- College that “never ends” may be the future, according to a Washington Post story describing a new University of Michigan program that offers scholarships for students to come back and take courses throughout their lives. It also describes a trend toward other online learning initiatives designed to re-educate or update workers.
- The program at Michigan’s Ross School of Business offers 42 courses in leadership, marketing, human resources and finance that would normally cost about $10,000 a week. Ross charges the students an up-front subscription fee to access the courses, which officials say are intended to be flexible and change with needs in the workforce and economy.
- In 2015-16, 40 students signed up for the program, and last year 200 of the university's 580,000 alumni did.
The Washington Post points out that most universities offer some sort of continuing education, but that this type of “open loop” offering is new, having originated at Stanford University. Stanford, which intends to announce an upgrade to its program this year, offers options ranging from recorded lectures and podcasts to interactive online classes that enable students to get certificates or graduate degrees. Purdue has developed a program that allows students to pay for courses with a percentage of their future paycheck, which experts say might increase options for workers.
Thomas Malone, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management and co-founder of its Center for Collective Intelligence, says systems like these are what students, employers and colleges need in an environment where technology will be key and automation will “warp employment.”
Malone, the author of the book "The Future of Work," recently told MarketWatch that he isn’t concerned about people losing their jobs to technology, but warns that they need to use it to stay current: “It’s important workers of all generations know that the old model where you learn something in school or in the first few years of your career and that’s all you need to know for the rest of your career — you have to get rid of that notion.”
Studies by the consulting firm McKinsey indicate that employers in the future intend to focus on retraining employees to meet their needs for new skills. Universities are also increasingly trying find ways to partner with employers to offer courses the business community needs.