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Unlocking Maximum Impact in Course Management

Continuing education units can be extremely beneficial for learners, the broader university and industry. But taking advantage of its full potential requires proper course management.

Higher education institutions serve a variety of learners, which requires offering a variety of courses. But to efficiently serve learners and keep staff from being bogged down it’s important to have course management under control. In this interview, Enrique Infanzon discusses the efficiencies required to scale course management, the challenges that come with it and how efficient course management can meet a continuing education unit’s business goals.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): Why is it important for continuing education to focus on the efficiency and scalability of course management?

Enrique Infanzon (EI): Continuing education serves a diversity range of learners. You have working professionals, adult learners and other individuals seeking training, so it’s important to focus on efficiency and scalability. We can reach a larger audience and have a larger impact on both sides of the equation. On one hand, we have the community trying to upskill or reskill. On the other, it’s the partners in industry that are desperately looking for talent. CE can produce niche programs as needed, and that’s an area where it helps to reach a wider group of people.

It’s important for us to be efficient, especially with resources. Most CE units have limitedresources, particularly financial and human resources. It’s critical to be efficient with your dollars to become self-sufficient and scale without compromising the quality of the programs. You cannot cut corners with your product. So, streamlining administrative tasks would allow administrators to focus on the more important tasks related to quality—curriculum development, class monitoring, program development, etc.—to stay ahead of the curve.

Data and data management are other critical components. Our SIS has allowed us to have control over the data, both on the student enrollment and revenue sides. This good data has been instrumental in our decision-making.

Evo: What are some challenges to achieving efficient and scalable course and certificate management?

EI: There are many, but I’ll focus on a few. First, technology integration is a common challenge because you have to be able to integrate the SIS and LMS to have good data but also include AI. That AI component can help you be even more efficient with certain tasks, so staff can focus on the human part of their jobs. It’s also important to innovate with technology as it becomes available. Many units’ resources are constrained when it comes to funding, staffing and infrastructure. Most times it comes down to the institution’s priorities. Thankfully, we don’t have this issue as we have outstanding support from our president and provost, which has helped us make a lot of changes.

But for many, it comes down to resources. And it’s not all about money. It’s also about technological resources and having the right infrastructure and support system. Curriculum development is a big challenge for CE units because, ideally, you’re creating curricula that is in synergy with what’s happening on the degree-seeking side. Students need that seamless transition from CE into degrees and certificates.

Two relatively new things are quality assurance and extending support services to nontraditional students. There’s always been a misconception that CE units don’t hold the same rigor as college credit programs. That’s not true. Most of their curricula is being developed by industry experts in collaboration with college professors. So, the rigor is there, but keeping it up and ensuring the quality remains is critical. Then on the support service side, we must adapt to the nontraditional schedule to be available for these learners at various hours and days of the week.

Evo: What are some best practices to overcome these obstacles and achieve a PCO unit’s business goals?

EI: I would encourage anyone in the CE unit to first get an SIS that works for them or that functions for them. Oftentimes people use whatever SIS is available and try to make it work. In terms of flexibility, investing in technology is essential, especially when it comes to schedules, corporate trainings and partnerships. Beyond the SIS, there’s also an LMS and AI adoption.

We have a strategic plan that isn’t set within five years—the world changes one day at a time. We have a breathing type of plan that we all work toward. We highlight where CE can have an impact and insert ourselves where needed. It helps provide a goal, direction and purpose. Then there’s handling the data to ensure it’s precise and accurate to help with decision-making.

Collaborations both internally and externally are key. We must consider our value proposition and understand that no one can do anything on their own. For us, CE is the college’s sandbox of innovation. We can test programs fast and customize a curriculum like no other unit. The last point would be to constantly work on professional development for faculty, staff and administrators. The right tools and training can help them provide a better student experience.

Evo: How can the efficiency and scalability of course management play a larger role across various departments, especially when it comes to noncredit courses?

EI: Efficiency and scalability allow us to be more effective with resources—getting the highest ROI out of it. We then have to collaborate in a way where the departments understand how important each party is in achieving the goal. We can’t work in silos anymore. Luckily in our team, that has been the sentiment for a long time, and we have a great relationship with other units. Everyone steps into their role to get the college where it needs to be.

CE can really help with enrollment growth. Many learners feel that college might not be for them. CE gives them an easy way into a college experience or a credential that then could evolve into a college degree-seeking program. And it’s all done without wasting any time. They can acquire credits from a certificate or a program they want to pursue. They can continue their educational career. It’s a comfortable onboarding process.

Elements such as flexibility in delivery methods, cross-department collaboration and the right andragogy will be essential to responding quickly to market changes. Most CE units nationwide are extremely important for colleges when it comes to generating revenue. So, while we know we can generate revenue, we must articulate the value-add of having a CE unit beyond that. We can respond quickly to the market, turn an idea into a program and leverage it on the credit side of the house.

Evo: What’s the benefit of meeting the needs and expectations of both learners andemployers?

EI: For any training institution, you’re trying to connect talent to a job outcome or to someone that needs that talent. So, timeliness is one benefit, along with training relevance, being able to quickly deliver a training an industry partner needs and provide a talent pipeline. You must create specific training for customized occupation, and CE is able to do that. We can also help credential those trainings.