A 60-Year Curriculum for Your 100-Year Life: Continuum College’s Rovy Branon to Speak at SXSW EDU
The 60-year curriculum is a transformative idea gaining traction in education, and University of Washington Continuum College Vice Provost Rovy Branon is at the forefront. In March, Branon’s bringing the concept to SXSW EDU in Austin, Texas, where he’ll present a Future20 talk titled “Is College Ready for Your 60-Year Career?” as part of the conference’s Work Reimagined track.
This is about increasing equity in education, helping people get the right education for them at any given point in their lives and finding solutions to the skills gap.— Rovy Branon, Vice Provost, Continuum College
While the thought of six decades of work and education may sound daunting when you first hear the term 60-year curriculum, Branon explains it like this: “An 18-year-old today has a better-than-ever chance of living to be 100.” Because young people today can expect to live longer on average than the generations before them, they can also expect to work longer, possibly until they’re in their 80s. Branon says, “If you’re going to be working for 60-plus years, continuing your education is essential.”
He says he’s bringing this message to SXSW EDU because it’s important for educators at every level to understand this reality. Branon says, “We can no longer tie education to a certain age. Formal learning, including diplomas and degrees, certificates, bootcamps and job training, must happen on a continuum. It’s a modern approach to lifelong learning that has no set path.”
A key takeaway from Branon’s SXSW EDU presentation will be that we must reschool and retool our curricula, technology, funding and policies and our overall approach. He emphasizes, “This is about increasing equity in education, helping people get the right education for them at any given point in their lives, and finding solutions to the skills gap that negatively affects job seekers and employers.”
Branon says tech-enhanced, age- and ability-inclusive true lifelong learning is the future. Universities and colleges need to keep a meaningful relationship with the learners they serve over their lifetime. Graduates are no longer just alumni; they are also future students. These future students will return with different needs than they had when they were traditional undergraduates. Connectivity between students, the institution, employers, will become more seamless through modern technology, new forms of credentials and advanced career services.
One essential aspect of serving graduates and other lifelong learners is the need for digital credentials. Here’s why that technology is crucial to more deeply connected future: Over the course of a 100-year life, a person is likely to complete degrees, certificates or other programs from multiple educational institutions. They will also have learning opportunities and training through their employer and possibly, other private educational providers. Today, our credentials are siloed pieces of paper that are very crude means for conveying knowledge and skills across this new learning landscape.
Education must be lifelong. As educators and administrators, we must consider learners, the places that will employ them and society’s needs.— Rovy Branon, Vice Provost, Continuum College
According to Branon, that needs to change. “If we connect to a true lifelong learning ecosystem over 60 years, employers will need to know what an applicant or employee learned from a given training or subject area. Universities need to know what courses that person has completed. Individuals will need to see how their credentials connect them to new opportunities and when the time is right to go back to school or update skills through other means. Having digital records makes your education records and your skillset portable, opens up new possibilities among learners, educational institutions and employers.”
UW Continuum College partners with departments across the UW campus and major employers in the Seattle area to design and provide rigorous professional certificates, enriching short programs and advanced degrees. Because of this, Continuum is working on a project called the Digital Credentialing Network to test seamlessly moving training records between schools and employers.
Branon says, “Education must be lifelong. As educators and administrators, we must consider learners, the places that will employ them and society’s needs. If we do that, we’re in a much better position to develop curricula to equitably serve learners across the continuum.”
If you’re interested in attending Branon’s SXSW EDU session, find information on live or virtual participation on the SXSW EDU website, and follow along with Branon’s Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for updates from the conference.