The rise of distance learning has made continuing education programs even more popular than the were before. Continuing education courses are designed for those who either have no interest in pursuing a college degree, or those who have already earned a college degree, but would like to learn more about a given topic. These courses have slightly different concerns, financial implications, and overall structure than those taken by degree-seeking students, and they’re perfect for adult students who have busier schedules and a different set of commitments than their younger counterparts.
A Great Way to Branch Out with New Skills
Typically, continuing education courses are designed to meet two distinct needs that often affect today’s adult learners:
– New skills that enable a career change or a position shift
– Updates on new technology, best practices, ethics, and related concerns
The first approach to online learning is one that simply asks adult learners to consider getting more information about a traditional topic. Students might take a multi-week course in economics, political science, history, or even linguistics. The second need, which involves the teaching of new best practices, technologies, or ethical codes, is one that many continuing education students pursue in an effort to satisfy their employer’s requirements. Others take these courses so that they can remain competitive with younger, more tech-savvy workers who are increasingly common in today’s offices.
The nature of these courses might help to explain why they’re particularly popular among Baby Boomers, according to an article in US News and World Report. After a rewarding career in a given field, many people are either looking for an all-out career change or a refresher on key skills and new technologies that are transforming their field.
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Affording Continuing Education Courses Presents Unique Challenges
One of the primary differences between continuing education courses as collegiate coursework is that those enrolled in continuing education typically are not eligible for financial aid. That’s because virtually state and federal aid programs are designed for credit-granting coursework at degree-granting institutions. For this reason, those who are interested in continuing education courses will be required to afford the full cost of the experience on their own.
The good financial news for those considering enrolling in one of these courses is that some employers will actually offer to fully or partially reimburse their employees for the expense. Typically, reimbursement is offered when the course relates to the employee’s job, furthers their ability to advance with the organization, or helps them better understand new technologies and best practices. Some reimbursement plans do come with fine print, including a clause that often requires employees to stay with their employer for a certain period of time after the course has concluded, so be sure to check into these restrictions in advance.
A Growing Industry that Encourages Lifelong Learning
It’s often said that people never stop learning, they simply stop doing so in a classroom environment. The goal of continuing education courses is to bring adult learners back into the classroom and give them the schools they need to advance, adjust, or make a bold career move. From Generation X-ers to Baby Boomers looking for greater personal enrichment, contenting education courses often give students a fresh start, a new look at old material, or a small adjustment to ongoing changes in the workplace.