Dean Zlateva Surveys the Advantages of Lifelong Learning in a Changing Job Market in Recent Interview

In an interview that appeared in the November 2022 edition of EvoLLLution, Boston University’s Metropolitan College Dean Tanya Zlateva outlined the reasons that, in the modern professional market, continuing education is paramount. “The harsh criticism of college education we have received over the last ten years has been focused on the type of curricula (too abstract), cost and accessibility (high tuition and mostly face-to-face) and the scarcity of shorter, career-focused programs,” Dean Zlateva said in the story, “Understanding the Approach to Lifelong Learning.” While being in possession of a traditional college education continues to provide an advantage in landing a job, maintaining employment, and pulling a competitive salary, the needs of the modern learner—faced with a rapidly changing job market driven by automation, global connectivity, data science, artificial intelligence and, more recently, cyber-physical systems—may be better served by continuing education divisions that are focused on lifelong learning, Dr. Zlateva explains. At a continuing education institution such as BU’s Metropolitan College (MET), this theory is enshrined in the mission statement as a commitment to the community as well as to innovation, flexibility, and changing industry needs. Recruited from the professional sphere, faculty tend to be highly attuned to the latest opportunities in the market, leading to a selection of programs that focus on emerging areas such as cybersecurity, data analytics, business analytics, and supply chain. Lifelong learners, meanwhile, have access to the flexible modes of study, such as online or hybrid, and innovative approaches to credentialing that reflect their needs as working adults seeking career advancement over longer periods of time. The enduring challenge for institutions such as MET lies in creating more visibility for lifelong learning within the student body, says Zlateva. “To help prospective students navigate the complex landscape of degrees, certificates, micro-credentials and delivery formats, a successful marketing approach must provide individualized outreach in addition to rich content on programs, modalities, employment trends on multiple venues such as social media, webinars, interactive panels, peer discussions and industry presentations,” she notes. The marketing approach must highlight the value of lifelong professional development, explain educational pathways built around student aspirations, and underscore the support, coaching, and mentoring available to students online and on campus. The evolution of online education has been essential to the success of lifelong learning endeavors, ensuring that busy adults can build knowledge and skills at the pace and location that best suits their needs. In Boston University’s 2030 Strategic Plan, digital learning is acknowledged as one of the “pillars of a vibrant educational experience.” This became especially true as COVID-19 swept the globe and remote learning became integral to survival. MET leveraged 20 years of experience in online education to guide Boston University through the fallout, ensuring that courses were still delivered, that students were able to learn uninterrupted, and that coursework sustained the high standards of the University. “Thanks to our long experience with online teaching, the transition for Metropolitan College faculty was very smooth,” asserts Dean Zlateva. “Well-developed online course sites were already available and we extended them to the face-to-face classes. We also extended the training session and consultation hours to faculty from all BU colleges to ease the transition. On balance, the changes are very positive and an impetus for rethinking curricula and engaging more faculty in rethinking their teaching approaches.” Read the full interview with Dean Zlateva in EvoLLLution.