UPCEA Updates

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Building the University of Tomorrow

In the recent opinion piece, “Imagine We Are Starting a University Now,” UPCEA Senior Fellow Ray Schroeder reflects on what will be necessary to prepare higher education institutions for the future through an engaging thought exercise of starting a higher education institution from scratch in 2022. Where would you begin?
Central to the thought exercise is understanding who the students are that the new institution is serving. As Schroeder discusses, “the majority of advanced (higher) learners are no longer in their 20s; rather, they span the dual-credit teenagers in high school through those already in the workforce and even those in senior years.”
However, we (typically) don’t get the luxury of starting from scratch and building a new university to serve learners in 2022 and beyond. So, how can we advance our home institutions to serve lifelong learners? A few central ideas:
  • Create learning pathways with plenty of on- and off-ramps
    • Lifelong learning can be circuitous and meandering. And that’s ok! Does your institution have multiple entry points for lifelong learners – from noncredit learning opportunities such as webinars and short courses, to customized degrees designed for working professionals?
  • Build on prior learning from outside the classroom
    • Working professionals gain plenty of on-the-job experience that can be applicable to coursework. How is your programming augmenting the real-world experience of these individuals? Consider credit for prior learning.
  • Develop authentic advocates for lifelong learning
    • The best marketing opportunities are satisfied customers. How can you engage prior adult learners to share their experience with your programming and how it impacted their journey? Potential learners who see others that look like them and share similar life experience engaging with your programming increases the likelihood potential learners will engage.
What are ways in which your home institution is building resources and opportunities to serve lifelong learners to become the university of tomorrow?
Jack Rodenfels is the Director of Professional & Continuing Studies at Elon University, and Past Chair of the MESS Network. 

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