A New Vision for the Future of Higher Education: Prioritizing Engagement and Alignment

The pandemic highlighted the need for upskilling and reskilling, amplifying the importance of lifelong learning access for all. It also changed the trajectory of higher ed as a whole—bringing forward trends and ideas that carry the potential to change lives and communities.  

On this episode of the Illumination podcast, host Amrit Ahluwalia is joined by Brian Kibby, the Chief Executive Officer of Modern Campus. The two discuss the role higher education can play as a community builder, and how colleges and universities have an opportunity to be lifelong learning partners for their students.   

For every dollar spent on education in the United States, there could be a ten-thousand-fold return on investment, Kibby says.   

“You’ve talked to hundreds of administrators across the U.S. and Canada, and I’ve done the same,” Kibby says. “Their message is the same as ours. The impact of education on our local community is exponential.” 

“There is value in a degree, whether it’s an associate or a master’s, but employers are asking for specifics,” he added.  

What’s more, Kibby says employers are increasingly focused on lifelong learning over candidates’ credentials. In a world where 87% of workers believe they need ongoing education to keep pace with the changing workforce—and where 60% of executives say they struggle to keep their workforce current and relevant—commitment to ongoing learning is becoming increasingly important. 

“More and more employers are saying what they care about is that the employee is passionate about upskilling or reskilling,” Kibby says. “It’s important to earn a degree, but it matters even more to show how you can change your skillsets and adapt to what the market needs.” 

Change is a constant in higher ed, just as it is in the labor market. Staying up to date and flexible is more important than ever for colleges and universities, and through the pandemic, many relied on their continuing and workforce education divisions to support their agility. In fact, 56% of higher ed leaders said the role of their CE units expanded through the pandemic. 

The pandemic led to some of the biggest innovations in continuing ed in recent memory.  

Necessity is the mother of invention, Kibby says. Now that things are relatively stable, colleges and universities may see people going back to school or staying in school longer than ever before.  

In turn, this development can lead to an influx of lifelong learners, who are continually upskilling and reskilling themselves, sometimes voluntarily, to always be at the top of their field.  

“When it comes to alumni, we have to earn the right to be a lifelong partner,” Kibby says. “If you’re a college or university senior administrator, you have to earn the right. Even before the student starts at your school, you have highly engaged, active, involved alumni who not only contribute financially but can offer jobs or mentorship.” 

A single college or university can be a lifelong connector for a person to their community’s needs, but that requires the school to orient itself to serve the unique needs of each learner. Being able to serve all those people requires the right tools to ensure things run smoothly.  

As the CEO of Modern Campus, Kibby’s vision is to position colleges and universities to deliver the experience modern learners expect at every phase of the lifecycle. The focus, according to Kibby, is delivering massive personalization that engages students and ensures their needs are seen, addressed and exceeded.  

“Technology allows us to understand the interests and gaps of a school, and then help direct students to the right programs where they’ll be the best fit,” Kibby says. “As employees and as learners, we pour our energy into our greatest strengths so we get the greatest return.” 

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Last updated: August 5, 2022


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