The Evolution of Continuous Learning in Higher Education

Education, like many industries with the advent of technology, has evolved over the years in an effort to match new standards and demands. Within higher education, you’re dealing with a target audience (students) who are keen to learn and often connected to the digital world. 

In their personal and professional lives. students both young and mature are exposed to technology on a daily basis, and expect technology to be present in their learning. As a result, providing continuous learning alternatives is necessary, so students are receiving the best tools and resources to further their education. Creating a digital environment is an essential part of continuous learning.

In this article, we explore the evolution of continuous learning and its impact on the higher education sector.  

Read our latest special report entitled 'The Evolving Student: What Role Can Digital Play?' that explores the changing demographic of today's student and how educators can use digital technologies to engage, motivate and teach. 

Why is Continuous Learning Important?

Higher education has changed a lot in the past few decades, and the speed at which it's changing will only get faster because advancements in technology show no signs of slowing down. Today's children are preparing for a work world that adults cannot fully comprehend or are just getting used to. According to recent research,  85% of jobs that today's learners will be doing in 2030 haven't been invented yet.

With new roles being created in many industries, chances are your son or daughter will be working in a position that was either rare or non-existent 10 or 20 years ago. Many fields today that were less common in the past include online marketing, data mining, and mobile software development.

Educational institutions are now struggling to keep up with real-world trends and prepare students for tasks that haven't been imagined yet. You can't predict what will happen on the job market, but educators can make the transition easier for future professionals by relying on continuous learning to establish a solid foundation of skills for students.

What is Continuous Learning?

85% Of Jobs That Will Exist In 2030 Haven’t Been Invented Yet

Continuous learning is the ability to consistently develop and improve skillsets in order to perform in the most effective manner possible in the workplace. At the individual level, it consists of asking questions or getting feedback, seeking out workshops or courses, developing learning goals, and trying new things. At a team level, it refers to a team transforming itself and its ideologies to changing conditions.

Continuous learning reflects a huge shift. People are now in a permanent process of acquiring new knowledge and skills, allowing workers to perform new tasks and jobs as they arise. This process also allows students to add new dimensions to their existing occupations. With continuous learning, students can better adjust to an environment that's often changing, as they learn and then apply skills when needed to thrive under new conditions.

Despite the ongoing changes within the labor landscape and regarding student needs, many educational institutions have not caught up. To ensure your higher education institution is attractive and to help students succeed, it's crucial to know the continuous learning tools available.

Online Learning Platforms

A great way to incorporate continuous learning is by implementing online learning platforms. Offering online courses allows students to learn at their own pace with as much information as possible available at the click of a mouse. 

These courses not only provide information but also teach various skills, whether its business or technology fields. Using online platforms, from traditional portals to social media, allows students to learn in a more interactive way. It's also helpful that these platforms integrate different tools to accommodate all styles of learning, from video to written text to quizzes to discussion boards.

The learning landscape has been transformed by the arrival of online learning course that is accessible from anywhere at any time and offers bite-sized learning that can upskill them in relevant areas that can be instantly applied to a role. 

Learning this way offers video-recorded lectures and online portals to access course materials that make learning online not all that different from sitting in a seminar room. With openness to try to new things from students and a serious commitment from colleges to offer valuable courses, continuous learning is becoming a legitimate and realistic option for many learners.

The Rise of Micro-credentials

Microcredentials value chain illustration

Another way to introduce continuous learning into higher education institutions is through micro-credentials; certification-style qualifications for people who want to study or improve skills in a particular industry area. Not only do micro-credentials offer opportunities for people to upskill, but they re-engage past students with course updates or new modules as well when needed.

These micro-credentials include short, affordable online courses that provide learners with a digital certification or digital ‘badges’ when they have completed the course. The courses are developed in chunks, to teach and then test proficiency in a particular skill. After a student completes the modules, they have the qualifications to meet industry-specific needs that are relevant to potential or current employers.

Micro-credentials go hand-in-hand with a competency-based approach, judging one’s credentials. Considering we're in a ‘show what you know’ society, allowing learners of all ages to advance their skills or knowledge is essential for career growth. With this sort of education, students can achieve goals whenever, wherever, and however they can. 

Students feel in control of their learning, which creates a better environment for absorbing and retaining information. Assessment is carried out with the intention of creating meaningful and positive learning experiences.

The Demand for Microlearning

Another way to help students learn in a different and proactive way is to introduce micro-learning. Microlearning is a way to teach and deliver content to learners in small and very specific bursts. It is an emerging learning strategy for closing skill and knowledge gaps in a timelier fashion.

This strategy is highly suitable in sectors where information is changing rapidly, and educators need their resources to update at the same pace. Plus, newer technologies support micro-learning and let people in a fast-paced world keep up. 

Microlearning is more than just shortened pieces of content fed to learners along different stages through multiple mediums. It supports continuous learning by enabling learners to scan and be aware of the many changes taking place across a specific industry. It allows students to pick up on changes and gather quick, useful bits of insight concerning the developments in their field of interest whether ti's through 60-second videos or short TV clips. 

Educators Need to Match the Changing Landscape

Meet the Modern Learner infographic

Traditional learning methods still have their importance, but they are becoming outdated by innovation in the real world. Higher education institutions will have to evolve, to provide students with real-world insights to develop critical thinking and technical skills.

Adding innovative tools to the classroom helps guide students through the curriculum and equip them for the professional world. Continuous learning strategies may be met with questions and present challenges, but that is the best education a student can receive as they will learn to adjust and adapt to change and overcome obstacles, learning valuable skills for the rest of their educational and professional careers.

With continuous learning, students are more prepared for the job market and faculty are better-equipped to teach. Everybody benefits, creating an updated cycle that makes educating and learning easier.

Emma Knightley