TLO’s 21st Century Learning equation 

Twenty years ago, when you wanted an education, you had to pick your school, apply, enroll when accepted, select your major, pay your fees, go to class when scheduled, listen to the teachers’ lectures, and then take your tests, over and over again until you completed the required curriculum. This was the routine, at least until the 21st Century came around. This is when the 21st Century’s learning revolution really got started.

Today, we now know that a formal education will give us the knowledge we need to see our world's new challenges. But, we also know that simply having the knowledge and the perspectives necessary to see these challenges is not the same thing as having the mindsets and the skillsets we need to respond and cope effectively with these new challenges. In a world like the one we’re living in today -- one filled with radical complexities and accelerating rates of change — a high-quality education is essential. But, no matter how good it is, by itself a formal education will never be good enough to give us the perspectives, insights and skills we need to master the 21st Century’s complex new challenges. At best, a formal education can only be a small part of what, for each of us, must eventually become a lifelong learning journey. In addition to a high quality education, we now all need an experientially based learning effort that shows us when, where, and how to develop the kinds of new mindsets and skillsets that are a match for today’s newest and toughest complexities. We need to know how to design and implement this 21st Century’s learning equation:

Formal Education + Self-Directed Learning Experiments = Successful Development

TLO’s Approach to Front-End Education

A 21st Century liberal education is based on the concept of enlightenment. It’s the kind of education that seeks to empower adult learners, to equip them with the kind of flexible modes of thinking that can help them deal with the complexity, diversity, and change that are characteristic of today’s world. Its essential aim is to provide its students with broad knowledge of the wider world, as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. When successful, a liberal education helps adult students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills, especially 21st Century skills such as communication, critical thinking, analytical decision-making, and problem solving, and the demonstrated ability to apply this knowledge and these skills in real-world settings.

Today, a liberal Front-End education can be pursued in three distinct ways:

  1. Bachelor and graduate degree programs offered by accredited colleges and universities.

  2. Professional certification programs offered by accredited colleges and universities that are targeted at adults who want to advance their knowledge and skills in one specific area such as management, nursing, or computer programing.

  3. Virtual education platforms that host a large variety of courses, each of which is aimed at a specific issue or the development of a specific skillset.

Today’s on campus and virtual alternatives have made a liberal education accessible to everyone. Besides the will and the energy, all a prospective student needs is the time and the resources required to enroll in a program or courses of this choice. In truth, these days all we really need is a computer, an Internet connection, and some basic software skills. Consequently, increasing numbers of adults are discovering that they actually have all the technologies, tools, and access to knowledge resources they need to become "well-educated” whenever they want. Students everywhere are discovering that getting a liberal education, far from being a difficult, expensive experience, is actually an easily affordable and accessible learning adventure that can be personally designed in any way that suits their learning preferences. Today, a personally tailored education, and the personal and professional development that must follow it, are open to them and under their control and direction. 

Today, it is very clear adults who are looking to realize their professional aspirations and/or their loftiest personal dreams can get a good liberal education.  A high-quality education, whether on campus or online is available as the front-end component for the 21st Century learning equation described above.

TLO’s approach to Back-End Approach

On-campus and on-line education programs clearly provide the high quality Front End education we need. They give us the knowledge we need to begin an effective learning journey. However,  there’s no way that, by themselves, our educational accomplishments will ever be enough. In today's complex world, formal education simply offers us the chance to develop the knowledge platform we need to develop the uniquely personalized mindsets, perspectives, and skills we need to if we’re going to build a complete, and sophisticated array of 21st Century skills. In a world like ours, filled with radical complexities and accelerating rates of change, as well as other contemporary challenges and opportunities, a high-quality formal education is necessary. It's your primary foundation. But formal degrees and advanced certificates, by themselves, can never be either flexible or personalized enough to let you build a successful 21st Century career, or the brilliant life you aspire to. At best, formal education must be be the Front-End portion of a lifelong learning journey.

In addition to the knowledge a formal Front-End education provides, each of us also needs to know how to create unique, highly personalized, experientially based Back-End learning experiments. If we want to improve the skills we already have, develop the new skills we will need to succeed at work and in our lives, and/or reframe outdated modes of thinking in ways that more effectively respond to today's challenges and opportunities, then we definitely need to take the time to learn how to design and implement full-fledged experience-based, self-directed learning programs. Knowing how to integrate our knowledge and our personal experiences into well organized, fully integrated Front-End/Back-End learning journeys is going to be the real mark of effective 21st Century learning.  

So, whether you’re an adult who’s looking to accelerate your career or an adult who’s looking beyond professional advancement to building a career and life that’s both meaningful and satisfying, the 21st Century learning equation described above highlights the proposition that your learning efforts need to include both a formal Front-End educational program and a Back-End experientially-based apprenticeship. Regardless of whether you want to achieve your professional aspirations or realize your loftiest dreams, you’ll need a personal learning program that offers you the advantages of a modern liberal education and the challenges of real-life learning experiments that will help you translate the knowledge you’ve developed into real-world skills.