. Next time the Diner will go to McDonald’s, or order in. The Diner exits the buffet leaving the Chef slightly offended that they didn’t try any of the dishes, dishes that took so long to prepare.

The Diner first requested take-out from the buffet. The buffet is conveniently located so they walked there but take-out is not an option. However, the Diner is hungry and would really like a plate of fries. The cost of the buffet is $15 for the lunch. Too much for just a plate of fries, but they can load up and be full for the day, and perhaps try other dishes. The fries satisfies the Diner and little else sparks their interest. They begin to resent to high cost of the buffet just to get full. Next time they will call Skip the Dishes which can deliver fries from McDonalds for less that half of the cost.

The students, sorry…Diner, can get fries at home at least than half the cost. But the social factor of the buffet is part of the $15, so perhaps it may be an option again in the future. They reflect on their dining experience. The Chef was in the kitchen or busy serving roast beef to other diners so there was no communication there. Other diners were too busy stuffing food down their throats to even taste it or appreciate what their bodies had to process, so there was little opportunity to communicate with them. At home, the Diner texts with friends while eating. The Diner did the same in the buffet. There is not much difference in communication between home and the buffet, but it is quitter, more convenient and comfortable at home.

Next time it looks like the Diner will stay home, order online, and dine in the comforts of their own home. The experience of the buffet was not what they wanted. What the Diner wanted was to eat only what they wanted to eat without being offered dishes they were not interested in; they wanted to eat in the comforts of their home; they wanted to communicate their needs with the Chef; and they wanted to pay for only what was eaten. There are many other options available that the Diner will try next time hunger strikes.

If only the buffet had a take-away set menu where the Diner could have ordered fries for $5 and taken them home. If only they could talk with the Chef to communicate what the Diner wanted; if only the Chef were flexible enough to offer a take-away plate of fries with a sample of (supplemental) roast beef that could be tried later (and not take it personally if the Diner refuses to take the beef). If only these services were being met than more buffets may still be around and more restaurants would not be closing down due to their rigidity and inability to adapt with the changing demands of diners.

Students want flexibility in their learning according to recent surveys, only a few are pivoting to adapt to these needs. Students enjoy the flexibility of online learning so they can better plan their future and work schedules. Moving forward into the transition back to campus, online learning (or simply “flexible learning”) must be an option. Unfortunately, it looks like the majority of classes are going back to the same ol’ same ol’ in-class only delivery model, which will leave many students looking for other options, which there are many, to get their credentials. This will leave many seats empty at some institutions.

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