Published on 2012/12/21

The Four E's of Continuing Education: Running a Continuing Education Program

The Four E’s of Continuing Education provide a model around which to develop and run a successful continuing education unit, but there are two “little e’s” which continuing education administrators must also pay close attention to.

Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at the framework used to structure and run a continuing education program, focused around the Four E’s of Continuing Education:

  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.

There are two additional E’s that don’t qualify for the Big Four, but are nonetheless important: ethics and efficiency

When it comes to a large public research university, anything that even smells improper or unethical often makes it way to the news media quickly, and with great local fanfare. Penn State and its football team is a recent example, and there are many more at other schools. Having continuing education in the news for the wrong reasons isn’t positive for you, your department, your university, or our profession as a whole. As I tell my students and colleagues, if you don’t want it on the front page of the paper, don’t do it or write it.

Due to the locally competitive nature of our continuing education unit, we’ve been subject to visits from our Board of Regents, the Department of Labor, our local congressional office staff, large software companies, and our university internal audit more frequently than the occurrence of the Olympics. Each time, the visits, based on the accusations of private companies in competition with us, have found us to be without fault, but it’s a constant reminder that any misstep, no matter how small, could spell the end of your department or career.

Efficiency within the department is key for fiscal and operational reasons; staff cost money, and more than just their salary! At UA South, we’ve made a focused effort to use contractors for projects, and use multipurpose staff for a variety of roles. Instructors can make copies and start the coffee pot in the morning. Directors can pick up catering, and front office staff can proctor exams while tending the phones and email. The web design instructor can do your department website, your director can order textbooks, and computer instructors can setup and manage the classroom computer networks.

Staff and instructors appreciate a few extra dollars, and the salary/benefits savings can add up quickly.

The two “small e’s” of ethics and efficiency wrap up this series. The four E’s of continuing education have been an excellent way to structure our department at the University of Arizona South, and with some tweaking to meet your specific needs, it’s a portable idea to help run your program too.

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Readers Comments

Yvonne Laperriere 2012/12/21 at 12:21 pm

I think you have to be very careful that “efficient” and “multitasking” staff don’t become simply “overworked.” There is a fine line between having flexible job duties, working as a team to pick up slack and get the job done, and just having too many duties pulling your attention in too many different directions. Word to the wise: before you go ahead and make your organization more “efficient,” take a good hard look at your staff, what they do, and where there is truly room for reshuffling or redistribution of duties. A big part of that is consulting with this staff, and another big part of it is creating an office culture of teamwork and helping eachother out, so it doesn’t feel like a burden, but makes your job more exciting.

Belinda Chang 2012/12/21 at 2:14 pm

I would hesitate to tell students and educators “If you don’t want it on the front page of the paper, don’t do it.” Perhaps this is the case if the act or work in question is something inherently bad or sinister, but I think that many good and exciting innovations, inside academia and out, come from taking risks, provoking controversy and debate, and pushing the envelope–things that might land you on the front page of the paper!

Of course ethics are important, but as an institution of higher education, it is important to arrange your priorities so students and instructors still feel they have room to push the envelope a little, try new things, and be innovative. I don’t think ethics and innovation are mutually exclusive, and I think institutions should be careful to communicate this to their students in an accurate way.

WA Anderson 2012/12/22 at 3:01 pm

I’ve been following the series, and it really has given a nice concise and specific set of practices–not just theories, but things that John himself has put into action at his school. It is definitely helpful to fellow administrators and practitioners.

Thanks for the insight, and specifically, for the concrete examples!

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