Why Higher Ed Needs a 60-Year Curriculum

The traditional higher education model is unsustainable because people are no longer living lives that include three distinct stages: education, work and retirement. This means colleges and universities need to rethink how they serve students and no longer force them through arbitrary mechanisms.

This was the jumping off point for the November 2019 webinar, “Adapting to the 60-Year Curriculum: Delivering Conscious Education to Lifelong Learners.” Made possible by Destiny Solutions, the webinar was hosted by Amrit Ahluwalia, managing editor of the non-traditional higher ed resource, The EvoLLLution. His guests were Hunt Lambert, Dean of Continuing Education and Extension at Harvard University, and Rovy Branon, Vice Provost for Continuum College at the University of Washington.

Their discussion centered on a fundamental shift needed in higher education from “Traditional” to “Non-Traditional.” This means focusing more on lifelong learning than once-in-a-lifetime learning; more on outcomes than degrees; more on knowledge for “employability” than knowledge “for its own sake.”

As part of the shift, universities need to consider students as consumers and offer them a 60-year curriculum, reflecting the time required to serve lifelong learners. Why 60 years? The average 18-year-old today is likely to live beyond 100 years old. Their careers will span between ages 25 and 85 during which they will fundamentally change roles five times.

This should not be a surprise. Currently, 85 percent of all participation in higher education is considered non-traditional.

“This is a significant shift for higher education institutions. Transitioning from a traditional service model to one that realigns the educational product to focus specifically on learning and skill outcomes, shorter duration educational needs, stackable credentialing … it’s a lot,” says Jack Klett, Capture’s Director of Graduate and Post-Traditional Initiatives. “We’re increasingly seeing experimentation in these areas, but I believe we will see urgency to adopt this type of lifetime learning model as higher ed continues to experience market disruption. “

In the 60-year curriculum, the traditional undergraduate focus will turn more toward career services and continuing education. “Learning counselors” will work with students — making best recommendations — throughout their learning journey. Also, the value of the college degree will decline as students stitch together different learning experiences through credentialing.

The reoccurring message: Higher education is no longer a single point in a person’s life, and universities can’t assume that engaging with learners along the traditional student lifecycle will meet their evolving needs. And these needs include continuing education, graduate education and a significant post-traditional learning compact between the institution and its students.

Listen to this fascinating discussion here.

By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Manager, Capture Higher Ed