It has been over 30 years ago since I finished college and that education has helped me climb the proverbial career ladder all the way to CEO. But last fall, I decided it was time to go back to school. It was an easy decision but one that I wouldn’t have even considered a decade ago. Times have changed, though, and so has my view on the importance of continuing my education both professionally and personally.
The United States is a global nation of lifelong learners but many learners, myself included, are just as vested in knowledge building. In fact, Françoise Dany, Executive Education and Corporate Affairs Director at IFGE / emlyon Business School, says re-entering academia can boost confidence:
"In a quickly changing world, people can think there’s no room for them,” she says. “Education can nurture confidence and lead to a new mindset."
Academic institutions are tapping into this promising demographic by offering a wide range of services, from on-campus cultural activities to online courses.
However, satisfying this burgeoning breed of student requires an understanding of their professional and personal drivers for continuing education; as well as an understanding of how to fulfil them.
Making learning fun
According to Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, a social learning platform company, “Learning needs to be enjoyable again. Many of the platforms l look at are about as much fun as filling in a tax return.” Rather than replicate traditional learning modules, universities can break the mold with fun features such as gamification and rewards systems.
Make learning flexible
Modular learning programs, such as microcredentials, badges and massive open online courses, are excellent options for today’s time-strapped learners. “Education is more important than ever, but people are busier now,” says Dany. “They need easier access to education because they lack resources such as time and money.”
Make learning collaborative
Nelson says the biggest challenge of offering lifelong learning platforms isn’t technical but cultural. For this reason, he says academic institutions need to get teachers on board by instructing them on how to teach differently and cater to diverse demographics.
Driving learning with technology
Leveraging innovative technology is another way for universities to support lifelong learning. FutureLearn, for example, provides a platform that allows users to learn new skills through online courses ranging from coding to management.
As disruptive technologies proliferate and the desire for personal development grows, lifelong learning opportunities will only multiply. As Dany says: “Lifelong learning is more than a concept; it’s a reality.”
I have spent many years studying wine and with the help of the Napa Valley Wine Academy last fall I did go back to school, and have achieved the status of Napa Valley Wine Expert. While I may never reach the holy grail of wine by becoming a master sommelier, or receive a diploma of wine and spirits, this experience has inspired me to continue my education and pursue the next level. Many steps and learnings to come and someday I may receive a diploma of wine and spirits! Wish me luck. Never be afraid to learn!