Today's universities must be intentional and strategic in serving the needs of contemporary learners. This is especially true as target audiences evolve and we link economic opportunities to learner success. The sense of urgency is everywhere around us:
“…This is a challenging time for higher education. Securing funds for operations continues to be daunting. Public universities are continually reminded that there is little appetite among state legislatures for increased budgets. There are frequent alarms about the pace of tuition increases. Campus leaders are confronted by increasing competition from many directions. Demographic trends foreshadow a shrinking pool of applicants. And dire predictions about the impending technological disruption to the conventional educational model suggest that the university, as we know it, is about to go the way of the dinosaur…” – Our Leader Left. Who's Left to Lead? (Nathan Bennett, The Chronicle of Higher Education)
It's time to step up. Not just assume opportunity will present itself somewhere on the path we've trodden for the last hundred or more years, but actually create the opportunities that will allow our learners to compete in our ever-evolving global knowledge economy.
If not us, then who? Who brings learning innovation to the table? Who knows better that rule number one is “Know your audience?” Who advises faculty and administrators on the consequences of ignoring the massive shift we're seeing in who our learners are, and what they need to be successful? Who sees the global vision for learner success? Who recognizes the need for partnerships with stakeholders who will judge our success by the capabilities of our learners? Who brings modern professional education to the real world of commerce and enterprise? If not us, then who?
As UPCEA begins its second century, the next phase of learning is already taking hold. Our new imperative will require a new look at learners and learning. It will require a new look at the corporate, community, and NGO partners we bring to the process — partners who know firsthand where and how the output of universities will be put to work.
So step up with us at UPCEA 101, and help us build the opportunities our learners need to be truly competitive in the new global knowledge economy.