Everyone Wants to Grow CE. We Need to Resource It.
Continuing Education and Workforce Development units are in a transformational state. The 2022 State of Continuing Education report—developed by UPCEA, The EvoLLLution and Modern Campus—shows that “non-traditional” programming is fast becoming the new normal.
A few key findings:
56% of CE professionals say their unit’s role has expanded through the COVID-19 pandemic, but only 21% of professionals say they have the staffing required to execute their institution’s goals for the unit. What’s more, 53% of professionals cite administrative burdens as their greatest obstacle to growth, and 28% have called out a lack of support from academic leadership.
During our webinar, offered in partnership with Inside Higher Ed, we reviewed the findings of this year’s State of Continuing Education with leaders representing diverse institutions across North America.
The panellists were:
- Nancy Coleman, Dean of Continuing Education at Extension at Harvard University
- Sheila LeBlanc, Director of Continuing Education at the University of Calgary
- Sammi Morrill, Associate Vice Chancellor of Operations in Economic and Workforce Development with the Alamo Colleges District
Top 3 takeaways:
- 1. Current non-credit staffing and support don't enable scale.
- 2. Microcredentials are gaining serious traction, but confusion persists.
- 3. Data access is integral to earning buy-in from leadership.
1. Current Non-Credit Staffing and Support Don’t Enable Scale
Non-credit units don’t have the staff required to scale and say they’re being held back by administrative inefficiencies. Given the sizable request most have been handed down from senior leadership to put the gas on CE programming, this is proving a significant hurdle for these units.
When the over 300 webinar attendees were asked whether they felt CE was appropriately resourced to enable scale, a staggering 70% said no.
Sheila LeBlanc, from the University of Calgary, said getting support for non-credit growth is often the hardest part.
“One of the key things that has been important to me is the challenge getting the resources. Knowing what to outsource is great, but also starting to look at our own talent and development pipeline,” LeBlanc said, suggesting the capabilities of a non-credit team govern its ability to scale. “How do we look at what knowledge, skills and competencies we need in our team and invest on building this?”
Nancy Coleman from Harvard University added that garnering this investment is a matter of how non-credit units “make the case” for their needs.
“Figuring out how you are going to make the case for those resources and strategic directions is something really important,” Coleman said.
2. Microcredentials are Gaining Serious Traction, but Confusion Persists
Webinar attendees noticed a strong focus on alternative credentials as a means of maintaining market agility and improving learner access. 90% of CE professionals felt that new credentials position them to compete against emerging entities in the education market. Despite this, only about half of these professionals say their institutions have a solid plan to begin offering alternative credentials in the future.
LeBlanc posed an alternative to the common rhetoric of institutions being the roadblock to accepting new credentials.
“I would suggest it's not just the institutional willingness to adopt. It's actually government funders, employers. It’s about creating an understanding of what microcredentials are,” LeBlanc said. “I’ve shared in a variety of different environments—is it is founded or rooted in the lack of some sort of credentials or qualifications framework.”
LeBlanc added that among institutions, employers and government funders, there’s no “common language” around what certain alternative credentials measure.
Coleman agreed with the need for a comprehensive credentialing model and suggested using the “stackability” of microcredentials as a proof-point in those discussions.
“What I like about microcredentials is they really allow students to control their destiny in some ways,” Coleman said. “You can really customize your experience based on what makes you a unique candidate and your life goals moving forward.”
3. Data Access is Integral to Earning Buy-In from Leadership
The ability to easily reach and store comprehensive non-credit data is a sticking point for CE leaders. Only 35% of respondents said they have access to real-time enrollment data for non-credit programming, and it affects their ability to advocate for their position and needs at their institutions.
Sammi Morrill at the Alamo Colleges District said non-credit's performance (and thus need for resourcing) is only made evident to leaders through clear, comprehensive student and program data.
“If you don't know your data, you can't ask for resources,” Morrill said. “What is your value? What is the value you are bringing not only to your organization, but also to the community that you serve? If you are going to ask for funding or resources, it is imperative that you know what you are bringing to the table.”
Morrill said that convincing leadership of the need for support requires more holistic performance metrics than non-credit units are used to accessing.
“Knowing your data is much more than knowing your enrollments,” Morrill said. “What’s your retention, completion, enrollment data? And of those, who is succeeding and who isn't? Who’s coming to your door and who is not coming to your door?”
Non-Credit Resourcing Will Determine CE’s Future
Continuing Education professionals have weighed in, and the picture couldn’t be clearer: Whether CE can walk the path to prosperity will depend on the support and resources it receives.
Driving sustainable impact will require an all-hands-on-deck approach, with support and understanding from main campus leadership and faculty—and the operational efficiencies needed to drive meaningful growth.
Last updated: April 25, 2022