In a season of State of Union addresses, it seems quite fitting to offer a brief statement about the status of lifelong learning for upcoming years.
As Jeff Cobb points out in Leading the Learning Revolution, lifelong learning represents an emergent opportunity in how we deliver and consume learning. But more than that, lifelong learning has entered a phase that is no longer optional or discretionary.
In the upcoming years, lifelong learning will be mandatory, in other words, essentially required in order to sustain a better quality of life.
The long-awaited time for lifelong learning has finally come. After forty years, when Congress introduced the “Lifelong Learning Act” as an amendment to reauthorizing the well-known Higher Education Act, it unfortunately did not pass. Still the ultimate purpose of it captures the growing need to introduce federal policy that improves learning opportunities for individual citizens in local communities.
Given how learning and education have changed over four decades, such a social policy needs to be reassessed to meet the needs of multiple generations. From the mature generation, baby-boomers, GenXers, to the millennials, lifelong learning presents an opportunity for everyone, regardless of age, education level, job or social status.
With this in mind, I present five emerging opportunities for lifelong learning in the upcoming years:
1. Learning Cities: The topic of learning cities and regions represents how lifelong learning can be implemented in metropolitan areas with diverse learning needs.
2. Adjunct, Contingent, and Community College Educators: Learners and Educators are joined together in the new lifelong learning landscape such that educators who were considered on the fringes of education will now dominate a central role in the collective mainstream of higher education.
3. Lifelong Learning Policy: The historic Lifelong Learning Act only points to the need for cities and communities to begin creating social education policy that considers lifelong learning-for-all, “from cradle to the grave,” beyond traditional schooling.
4. Learning Assessment and Analytics: Data and the analysis of data will only increase in the upcoming years where lifelong learning will require formal assessment tools and analytical measures to inform decision-making to implement policies and programs.
5. Quality of Life: Issues such as obesity, diabetes, and other health concerns cannot be left to medical doctors to solve, but actually health and community issues represent an overall quality of life concern for an entire population. Public health will require lifelong learning to play a part in informing and practicing healthful actions. Lifelong learning for our quality of life includes not only health concerns, but also the multi-literacy of common problems that threaten the vitality and well-being of every community.
So the State of Lifelong Learning is extensive and in the upcoming years it will be “trans-formative” in changing mindsets, commitments, and actions for the sake of learning without end.