The Secret to Life: Continuous Learning!

Learning has always been a life-long process but today more than ever before it is becoming the cornerstone of how individuals pilot their career path.  The concept of having one job, one vocation, one career is fast becoming a relic of the past.  Even today’s definition of a job is in many cases quite different than the roles and responsibilities of that job twenty, ten and in some cases even as recently as three years ago.

Accredited academic institutions are challenged with how to educate students for jobs that are not even in existence when they are starting as freshmen in higher education.  Employers are increasing faced with the dilemma of finding and maintaining a workforce with the necessary skills in a highly competitive fasted paced technology linked global economy.  One way many are meeting this challenge is by becoming life long learners and seeking employers wanting life-long learners.  Who is a great example of a life-long learner, you are great example of a life-long learner!  By reading these updates, seeking to learn and find new ways to learn then sharing and collaborating with others, while coming back for more each month–here and in many other places that makes you a great example of a continuous life long learner.   With you as the subject, let’s begin….


Big Data University

With the focus on big data and analytics, this industry education hub has grown from hundreds to student to now a benchmark of over 400,000 students.  The growth and development path these courses now provide is leading to whole new career paths or enhanced career path based on the student’s goals.   The introduction of continuing education from companies and education institutions solves the same problem the public education was put in place to address:  access to education develops the need skills required for innovation and exploration.  Here is a view of the reach of the Big Data University today:

Big Data University Pic




As an on-line education provider.  This recent quote by Coursera President Daphne Koller: “Your old college diploma isn’t good enough for the 21st century economy   is not a surprise but what is a surprise is how fast it is happening for many in today’s job market.  Instead of 5-7 jobs in a lifetime now metrics being discussed are setting the expectation for those entering the job market today is they will be  changing jobs every three years.

The American education system which is based on everyone deserves a free (don’t have his discussion with my British husband who asks how come the free public education requires us to write a check for $1200) public education covers students from K-12.  With the continuous learning options available today, the free education option coupled with badges, certification and additional resources (some for a fee) provide a range as learners move up the spectrum wanting to be able to showcase new skills.


Northwestern University Professional Studies

Northwestern University has had a School of Professional Studies for more than 80 years.  This commitment is further seen in the Osher Life Long Learning Institute.  The institute has a different perspective:  the belief is life-long learners continues to strive for growth and that makes them more valuable as they build new skills and expand upon prior expertise accumulated in various disciplines.  Northwestern has also done an excellent job building connections between traditional learning and Massive Open Online Sources with their own Social Marketing Specialization.  This specialization  along with other courses and specializations is bringing thousands of students, similar to the experiences of the Big Data University program. Access to academic and industry expertise to build marketable skills is in great demand in today’s global markets:



“Free on-line education in collaboration with top education institutions:  Best Courses, Top Institutions. Learn anytime, Anywhere.”  EdX  and Cousera were early into Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).  The desire to bring education to the masses now seems standard with so many option available:  Coursera, FutureLearn, Edx, Udemy, Knod,  Udacty, Lynda and more.  Here are examples demonstrating how  EdX has expanded it’s reach:

Select the Verified Certificate course option and receive an instructor-signed certificate with the institution’s logo to verify your achievement and increase your job prospects. Verified Courses »

Choose from over 40 High School level courses to help you succeed in High School and get ready for university. High School Courses »

Take courses on your schedule and receive academic credit without an application or transcript and at a fraction of the cost. Credit-Eligible Courses »

Work towards an XSeries Program Certificate to demonstrate competency in a specific subject area and a level of achievement that you can use to advance your career. XSeries Programs »

Gain the in-demand skills and critical intelligence to stand out in your field. Learn from top experts and professors from the best institutions in the world. Professional Education Courses »



The introduction of Khan Academy in elementary and middle school curriculum is a standard supporting asset in the US K-12 education system.  Here is the middle school letter for those entering 8th grade this year in the suburbs of Chicago, note referencing KhanAcademy:  During 8th grade the math challenge continued throughout the year with assignments from Khan Academy.   Here is an example of the program implemented in Batavia Public Schools to engage and reward students for doing more math challenges linked (they made it a game) to the Common Core program.

