Mapping The Historic Transformation of Professional and Continuing Education
Professional and Continuing Education (PCE) divisions have been serving non-traditional audiences for decades, but have often been left out of sight when it comes to strategic decision-making and direction-setting for the main campus.
But as the population of traditional learners shrinks, higher education institutions of all kinds are struggling to serve the new demographics of learners on their campuses (physically and remotely), while meeting the diverse demands of their audiences.
That’s where PCE divisions come in.
As natural innovation drivers, PCE divisions have the expertise and ability to reshape the traditional infrastructure of the main campus.
Eric Bullard, Dean of Continuing Education and Extension at UCLA, pointed out the key role PCE divisions play in transforming the higher ed space.
“PCE leaders are at the forefront of the transition to enhance access and remove barriers for all students,” he said on the Illumination by Modern Campus podcast. UCLA Extension itself is a powerhouse in Continuing Education, having built their non-credit experience around the modern learner.
With a defined mission to serve the local community, PCE is perfectly positioned to provide first-hand knowledge from industry and community when it comes to current needs in the market.
Main campus leadership could leverage these PCE perspectives throughout the institution’s strategic decision-making process. But often enough, they’re left unheard. Commonly considered a separate entity from the main campus, PCE leaders need to have a seat at the roundtable.
“We need to be tied into the mission of the institution,” Bullard said. “We can help them carry out their vision and do more collectively than we can separately.”
As Bullard points out, it’s time to stop thinking of ourselves as separate entities. Everyone at the institution shares the same goal: To serve the students. And today’s students aren’t the same as those the institution has traditionally served. Bullard argues that all students are non-traditional in some way.
PCE divisions were created and designed with the needs of non-traditional learners in mind, and they require flexible, agile systems that allow them to access their courses when they want.
“We have learning management and registration systems that are much more flexible than those at the main campus,” Bullard said. He pointed to UCLA’s use of Modern Campus’ Destiny One; the only student management system designed for non-credit units and the non-traditional learners they serve. Systems like these allow for greater access to more students, helping drive the institution’s enrollment and retention rates.
They also address the challenge of slow approval processes, as Bullard points out. Having multi-layered or tedious approval processes delays the ability to meet market demands in a timely fashion.
What’s important is that institutions are aligned with PCE rather than leaving them out in left field. Tell PCE’s story and illustrate their impact on the students.
“Find that space to show the value of PCE division and how it can contribute to the larger institution,” Bullard said. “That in and of itself will also help change perceptions.”
Last updated: July 9, 2021