Broadening Your Skills With Continuing Education
Industry Insight Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly from York University shares how continuing studies can help further your education while allowing you to balance your career and the rest of your life.
What advice would you give a potential student considering an online education program?
Spend some time evaluating your career goals, learning style and potential barriers such as time, financial and other potential constraints before you begin looking for programs. Look for an online education provider that meets your unique needs.
Ask about how the program incorporates best practices in adult learning in the online format. Ask if the courses require you to be online for live lectures at a certain time or if you can study at your convenience. Ask about the suggested weekly time commitment. Consider how long it takes the average student to complete the entire program. Many programs will advertise the minimum time that it takes to complete, but the reality is that many students who balance careers have difficulty managing more than a course or two at a time.
Ask the education provider what makes the program that you’re considering better for you than competing programs and evaluate the answer given against the priorities you’ve outlined to the advisor. This will give you a good sense of whether the advisor understands and is considering your suitability to the program.
Online learning is not for everyone, but it is an excellent option for some. It’s important to assess your learning style, time management and goals.
Contact the programs that you’re considering. Many students find that a conversation with one of our advisors or program managers can be very helpful in helping to understand the requirements and benefits of a particular program over another. The responsiveness of an education provider during your decision making stage can be a good indication of the level of service that you might expect as a student.
What would you say is the greatest advantage of distance learning programs?
Flexibility. Many of the students that we serve are balancing career, personal and community commitments in addition to their studies. Online programs can eliminate the need to commit to being available at a consistent time and place each week.
"Many of the students that we serve are balancing career, personal, and community commitments in addition to their studies. Online programs can eliminate the need to commit to being available at a consistent time and place each week."
How have innovations in technology improved the online learning experience?
Online learning has improved in recently years, partially due to technology and partially due to our better understanding of how people learning best online. Online courses of the past may have not been much more than reviewing slide decks and taking quizzes. We have evolved immensely to the point that online courses can lead to better learning than being in a classes. Online courses should be highly interactive and include videos, simulations, discussions, group work and even role plays.
In today’s challenging job market, why should someone consider continuing their education?
In today’s job market, learning never stops. Formal learning is an expected part of career development.
During the 2008 recession, people who invested in themselves through education fared better than those who hadn’t. A new credential on your resume tells current and potential employers that you are committed to being a high-performer – whether that’s deepening your subject matter expertise or broadening your business skills.
For those who are looking to enter a new field, a continuing education program is a good way to learn more about the field as you gain the knowledge you need to be successful. Many of our students already have bachelor or masters degrees and use the certificate programs to add specialized knowledge in a specific area. Others are new Canadians looking to add a Canadian university credential.
What is your advice to someone who’s exploring the possibility of going back to school to continue their education?
Do your research. Identify what credentials, skills and experiences are required to qualify for the career that you want.
All programs aren’t created equal, even if they look similar. Think from the perspective of an employer. Will the credential be respected?
Employers want more than subject-matter expertise. They want employees with excellent communication, business skills and strategic thinking. Are these aspects included in the program? If not, how will you demonstrate that you have these skills?
Look for an education provider that meets your unique needs. Don't be afraid to ask for help. We're happy to answer any questions you might have and help you decide if a program is a good fit for you.
What are some of the biggest challenges in growing the continuing education sector?
Awareness is really the biggest challenge facing the sector. In North America, post-secondary continuing education providers offer everything from general interest workshops to professional education programs New graduates are often unaware that post-degree certificates are offered at the university level through some Canadian universities. Many other people are unaware that universities offer anything other than degrees or how these programs may be a better fit with their particular needs
Where do you think that the continuing and online education industry is headed in 2015?
I think we will see more continuing education and degree options moving into online and blended formats. The growth in online learning has been astronomical, especially for adult learners. And for those that want the classroom experience, they are no longer as enthused about spending an evening a week on-campus. This is why we are introducing blended programs where students can do some work online and come to class occasionally on a Saturday, for example.