Online Learning

Continuing Education

Continuing Education Continues to Grow in Popularity all across the United States

Continuing education encompasses many different types of learning, but its primary focus is on adults that are past the age of traditional college or university undergraduate students. These people bring a lot of knowledge and life skills with them to the classroom.

Malcolm Knowles dedicated his professional career to the study of adult learning. He identified “Five Principles of Adult Learning” that almost all continuing education programs take into consideration when developing their classes and courses. Knowing how you learn can help you in the process of learning.

Adults need to know why the subject matter is important in order to learn effectively. This is the first of the five principles discovered by Knowles. He also discovered that adults need to have the freedom to learn in their own way. Different people absorb and process information in different ways. Some people learn visually, others learn through the auditory sense and some students must do the task that they are learning in order to understand and remember it. This is called kinesthetic learning.

Knowles also determined that adults need to experience the subject matter in order to learn well. Adults also need to learn when the time is right for them, and they learn best when the learning process is made positive and encouraging. It is a good idea to look for an educational program that will meet these needs for you, the adult learner.

Continuing education is sometimes done in pursuit of a degree or certificate. The difference between continuing education and the often used term adult education is that adult education includes basic skill sets such as literacy. Continuing education assumes that basic skills have already been mastered by the students, and it focuses on a higher level of learning.

Education that does not pursue a degree or certificate is focused on enrichment of the student or professional training. These classes may cover a specific topic of interest or a hobby. Many of these classes are held on the campus of a college, university or community school. Non-degree classes and courses are often called personal enrichment courses. These types of classes are sometimes offered at a community center or a local high school or elementary school.

Other forms of this type of education include distance learning classes offered on CD, DVD, or broadcast or over the Internet. Some online classes are interactive, offering the students many of the benefits of taking the class in a classroom setting without the travel time. Some non-classroom types of classes are a combination of these learning methods.

Online class enrollment is growing faster than overall higher education enrollments, according to the Sloan Consortium Survey. There were 5.6 million people enrolled in at least one online class in 2009, which was up 12%, or one million, from 2008.

Women and minority enrollments are growing at a faster pace than enrollments by men and non-minority students. The struggling economy has driven up enrollment in all types of higher education, but institutions of higher learning predict that future government cuts that reduce the amount of student aid available may hurt overall enrollment.

Professional education classes are sometimes called workforce training. Many conferences, seminars and workshops that employees attend are classified as continuing education. Women take advantage of these learning opportunities more than their male counterparts, according to the Sloan Consortium.

Many industries have licensing bodies that have educational requirements for licensed members of the profession. These educational requirements are used to set industry standards for expanding the knowledge of the profession and keeping licensed members up to date on current research, legislation, regulations and trends within the industry. This is often called continuing education credit (CEU).

Students continuing their education are almost always part-time students. About 57% of all college students work full-time jobs while they are getting their education, according to Sebago Associates. Colleges and universities sometimes call these supplemental educational programs an extension school or university extension because the program is an extension of their primary educational focus, which is young undergraduate students pursuing a degree for the purpose of beginning their first career.

The term continuing education is specific to North America. Europe has similar programs, but they are named differently. The first such class was offered in the United States in 1907. The first program for adult students continuing their education was begun in 1969. In 1976, the University of Florida started their Division of Continuing Education, the first time a university in the United States started a new division specifically for such students.

Most types of continuing educational classes and courses are relatively inexpensive. It is practical for almost any student to be able to afford to learn new skills or build on the skills that they already have. Well over half of all students qualify for some form of financial aid, and most of them qualify for student loans.

Related Information

Adult Education
Adult education can help you increase your skills and marketability.

Online Schooling
Online schooling can give you the additional skills you need to be competitive.


Online Learning