Continuing education is one of the fastest-growing areas in higher education, and this growth is only set to accelerate. To take advantage of this booming market, universities and colleges must adapt quickly to fulfill these adult learners’ needs.
Let’s look at the best continuing education courses you can offer to help attract students and provide them with the skills they need to thrive in the modern job market.
What is continuing education?
Continuing education courses are aimed at students returning to education after a gap. They might have been working, traveling, or raising a family. These students often return to education with a plan for their personal or professional development.
Some continuing education students seek a degree at the end of their studies, but many look for a more tailored solution for their needs.
Many returning students choose continuing education courses specifically to improve their careers. This might mean gaining the qualifications required for license renewal or earning certificates or badges to demonstrate proficiency in an important skill.
These aren’t the traditional students universities and colleges typically focus on, but you shouldn’t ignore their needs and interests. Overlooking continuing education students would be a mistake.
Continuing education students make up a huge proportion of higher education funding. Currently, they provide 42% of all revenue across the sector, which looks set to keep rising. The total continuing education market within the US is estimated to reach $93.25 billion by 2028.
Plus, as the economy changes, workers are increasingly eager to reskill or upskill. A recent study found that over 74% of workers are willing to learn new skills to remain employable, so universities and colleges need to be ready to meet this need.
Types of continuing education courses you can offer
To best adapt to returning students’ needs, higher education institutions need to offer the right types of continuing education courses. Some students will want to follow the traditional degree route, while others need a slightly different approach.
Flexibility is key here – there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for such a diverse group. Here are just a few of the course types you should consider providing.
Post-secondary degree programs
A degree course might not be for everyone, but it is still one of the most widely recognized and popular forms of continuing education. Students may want the depth of education and status that comes with earning an associate, bachelor’s, or postgraduate degree.
You’ll find many professionals coming back to school for advanced degrees. For example, a therapist might seek a Ph.D., or an engineering apprentice might need a bachelor’s degree to qualify for the jobs they’re seeking.
When building degree programs targeted at continuing education students, remember you might need to adjust your programs aimed at recent high school graduates. For example, you might need to offer part-time options or schedule classes outside of core office hours.
Certificates offer an alternative continuing education path for students who don’t need a full degree. A certificate is a much shorter course or set of courses tightly focused on a specific skill.
Certificates are extremely popular, especially with professionals looking to fill a gap in their skillset or to provide evidence for a skill they already possess. Historically, approximately 41% of all awards from community colleges have been certificates.
A certificate typically requires between 12 and 18 credits, which can make creating new certificate courses surprisingly simple. You might even be able to select from your existing courses and repackage them to provide a tightly focused learning experience.
Micro-credentials and digital badges
Micro-credentials and digital badges are an exciting emerging trend in continuing education. They offer a cost-effective option for students looking to prove their skills and proficiencies.
Micro-credentials are made up of a series of courses that allow students to earn a digital badge, proving that they’re proficient in the skill. Most of these courses are relatively short and are usually entirely online.
Micro-credentials are available in a huge range of subjects, like digital photography, mental health, computer programming, and project management.
Smaller companies focused entirely on providing these courses are emerging online, but higher education institutions have the advantage. After all, digital badges awarded by a university or college will carry more weight than credentials from newcomers to the sector.
Courses focused on license renewals are another key option for your continuing education program. Many sectors consider continued education to be an essential part of the job. Nurses and teachers, for example, need to be guided by current best practices for the safety of their patients and students.
Students seeking to renew their licenses aren’t looking for a comprehensive education. They’re busy professionals who want to stay up-to-date with needs and expectations within their industry and fulfill their license requirements. They need a course that does this efficiently and easily.
Providing courses geared towards license renewals allows you to recognize and respect students’ experience while highlighting the value you can bring. Reach out to your target students and ask what they want most from a license renewal course — then design your courses around meeting those needs.
Not all continuing education students are looking exclusively for professional advantages. Language courses will often attract a mixture of students, including those attending for social opportunities or out of personal interest.
Continuing education language courses are a great way to boost enrollment. Students who do well on a beginner course will likely take further classes, helping you retain students for longer. Some students will develop lifelong learning habits and may come back to learn multiple languages over the years.
Create diverse continuing education courses with Moodle
Continuing education students need flexibility, and building a great program requires creative thinking. Take these ideas on board, and universities and colleges can design programs to meet non-traditional students’ unique needs.
Moodle for Higher Education is a flexible and customizable learning platform that can easily support continuing education programs. Moodle makes it simple to build online courses, certificates, and other programs tailored to your students’ goals. Moodle for Higher Education also makes it easy to create micro-credentials, letting you participate in the latest learning trends.