Lifelong Executive Learning: The Credit Question

Learning is a journey, not a destination. It’s not enough for individuals to receive one comprehensive infusion of education early in their careers and expect it to serve them for the rest of their lives. In today’s complex, quick¬ly changing business environment, they will constantly need to add new skills—and many will want to return to business school over and over to acquire that additional education. 

There are many reasons today’s learners will need to spend a lifetime seeking new knowledge. First, they’re working later in life. Second, they’re more likely to switch ca-reers, either because they choose to in order to fulfill their own goals or because they’re forced to by the changing economy. Finally, many individuals are taking time out of work to raise children or care for elderly relatives. All of these factors are combining to create “a real imperative for people to develop new skills and return to learning at multiple points to remain agile in their professional lives. 

The growing popularity of lifelong learning is only one piece of a broad reimagining of the future of education. In that future, students from around the world take courses as they need them, often online, stitching together the equivalents of customized degrees and presenting employers with transcripts of the classes they’ve taken from many providers.

But as more institutions begin offering bundles of for-credit courses that can be stacked into degrees, there is  a real challenge ahead: creating a way for learners to combine credits they receive from multiple providers into some kind of organized whole.
 
This need will become more urgent as universities continue experimenting with options. Some universities are considering creating degree programs in which students learn entirely by self-study; the university would provide and charge for assessment. Other institutions are looking at how to create a framework that helps employers understand the various credentials and what they mean. However, universities will have to work together to create a universally acknowledged credentialing framework.
 
Any single provider will struggle to be an innovator if it produces a qualification that other institutions don’t recognize. The challenge will be for large groups of educational institutions to come together and do the reinvention. This is a space in which some creative things could be happening. To me the question is not, is this going to happen, but who will be the surprising player to make things happen?