Continuous Learning Instead of “Lifelong Learning”
The problems engineers face are increasing in complexity at an exponential pace, and as one plenary speaker at the recent ASEE conference put it, it’s essential to be able to add continuously to your skill set in order to be a practicing engineer. All the good grades in the world won’t matter if you cannot learn on your own when the situation demands it — which is to say, every day, at almost every moment of the day. Continuously.
One of the threads that has really resonated at the conference is the necessity of lifelong learning in STEM education. Of course lifelong learning is wonderful and desirable. But that phrase suggests a relaxed process of dipping in to formal educational setups at various discrete points along one’s lifespan. “Continuously adding to your skill set” gets the idea across better, because it suggests an ongoing, unbroken flow of learning that is carried out by the individual, every day and in the small moments of each day, indefinitely, whether job-related or just part of life. Maybe we should be using the term continuous learning rather than lifelong learning.