“Khan Academy has opened signups for LearnStorm, a free math challenge designed to build perseverance and grit here in Chicago. From January 29 to April 1, students in grades 3-12 can earn points to unlock prizes for themselves and their BPS101 school by practicing math aligned to the Common Core standards. Points for prizes are not only earned for getting the right answer, but also for the work involved in arriving at an answer.”

This was brought to my attention by Adam Kennedy, my 8th grade son as he worked on the challenges daily through the last school year.

Here is how LearnStorm works:



As a way to demonstrate proficiency in the required areas certifications have traditionally been tools used by industry providers to differentiate between those who “says” they have the skill and a defined process/indicator that can measure the actual learning. With the introduction of new tools for learning continuously,  new approaches have also been developed for providing proof of new skills in this new continuous learning world:  badges were born.  It is great to get my Fitbit badges.   I am also working on my USAA Swimming Official Certification and then I will be pursing my Bluemix Essentials badge.  All have various degrees of difficulty and some have testing, yes I did have to pass a test for my USS Swimming Official Training and I have one more trainee mentoring session left before I will be certified.  All this badges have one thing in common they require proof of completion of the established criteria before receipt of the badge/certification.  Here are three examples of the IBM Badges form Sales, to Bluemix Essentials (on my list), to AP Management in the Cloud, these and more can be found in the above link:

Badges 2016



During the recent T-Summit, Graham Doxey, CEO and Founder of Knod spoke about the discussions across his career on not being able to match the skills of students with the needs of industry.   Here is some of his background and solution to the problem:

As a co-founder of Neumont University he began a decade of creating innovative solutions to close the gap between higher education outcomes and industry needs. Exemplary results have been achieved through engaging employers early in the education process, implementing experiential learning pedagogies, and mapping regulator required learning outcomes with industry required skills.

While CEO of Laureate Malaysia Doxey had three years of experience applying these pedagogical principles in a more traditional education environment across multiple disciplines and locations in a 14,000 student 9 campus system resulting in similar increased employability of graduates.

While the program continues to grow and adapt the discussion it is opening up is similar potentially to the discussions at the inception of Coursera and ExEd.  So an exciting path as different approaches are investigated for ways to enhance and reinvent the process and steps associated of learning.


IBM Academic Initiative

Keep your eye on this space.  The IBM Academic Initiative is being made easier to use, more IBM subject matter experts are working on the content and members of the  IBM team are engaged with other industry leaders to make the experience better.  Continue to use the IBM Academic Initiative and check out the Blog updates ( with IBM’s Internet of Things (IOT) expert Gayathri Srinivasan’s May blog highlighting another great marriage, ” As a first of the kind direct engagement with a corporation, Coursera has teamed up with IBM to deliver an entry level Internet of Things course geared towards developers.”   Take a look Gayathri’s and the other blog posts and consider putting a reminder on your calendar to check out the IBM Academic Initiative website on August 17th.  More details to follow in future updates.

Let finish up with Coletta’s Story

Colete's Pic


When we are asked what continuous learning means, it means we have an on-going opportunity to leverage education as a way to change direction and take control of the path we choose to pursue our career and/or job goals (and life goals!).   Colette’s story is one we would have expected years ago to hear from someone starting in higher education.  Her message shows how the power of education at any age can be the main factor in setting and achieving new goals considered challenging at any age.  It does not matter if you are Adam entering, (he plans to major in Math and then pursue his MBA) or the Colette re-entering,  the job market:  continuous education makes all the difference.  Now let’s all go make a difference in the world!

Valinda Kennedy

Twitter: vscarbro

LinkedIn: Valinda Kennedy


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