Universities should adopt the 60-Year Curriculum (60YC) as a goal and a theme. It begins in the freshman year and serves students throughout their lifetime. Whereas “lifelong learning” expresses the need for an individual to continue learning, the 60YC expresses the institutional response to provide lifelong learning opportunities for students and graduates.
Why the 60YC?
Universities are being held accountable for what happens to students after they graduate. And the sharp increase in tuition and student debt has intensified this accountability. To illustrate this, take note of a bipartisan effort in both houses of Congress that introduced bills in mid-2017. For instance, it would have the National Center for Education Statistics include “information to consumers about what kinds of jobs those in a particular major in college land upon graduation, and additional outcome data.”
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A college education is now looked upon as an investment that results in a return. In response, most regional accrediting bodies are requiring universities to develop desired learning outcomes for each degree program they offer.
Universities are responding by tracking what happens to their graduates, sometimes in the form of “first destination” jobs or graduate school admissions. This post-graduation metric is not new—many professional schools and MBA programs, have adopted this metric, that factor into school rankings.
The adoption of the 60YC theme fosters learner-centeredness. Surveys indicate that both entering freshmen and their parents overwhelmingly see a college education as a pathway to meaningful careers and employment. A learner-centered institution has to take this motivation into account in its pedagogy and its services to introduce students to real world experiences.
The 60YC theme helps students achieve better academic outcomes. A large body of research indicates that students with a strong intentionality toward what they will do after graduation have better grades, less time to degree, reduced stress, and greater satisfaction after graduation. The earlier this is defined, the greater the benefit.
In addition, the 60YC provides the framework for a lifelong association between the institution, its graduates, and graduates of other universities. These relationships can manifest in financial and political support for the institution.
Universities need to adopt the 60YC to remain competitive. Georgia Tech recently issued a report titled “Deliberate Innovation, Lifelong Education.” It positions Georgia Tech’s commitment to lifetime education and offers examples of what may be done, including allowing for flexible academic calendars, awarding new kinds of credentials, allowing learners to interact with faculty, and providing an advising and coaching network for life.
What should universities do?
Universities have many opportunities to foster the 60YC during an undergraduate or graduate student’s academic career. Universities also have the capacity to serve students once they graduate through alumni associations or continuing education (CE) provisions.
Recommendations for serving undergraduates
1. Adjust pedagogy to embrace post-graduate success.
The 60YC is supportive of learner-centeredness and “active learning.” As pedagogy shifts toward a more active student learning, through projects and experiential learning, the 60YC finds its place. Infusing learning experiences with post-graduate skill building is a component of active learning.
2. Offer (and require) “life management” courses for freshmen.
Life management courses are populating the undergraduate curriculum as evidence mounts for their effectiveness. In these courses, students are introduced to skills that they need to be successful and these skills carry over into their post-graduate lives. Skills such as time and project management, managing stress, working together in groups, dealing effectively with others, and adjusting to life’s changes are course topics.
3. Articulate degree courses with CE programs.
Most universities offer continuing education programs and non-degree certificate programs. These programs are focused on the needs of the local workforce for education and training. Degree programs include courses that could be articulated with these certificate programs to provide students with credit toward the CE designation.
4. Increase exposure to career services.
Student and parent focus on careers should indicate that the career center should play an important role in student counseling. Career centers experience the “senior panic syndrome” where graduating seniors flock to the career center within a few weeks of graduation—suddenly realizing that they have no plans or prospects after graduation. Efforts should be made to attract students to the career services offered on campus.
5. Offer career success courses/programs.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers has identified eight competencies that are required in the workplace: problem solving, professionalism, communication, teamwork, leadership, technology, career management, and intercultural fluency. The EEQ Certification Criteria has a similar list of expectations for graduates. Graduates are communicators, thinkers and problem solvers, inquirers, collaborators, adaptable, principled and ethical learners. Universities should provide students with access to courses and programs that lead to core competencies.
6. Promote the 60YC.
While some argue that the term 60YC does not fit the concept behind it, it’s gaining national and international currency. It conveys the concepts that are familiar to academics and focuses on the relationship between students and the institution. The frequent use of the term will have an effect on the culture of the institution and its relationship with students.
Recommendations for serving graduates
1. Coordinate functions of career services, continuing education, and alumni associations.
These three units are the main campus units focused on what happens to students once they graduate. Career centers are often funded to serve only matriculated students. Once students graduate, career centers are not funded to help them. CE units are ready to serve students once they graduate, able to help students as they make the transition from job to job, career to career, and from career to retirement. In addition, alumni associations seek to serve graduates with relevant program and initiatives. Despite the overlap and coincidence of audience and functions, it’s rare in higher education that these three units form an effective and coordinated partnership. The 60YC imperative may be bring these three units together.
2. Consider a program of alternative digital credentialing (ADCs).
ADCs are an imperative in higher education. The digitalization of credentials, and the potential for even greater granularity in the definition and verification of workplace-relevant competencies, provides potential for the 60YC. Through the issuance of ADCs, universities serve students at the same time they are developing the workforce in a particular region.
3. Expand the creation and use of open education.
Open education is an established feature of higher education. Building on the open educational resource movement of the early years of this century, MOOCs promoted open education in a highly visible way. The proliferation of free material is good for the 60YC by providing access to deserving, underserved, and lower socio-economic populations. Universities should create open initiatives and promote the use of them.
4. Expand CE units.
Providing CE to graduates is an important part of the 60YC. The population base of the CE unit service area is too small for a comprehensive offering. The growth of online education eliminates geographical constraints. CE for alumni, members of the service region, and national and international communities are an important element in the 60YC.
5. Support learning in retirement programs.
The 60YC promotes learning in the later stages of life. This learning enhances the lives of older people and has health and social benefits. Many universities already have such programs, almost all of which need some financial support from the hosting institution. The Bernard Osher Foundation has endowed over 100 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes throughout the country, resulting in a strong base of programs already in existence. Learning in retirement programs “fill out the card” in the 60YC movement.
All universities provide some form of service under the 60YC concept, but few recognize these services to bring them together in a coherent and effective whole. The recommendations offered here define the pathway to collaboration of a lifetime affiliation between students and universities.
Selingo, J. (2018). The third revolution. Schools are moving toward a model of continuous, lifelong learning in order to meet the needs of today’s economy. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/03/the-third-education-revolution/556091/.