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Five Ways Continuing Education Supports Strong Graduate Programming

Five Ways Continuing Education Supports Strong Graduate Programming
Beyond expanding accessibility, continuing education units can support significant growth and expansion for a university’s graduate program offerings.
Professional master’s degrees are important to many working adults as an opportunity to enhance their career, move to another one, earn more money, show their interest in learning new skills and/or demonstrate commitment to the career field. Such degree programs are presented through many university continuing education (CE) units that seek to meet the educational needs of this adult demographic.

CE units’ strong value proposition to such master’s degrees is their skill, ability and experience to effectively facilitate many important aspects to develop and present these degree programs:

1. Market Knowledge and Analysis

They have the pulse of “what’s hot” in graduate education for adults through their network of colleagues across the country, from which they learn what other universities and employers see as next steps for new programming.

Additionally, the CE unit is well positioned to conduct research and benchmarking studies to learn more about the success potential of a new master’s degree or determine the value of altering an existing program. These efforts could help the institution to better understand the demand for such a program, for example:

  • Are there potential students for this program?
  • Where are these potential students located?
  • What are the per-credit-hour price points?
  • Would prospective students prefer online, blended or face-to-face delivery of the program?
  • Is a full-time or part-time schedule better able to meet student needs?
  • How long do students expect the program to take?

Armed with this information, the academic department would be able to assess all of the variables and determine whether to move forward with the new degree plan.

2. Fostering Collaboration

By creating a collaborative environment, the CE unit can develop opportunities among and/or between schools/colleges within the university to enhance an existing degree by making it attractive to more potential students.

For example, an existing MBA degree program that caters to adults with the usual areas of concentration (management, finance, IT) could be enhanced to create new areas of concentration outside of the usual business field. Four of the “regular” business courses could be replaced with four engineering, nursing or public health graduate-level courses that would then focus the MBA on a new demographic of potential students. This could increase course enrollments for engineering, nursing and public health while also enhancing the existing offerings in the business school.

3. Accessibility Expertise

Many CE units have developed the skill set and experience to provide online course expertise, course development and learning management system training to the academic department and the potential faculty members. This would enable the department to better understand if the online delivery mode would best fit the program and, in turn, how to effectively leverage online for more success. The CE unit’s overall online expertise could help jump-start the whole process by drawing on their experience, lessons learned and best practices.

4. Program Launch Support

The CE unit typically has strong skills and experience to address the degree program development process ranging from planning to project management, budgeting, marketing, pricing and evaluation. In addition, they can correctly position the degree program within the university to best meet the needs of students.

5. Philosophical Guidance

Finally, another important function the CE unit can perform is to lead the discussion regarding the value of graduate degree programs for the campus, especially professional ones that attract adults for a variety of reasons. This effort can support the campus mission to have more open access for students, meet economic development expectations, participate in state-wide career development efforts and enhance the campus brand for all students.