UCI Targets Lifelong Learners

The university views its new partnership with FutureLearn as a path to taking its microcredentialing programs global.

AS SHORT-TERM microcredentialing programs continue to gain popularity among learners, more institutions are expanding their offerings. Among them is the Division of Continuing Education (DCE) at the University of California, Irvine, which recently announced its partnership with FutureLearn, one of the largest online learning programs in Europe. The partnership will support the delivery of microcredentialing programs to lifelong learners on a global scale.

These microcredentialing programs will fit within the DCE’s larger portfolio of learning experiences, which include boot camps, customized corporate education offerings, and 95 certificate programs (of which 65 are fully online). To earn a microcredential, students will need to complete a minimum of 12 units, or 120 hours of coursework. Among the DCE’s first FutureLearn offerings will be a program in predictive analytics.

About 40 percent of the DCE’s overall portfolio is devoted to business disciplines, says Brian Breen, DCE’s chief corporate engagement and partnerships officer. This includes a selection of specializations and certificate programs the DCE delivers over the Coursera platform. These MOOC-based programs have offered the school opportunities to engage with organizations for their training needs. “More companies are looking for shorter, faster, and cheaper ways to train their workforces,” says Breen. “We’ve found that they’re sending their employees to our MOOCs for foundational knowledge before coming to the DCE for something more customized.”

At the same time, he has seen companies scale back their tuition reimbursement funding to target only training tied to an employee’s functional role and performance goals. “They’re looking for courses where their employees can pick up skills quickly and apply them back in the workplace,” Breen says. “Going to a full-time MBA program for two years is a lot of money and commitment. Taking a ten-week online course for $500 or $600 is more accessible.”

In the future, Breen expects short-format options to provide the kind of portable educational programs that will support learners throughout their careers. The new partnership, he believes, is one way the school can realize its vision “as a provider and supporter of the 60-year curriculum.”