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Lifelong Learning | 3 minute read

A Student Lifecycle for The Modern Era

What does your student lifecycle look like?

Does it progress from recruitment to donation, ending at “alumni”? Does it only consider current enrollment?

If so, it might be time to re-examine the way you see and serve your learners.

In 2019, a concept to help us reimagine the student lifecycle shot into the mainstream. The 60-Year Curriculum (60YC)—covered by the New York Times!—forces us to reimagine postsecondary education.

But both in higher education and in the media, the 60YC is misunderstood and misapplied.

The 60YC doesn’t demand an expansion of degree programs from two (or four) to 60 years in length. Instead, it encourages colleges and universities to think beyond degree-based programming altogether. It pushes us to consider how we can provide learners value across their entire lifespan.

After all, individuals are no longer living linear, three-stage lives. In the era of the 100-Year Life, people’s journeys are complex, multi-stage and non-linear. Higher education must evolve past being a stopping-off point before a career. Colleges and universities must serve learners over the course of their lifetimes.

"We must thoroughly understand this new generation of lifelong learners," wrote Jeff Russell, Dean of Continuing Studies and Vice Provost for Lifelong Learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"To accommodate longer lives, we’ll need to develop academic programs that stretch from childhood into old age. This will require creativity in how we deliver courses, with an emphasis on flexibility and personalization. It will also require creativity in how we provide credentials, from degrees to certificates to digital badges."

What's more, success in the labor market requires constant upskilling and reskilling. This also changes the role of colleges and universities.

"Technology is driving change in jobs, the economy and society," said Rovy Branon, Vice Provost for Continuum College at the University of Washington. "Both individuals and companies recognize that the need for formal education is increasing but that obtaining a new degree with every technological shift is not feasible or even desirable. Certificates are becoming an increasingly accepted part of the higher education ecosystem."

Serving learners for a lifetime pushes leaders to reimagine program and service design. UC Irvine, for example, integrated career services into their Continuing Education division.

"This innovative strategy increased UCI’s significant commitment to, and investment in, its students’ career success and also aligned it with its land grant mission to provide continuing and lifelong education," wrote Gary Matkin, who leads the joint division at UCI.

The 60YC model goes by many names. Open Loop Learning. Lifelong Learning. Ongoing Education. The goals are all the same, though. To reframe the postsecondary institution to provide ongoing value to its learners.

"Students never become what we think of today as ‘alumni.’ Rather, they are lifelong learners, and the university is their learning partner for life," said Scott DeRue, Dean of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

This lifelong learning model must change how we all think about higher education.

The EvoLLLution published articles and interviews focused on the 60YC through 2019. It’s also the topic we chose for our annual Year in Review eBook.

To learn more about the 60YC, and how it could transform your institution, download the eBook now.

How to Use Certificates to  Grow and Retain Your Student Base-2