Last month, Dr. John Richards and Dr. Christopher Dede, both of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, were interviewed by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) via a webinar about the arguments for lifelong education as laid out in their recent book, The 60-Year Curriculum. Offering some complementary practice-point perspectives was Dr. Billie Gastic Rosado, Associate Dean, Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies (DAUS).
Education is ever evolving, more so now in our digital environment. It is no longer confined to a two- or four-year period in late adolescence, and then we move on to adulthood. Rather, education has become a part of the lifelong journey as one navigates career trajectories and life goals. The evolving labor market and workplace require individuals to regularly enhance and gain new skills. And, as a result of the upheaval created by the coronavirus pandemic, certain trends have gained even more momentum. Institutions should look at recalibrating the structure of their curriculum to appeal to students in the digital and post-Covid age.
Dean Gastic Rosado, who was also featured in the written article that followed the webinar, believes that colleges and universities are in a unique position to offer opportunities to students to reinvent themselves and discover new skills, especially as students re-engage with institutions at different times in their lives. NYU SPS, through its Academy of Lifelong Learning, represents just one way this lifelong curriculum can take shape. Dean Gastic Rosado emphasizes putting students first, asking ourselves, “Why is my student here? Why is this particular student making the decision right now to be in school?” In this way, the program can be fitted to the student’s needs.
She also believes that higher education has a central role to play in this endeavor. “The world keeps changing, and quickly, and there is just so much for us to remain curious about. Confining learning to the early part of one’s life is an antiquated idea. Colleges and universities are great destinations for learning because of the combination of faculty expertise in teaching and the new discoveries and research that are pushing boundaries of our knowledge and understanding every day.”
Not only does this model help students and lifelong learners, but it also proves beneficial for the institution, stimulating creativity and flexibility when it comes to programming and scheduling, while maintaining a finger on the pulse of the needs and changes in society. Today’s educational landscape is fertile ground to embrace such models of curriculum. Older models will still be relevant, but schools like NYU SPS are in an advantageous position to take a lead in meeting students' educational needs over their entire lives.