How changing opportunities for adult learners may have paved the way for how we think about education post-COVID-19

In February 2020, just weeks before COVID-19 would disrupt our education system and our economy, Dr. Marie Cini, former president of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), said at a conference on adult learning in Chapel Hill, “the changes coming are of an immensity that we really can’t fathom.”

Without ever naming COVID-19, Cini predicted incredible shifts in how our society will learn and work.

“Our job isn’t just to front-load education,” she said, which means “give you your four years and now you are good to go.”

In this coming world, she said, the kids born today will go through two to three major paradigm shifts during their lifetimes. Around the world, these shifts fundamentally will change “everything we know and do,” she said.

If the internet was a shift for my generation, COVID-19, it turns out, may be this generation’s first one.

They will have to continuously learn, Cini said.

“It’s exciting,” she said, “It’s daunting. It’s challenging. It’s frightening. But it’s also exciting.”

Like exercising and eating well, she said learning will happen every day for the rest of our lives as these shifts create new realities for learners and workers.

North Carolina’s Adult Promise: The Higher Education and Workforce Imperative was held in Chapel Hill on Feb. 13, 2020. Adult Promise is a partnership between Lumina and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) investing in 15 “state-led efforts to better serve adults seeking education after high school.”

This panel on national perspectives about connecting adult learners, workforce needs, and higher education features Cini and Hadass Sheffer, the founder and president of The Graduate! Network.

Behind the Story

Taylor Shain produced the videos featured in this article.

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.

Taylor Shain is a documentary filmmaker and video producer with EducationNC.

Attainment Community Colleges Coronavirus The Editor's Notes