The world economy is changing at an accelerating pace, posing new challenges for people and making lifelong learning an essential skill in the 21st century.

Recognizing this imperative, Virginia Tech is hosting the Adaptive Lifelong Learning for an Inclusive Knowledge Economy workshop from Oct. 25-27 in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area. The big goal is to bring theory and current practice together in developing a framework to inform and guide adaptive lifelong learning for an inclusive knowledge economy and build connections among participants.

“This workshop is an extension of Virginia Tech’s Beyond Boundaries initiative, which emphasizes transdisciplinary learning, solving global-scale problems, and expanding the university’s outreach in the commonwealth,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “We need to anticipate and address the need for talent, adaptive learning, and innovation a generation into the future.”

Sixty-eight people will participate in the three-day workshop, to be held at the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington. The workshop will bring together expertise in such areas as K-12 education, corporate learning and training programs, higher education, government, and the nonprofit sector. Together, participants will rethink learning approaches and practices in the 21st century.

The workshop and related framework emerged from the Beyond Boundaries visioning process, which was compiled by more than 100 faculty, staff, and students at Virginia Tech. Implementing the Beyond Boundaries vision, which began under former provost Thanassis Rikakis and continues today under the leadership of Provost Cyril Clarke, has yielded a greater emphasis on collaborative, transdisciplinary, and trans-sector learning as evidenced by the Destination Areas focused on solving global-scale societal problems; the strategy and commitment to expand Virginia Tech’s footprint throughout Virginia in a collaborative trans-sector manner; and innovative educational programs that are attracting more industry and community partners while providing students with varied experiential learning opportunities.

These partnerships will be centered around actionable items and are envisioned as catalysts to generate new ideas and create adaptive pathways for lifelong learning. The pathways envisioned by participants will transcend traditional learning structures and outcomes and will encourage people to continue learning and attaining their educational goals.

“Virginia Tech’s land-grant mission means that we will train our graduates to meet the demands of the world, not just today, but into the future,” said Clarke. “We’re doing that by bringing together partners from a diverse array of backgrounds to work together and develop innovative ways to approach challenges.”

The workshop and report represent the first step in an ongoing process to incorporate new partnerships, launch pilot programs, and further refine the theories and practices of adaptive lifelong learning, said Jared “Jake” Keyel, research associate at the Calhoun Center for Higher Education Innovation and lead editor of the workshop report.

“The main thesis the workshop will explore is that an inclusive and sustainable 21st-century knowledge economy can best be served by re-valuing all types of knowledge and providing many customizable pathways for engaging this expanded notion of knowledge,” Keyel said. “These pathways will promote integrated professional and personal development and multi-perspective reflective knowledge practice.”

The workshop and online document are the result of collaboration between the Calhoun Center for Higher Education Innovation; university leadership in the D.C. region; the Center for Humanities; the Pamplin College of Business; the Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology; the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; the College Access Collaborative; faculty from other Virginia Tech colleges; and multiple external partners.

— Written by Mason Adams