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The Four E’s of Continuing Education: The First E is for Education

The long-term success of a continuing education unit is dependent on its ability to provide relevant learning opportunities that are in-demand and responsive to workforce needs.

Continuing Education units can be structured around four inter-connected areas of focus, all starting with the letter E. The first, and arguably the most important, is Education. For the purposes of this framework, Education is defined as “offering the right educational offerings to the right audience.” Added to this common language definition are the areas of academic topics and format of course delivery.

An example of this focus on “Education” would be one of the markets our non-credit continuing education serves: a small community of federal government civil servants focused on engineering and cyber activities. This workforce segment is typically looking for professional development courses related to their career path, so the University of Arizona South offers a selection of cyber/IT courses related to industry certification courses. Yet we found through our informal discussions with students and training managers a need for other skill sets, not related to their IT-centric career choices. As a result of these conversations, we began offering classes on project management, technical writing, leadership, customer service, and soft-skill classes. These courses, seemingly unrelated to IT, were the result of a logical expansion in educational offerings with the right audience at the right time.

The format for class delivery—whether it is the traditional in-classroom face-to-face experience, online, or a mix of the two (hybrid)—falls under the Education umbrella in this model. The federal workforce has access to a variety of online training options, including topics the same or close to what we offer through our continuing education program. Yet the workforce was finding that classes in customer service, technical writing, and leadership, for example, were difficult to master online. They requested for the same topics to be offered in a face-to-face format. Not all student learning styles or course topics lend themselves to effective online delivery, so as continuing education leaders, we should be prepared to adapt to differing student requirements for learning.

“Chasing the almighty dollar” is a common phrase in the business world, and it rings true in the self-supporting continuing education arena, where securing the funds for payroll next week can be a concern. Securing workforce investment grants, through our community partners, has been an excellent way for us to expand our offerings into new course topics. We often find that although the grants kick start our program development process, the community need for the topic is strong, and as a result the new programs continue long after the grant funds have ended. Researching what topics grants will fund is an easy way to get an idea of which new educational areas your institutions should expand into.

The long-term success of a continuing education program requires a healthy balance of focus in a variety of areas. Education—the programs and courses offered—is the cornerstone of a solid program.

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Join us every Wednesday and Friday in December as DeLalla discusses each of these elements in more detail. Next Wednesday, DeLalla will explain the second E, Experience.

The Four E’s of CE:

  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.