GW to offer MOOC on baby boomer retirement

Updated: July 21, 2015 at 1:06 p.m.

As baby boomers get ready to retire, GW is gearing up to teach on the generation’s latest transition.

GW announced this month its fifth free online course, covering retirement for baby boomers, set to begin in September 2016. The details of the course, including its structure and its target audience, have not been announced because the course won’t go live for more than another year.

The baby boomer generation, made up of those born between 1946 and 1964 after the end of World War II, is now reaching retirement age which could have dramatic economic and social consequences as the largest generation eases out of the work force.

Frank Sesno, the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, is featured in a video on the website introducing the MOOC. He said in the video the online course will discuss how the retirement structure is changing and how members of the baby boomer generation are taking pro-active steps toward changing their lifestyle choices.

“The objective is to give solid, unbiased viewpoints and relevant information to help people understand and enrich their next stage in life,” Sesno said in the promotional video.

Sesno declined to comment further through a spokeswoman on the course’s structure and the importance of teaching a class about retirement.

Peter O’Shea, the associate vice provost of online learning at the State University of New York at Albany, said that baby boomers, who account for more than 75 million people in the U.S., will face a more complicated retirement process because of the number of people leaving their posts at the same time. O’Shea said a course specifically on retirement is unique.

“Considering the shifting demographics in the U.S. and globally, it does seem to me that a MOOC on retirement decisions for baby boomers could be of great interest to many,” said O’Shea.

The Graduate School of Political Management launched a MOOC last April that teaches students about how companies can anticipate other businesses’ actions. The course was an attempt to increase enrollment at GSPM, where enrollment for the most popular degree decreased by 30 percent from 2010 to 2013.

Paul Schiff-Berman, vice provost for online education and academic innovation, said in a statement that more details on the baby boomer course will be released as the project progresses.

“GW has chosen to launch a small number of MOOCs in areas of distinctive strength for the University or where we can make a unique contribution,” he said.

Schiff-Berman also noted the increasing number of online programs across the University, including MOOCs. More than 70 online programs are now offered by GW.

James McCrary, a retirement plan consultant at Sage View, an investment firm, said in an email that most students currently enrolled in college have parents from either the baby boomer generation or Generation X, which generally refers to people born in the years from the early 1960s until the late 1980s. By learning about the most recent changes to retirement, such as the introduction of 401(k) plans, baby boomers are able to personally set aside money for their retirement instead of relying on their employer.

“Bottom line is there has to be accountability at the employer level to want retirement plan health and for employees to be willing to learn on company and personal time,” he said.

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