Increase Revenue with Modern Continuing Education Software
How using modern eCommerce principles drives revenue in Continuing Education
I have been fortunate to work with very talented individuals within my thirteen-year span as vice president of workforce and community education divisions at community and technical colleges in West Virginia. One such individual will often preface advice he gives to me by saying, “It’s non-credit and you can do whatever you want.” This hands-off approach was pervasive at the two academic institutions I spent my professional career serving. I have, in fact, come to understand that few people within higher education understand non-credit division offerings and the challenges with delivering non-traditional learning on a college campus. I believe obstacles to non-credit within the constraints and processes of higher education institutions are caused by confusion surrounding commonly accepted and understood nomenclature of non-credit offerings, a lack of well-designed curriculum learners require for efficient articulation to academic credit and the rigidity of the student information, financial aid management, and learning management systems (SIS, FAMS and LMS respectively).
Confusion related to often-used terminology exists across the campus and community alike. College employees struggle with the nuances of community education verses Continuing Education and the connotation between workforce education and professional development. If educational practitioners grapple with these meanings, consumers of lifelong learning will struggle to navigate an institution’s webpage or communicate with admission/registration personnel to locate information on non-credit programs of interest to them. Directors of non-traditional divisions express a constant need for colleagues to “understand what we offer.” To that end, I propose the following taxonomy of terms.
An informal program of short-term instruction in which lifelong learners can enhance their skills and pursue common interests. These types of non-credit courses, workshops, etc. are not assessed in a conventional manner, but they can develop the community by offering a fun learning experience in which to engage with other community members.
An informal program of short-term instruction in which adults (typically prior college graduates, but there are some exceptions) already in the workforce can enhance their skills and certify their abilities. These types of non-credit courses, workshops, etc. may or may not be assessed in a conventional manner. Certain numbers of Continuing Education Units (CEUs), which are based on contact hours, are often approved by and prescribed per a defined period by professional organizations and societies, so members can keep abreast of current best practices. Continuing Education usually does not articulate into academic credit.
A more formal program of short-term instruction in which adults (typically not college graduates) quickly acquire the vocational skills required to enter the workforce. These types of non-credit courses, workshops, etc. are assessed in a conventional manner, and successful completion of the same usually results in credentials (certifications, licenses, etc.) that can articulate to academic credit if desired.
A more formal program of short-term instruction in which adults (typically prior college graduates, but there are some exceptions) acquire professional knowledge and enhance their skills to advance beyond their current occupation. These types of non-credit courses, workshops, etc. are assessed in a conventional manner, and successful completion of the same usually results in credentials (certifications, licenses, etc.) that can articulate to academic credit if desired.
A more formal program of short-term instruction in which a business provides for its employees non-credit or credit-bearing programs that either already exist in a college’s inventory of programs or is custom-designed based on the employer-identified content. These types of programs may or may not be assessed in a conventional manner, and successful completion of the same usually results in a certificate of completion. If assessments are in-place, these types of courses, workshops, etc. can articulate to academic credit if desired.
A lack of academic rigor is a criticism often made against any of the non-credit offerings listed above. Learning has value, regardless of its purpose. Further, all learning experiences should be documented on an institutional transcript. Two process steps are needed to accomplish this goal. First, the course must be designed to prove academic rigor, so it can articulate into academic credit. As with all educational programs of study, non-credit course work must begin with specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) learning objectives with an assessment plan in place, which provides behaviour-based evidence that learning has occurred. Also included in the design should be an explanation of how clock-hours were determined.
Finally, non-credit courses should have syllabi where learning objectives, assessment of learning and clock-hours are explained. The syllabi will orientate students to the course and will be required if the student articulates the program into academic credit.
Non-credit courses are worthy of academic credit and are reviewed and approved by the college’s Academic Standards Committee and subsequently added to the institution’s inventory of courses. Having that work completed before students request articulation for academic credit simplifies the second process step, which details how to enroll non-credit learners into the SIS, FAMS and LMS at our institution.
Ironically, the largest barrier to admitting and enrolling non-credit students into the college’s SIS is the student’s hesitancy to share private information (i.e., social security number, physical address, email address, phone number, etc.) with the college. Staff need that information to generate a unique identification number (ID) and a college email address, but some non-credit students refuse to disclose it. Educational records cannot be maintained without this information, but some students do not care about records retention, so college staff will assign them a special student ID with the limited information they are given. The SIS officer and our reporting agency do not like when we do that, but there is no other alternative. To create a non-credit registration number (CRN), a special code is used for the term assignment.
At our college, we use the code that represents the academic year with four digits, designate the term as non-credit term with one digit and the semester with two digits. Other challenges with our SIS include assigning a non-tuition-based registration fee to each program, which is a manual process each semester. The FAMS is a hybrid of the process used by academic students and requires cross-college collaboration for students to receive need-based aid. Finally, when the course is designed to be offered remotely, getting both the course and the students into our LMS is another manual process. We only “push” students into the LMS once they have paid the registration fee.
The confusion surrounding commonly accepted and understood nomenclature of non-credit offerings, a lack of well-designed curriculum and the rigidity of SIS, FAMS and LMS may seem like operating a non-credit division is like pushing a square peg into a round hole, but the extra effort is worthwhile. Non-credit students deserve a quality learning experience, where records are maintained and produced every time their transcript is presented. Yes, I know SIS specializing in non-credit student management are available. They are, however, obscenely expensive and do not result with all student’s courses appearing on the same institutional transcript. I believe this is important to the non-credit student.
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How using modern eCommerce principles drives revenue in Continuing Education
Author Perspective: Administrator