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E is for Excellence: Four E's for Organizational Modeling in Non-Credit Continuing Education Programs

[caption id="attachment_8172" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="As colleges and universities adapt to the realities of today’s students and higher education climate, John DeLalla has discovered that running a successful continuing education unit boils down to four key elements."] [/caption] Revitalizing or starting a brand new non-credit continuing education program within the framework of a large research-intensive university can be a challenge for academics and entrepreneurs alike; yet at the University of Arizona South, by formulating and following an organizational model for the creation of a continuing education program, both a revitalized and a new program were able to be a success in terms of profitable fiscal returns and student satisfaction. Over the next few weeks, The EvoLLLution will run a multi-part feature on the specifics of the model, allowing you to find—and steal—ideas to incorporate into your programs. The model is based around four key elements that build upon each other—all beginning with the letter E. 1. Education: Academic topics and format (distance, in-person, etc.) offered for students. 2. Experience: Teaching faculty, classroom environment, and campus life. 3. Enrollment: Marketing, sign-up process, and alumni relations. 4. Economics: Do the first three steps right, and the balance sheet should be in the black. Each element engages educators entirely enveloped in education to help your institution succeed in its programmatic offerings. With the four elements building upon each other, you will come to see that even if you offer a wonderful student experience, if the education offered is not satisfying market or student demands, enrollment will suffer. Likewise, even if you offer one series of courses that provides a strong economic return, if the student experience is below expectations, future enrollments will suffer. By focusing on the education first—meaning the course topics, method of delivery and faculty—the other three elements will fall into place in a way that is hopefully equally strong, and a more positive student encounter will be the result. Excellence in non-credit continuing education embodies not only the four elements mentioned above, but also two additional (and perhaps smaller) e's:
  • efficiency in operations
  • ethics in dealing with students, faculty, and the institution.
The two smaller e's are discussed in full in this article. As part of a public university, we at the University of Arizona South are under constant scrutiny from the taxpayers (from which our continuing education program receives no direct support) and private organizations engaged in similar activities. Maintaining a cost-effective, efficient operation is key to positive economic returns. Maintaining a high standard of ethical and documented practices helps ward off the inevitable attack from private enterprise. Plus, it's the right thing to do! Join us every Wednesday and Friday for the next three weeks as DeLalla discusses each of these elements in more detail. This Friday, DeLalla will delve into the first E, Education.

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