James DeVaney, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and Founding Executive Director, Center for Academic Innovation
The world changed dramatically in 2020. Individuals and employers across sectors adapted to a remarkably challenging year and began to recalibrate even their most imaginative predictions about the future of learning and the future of work. As learners at all levels change the way they work and study, the Center for Academic Innovation (CAI) continues to adapt to meet their needs. We are reimagining models for higher education access in a world that requires perpetual learning, is global in reach, and is informed by data and enriched by tools that effectively leverage those data.
As part of this mission, we are excited to collaborate with FutureLearn in the launch of ExpertTracks. ExpertTracks are carefully curated series of online courses that focus on specialized areas of learning. Designed to help learners build knowledge and expertise that fits their lifestyle, ExpertTracks help guide a learner’s professional development journey toward their ultimate career goals.
ExpertTracks help put learners in charge of their own educational journey. FutureLearn and the University of Michigan share a commitment to transform educational access and prepare learners for jobs that may not yet exist in our ever-changing world. We look forward to working with FutureLearn and our faculty partners to create new ExpertTracks that prepare individuals and organizations for the future of work.
The launch of ExpertTracks represents an important next step in the growth of our partnership with FutureLearn, which began in September 2019. From the beginning of our partnership, FutureLearn has demonstrated they share our aspiration to transform access to education and to create flexible models of learning that bring breadth and depth to learners at all levels.
Simon Nelson, founding CEO of FutureLearn, said it best in a guest blog post in Fall 2019, “Once thought of as a ‘nice to have,’ the reality now is that lifelong learning is vital for employers and employees who need to upskill and reskill effectively.”
As we reimagine the future of work, we are excited to experiment with the new ExpertTrack model to continue bridging the gap between education and employment. No sector of the global economy was immune from the disruption of 2020. It would have been difficult to predict anything quite like the combination of events that led to this upheaval. From this experience, we can learn and prepare all learners for greater resilience in the future of work.
At the same time, we need to acknowledge that equity gaps have always been a part of our global economy. Alarmingly, those equity gaps have widened during the pandemic. As we design and refine new options for learning, we need to make certain that access and affordability are guiding principles in our design.
In addition to the aspiration of greater reach and impact, we set complementary goals at the center when we began our partnership with FutureLearn. My colleagues Lauren Atkins-Budde and Cait Hayward explored this in detail when they outlined what we hope to learn from our partnership with FutureLearn. This partnership offers an opportunity to deepen our research, skills, experiences, and knowledge.
Our first ExpertTrack, Innovations in FinTech, is now available to learners around the globe. The courses explore the present and future of the rapidly changing financial-service sector including payment technology, blockchain and raising capital. With this and future courses people will be better prepared for the future of learning and work.