Always Learning: College Now & Later

Learning as a lifestyle is becoming the new norm,” according to GSV Advisors; it’s “driven by mobile device proliferation, ubiquitous broadband, and advances in content curation and delivery technology.”

A generation ago you went to school until you were 21 and then worked until you were 65; now employability is all about lifelong learning — for the next job, during the next job, and learning to do what you love.

According to Education Department data, Only 29 percent of college students fit the traditional mold of high school students who go straight to a 4-year college. Almost three quarters of college students may be considered nontraditional including delayed entry, having dependents, being employed and financially independent, learning part-time, and/or not having a high school diploma.

Three emerging options include college credits earned in high school, nontraditional college and post-baccalaureate learning.

College in high school. Free (and cheap) college credit opportunities for high school students are becoming widely available including:

  • Dual enrollment: almost every state has policies that allow high school students to concurrently enroll in college classes on a college campus, online or taught by a college instructor at a high school;
  • AP & IB: passing grades on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate translate into college credit at some institutions; and
  • Early college: more than 280 high schools are designed to help every graduate gain 1–2 years of college credit while in high school.

Nontraditional college. Degree seekers with obligations that preclude a campus experience have a growing number of options:

  • Online learning is a great option for working adults. It allows flexibility in time, location and pacing. In many cases, the learner experience is highly social. In some cases, learners report more personal attention from instructors than is common in face-to-face courses.
  • Community colleges remain a cost-effective option for job-specific programs and for low-cost general education credits.
  • Credit for prior knowledge: several organizations offer inexpensive competency-based exams in general education courses.

Post-baccalaureate learning. That first degree may get your foot in the door, but advancement requires learning new skills. Online master’s degrees have been and will remain a valuable option.

Dynamic job clusters like web development and coding will increasingly recognize marketing signaling systems that communicate gained competencies. These badging systems will often be linked to digital portfolios that catalog personal bests. Learning opportunities in these new job categories include open courses and code schools.

A number of professions require continuing education. Fortunately, new personalized learning strategies can make fulfilling these requirements more flexible and useful.

Learning is the currency of the idea economy. Starting college in high school, working and learning, striving and growing — learning is the new lifestyle.

This post was written as part of the University Of Phoenix Versus Program. I’m a compensated contributor, but the thoughts and ideas are my own.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment


I want to learn on an online school to be an educated student, and because its free!

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