Lifelong Learning is transforming higher education. With the rapid transformation of today’s economy and the requirement to keep skills current, the needs of lifelong learners have drastically changed. In response, higher education institutions must transform their processes and information systems to more effectively engage these learners in order to grow their programs and generate new revenues. Success will come to those schools that understand their lifelong learner requirements and quickly respond with relevant offerings that fit these learners’ unique schedules and timeframes.
What is Lifelong Learning
Lifelong learning is the continuous building of skills and knowledge throughout the life of an individual. It is the lifelong pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons involving social inclusion, active citizenship, personal development, competitiveness and employability. Lifelong learning is an expansive concept that encompasses kindergarten through to Grade 12 and onward, including continuing education, professional development, workforce development, executive education, vocational education, certificate programs, corporate training and personal development courses.
The transformed economy has created an environment where learners must acquire new skills and capabilities that align with the “New Normal” or face the prospect of unemployment. In today’s marketplace, non-traditional students are outpacing enrollment growth of traditional students. Datamonitor reports that the higher education market in the United States will grow from $7.7 billion in 2008 to $9.6 billion in 2013. Furthermore, each year over 100 million North American adults participate in continuing education and workforce development programs. Hypothetically assuming an average course costs $100, lifelong learning exceeds $10 billion as a market available to those that are agile enough to respond to lifelong learners’ needs . The opportunity is now.
To thrive and compete in the new economy, institutions and organizations require intelligent ways to address the needs and goals of today’s lifelong learner. While holding onto the traditions that make the organization successful with their co-hort students, schools need to transform the way they engage lifelong learners who are not aligned with a cohort. Each of these learners have different motivations, needs and time horizons. As a result, schools need to acquire new competencies to successfully manage their lifelong learners as if each were their own individual cohort, or “Cohort of One.”
New Lifelong Learning Competencies for 21st Century Schools
- Such competencies include:
- Attracting potential students via marketing programs – how can an institution leverage its relationship with its own alumni plus reach other students who might be interested?
- Building course schedules that do not clearly align within traditional semester structures and providing rolling, open enrollments – therefore the flexibility to fit the needs of different kinds of lifelong learners
- Providing options for students to earn credit hours, continuing education units, or certificate credits for the exact same course, depending on their purpose.
- Adapting pricing options for the same course depending on the type of credit or other factors such as discount structures (‘early-bird’ or multiple enrollment discounts) for employer-sponsored students
- Tracking the progress of students completing a variety of learning objectives – degrees, certificates, employer-specific programs, or even specified competencies
- Treating and servicing students as “clients” or “customers” – which include the responsiveness and capacity to match their students’ particular needs with personalized offerings
As the existing enterprise campus technology has not kept pace with the needs of today’s higher education processes, higher education institutions must update and change their business processes and technological strategies. They must adapt them to the new and changing requirement of today’s lifelong learner or lose out on what will become a significant and crucial revenue stream.