What is Continuing Education?

by Manu Goel

Continuing education in general is quite similar to adult education since it is also intended for adult learners, especially those adults who are beyond traditional undergraduate college or university age. However, it is wrong to club continuing education with other educational programs such as vocational training. As its name suggests, it is a continuation of education. The student of continuing education already has an education prior to taking up continuing education.

Continuing education in the simplest term is a form of post-secondary learning activities and programs. Some of the programs under continuing education may include non-degree career training, degree credit courses by non-traditional students, formal personal enrichment courses, workforce training, experiential learning, and self-directed learning which is done through online interest clubs and groups or personal research activities.

Many universities and colleges in the U.S. cater to continuing education programs. Often there is either a division or a school of continuing education, which is also at times given names such as university extension or extension school. Continuing education involves both credit-granting courses as well as non-credit-granting courses. Such non-credit-granting courses are often taken for personal, non-vocational enrichment. There are many community colleges in the U.S. that cater to such programs.

It is not only students who need continuing education, but also professionals who need it to update their knowledge and skill set. In fact, it is a compulsory for people practicing certain professions. Licensing authorities in a number of fields make continuing education compulsory on members who hold licenses to practice within a particular profession. The licenses to practice their profession are issued for a fixed term and are to be renewed after the expiry of this term. If they fail to update themselves through continuing education, their licenses are not renewed. This is done to encourage professionals to expand their knowledge base and keep pace with new developments. This may be achieved through college or university coursework, extension courses or conferences and seminars attendance.

The method and format of delivering continuing education includes conventional classroom lectures as well as distance learning. Students who enroll for continuing education in a college or university often opt for classroom and laboratory classes. However, much weight is given to distance learning as maximum of those who opt for continuing education are working people who have little or no time to attend classroom lectures.

In such distance learning, education is imparted through CD-ROM material, videotapes, and broadcast programming. Education online is also one area that has seen fast development in recent years. Material for study is delivered over the Internet. In fact, online degrees are pursued by many students and professional who finds them very convenient. Students can earn some extra pocket money working part time and professional can pursue an online degree that will help them in career growth.

Other than CD-ROM material, videotapes, and broadcast programming, continuing education is also delivered through independent study and use of conference-type group study. Again, the Internet plays a big role here. These groups with similar interests meet together online and discuss and exchanges ideas and knowledge. These online communities are very effective in sharing knowledge and new findings.

Another way of facilitating continuing education is through seminars and workshops. A combination of traditional or conventional, distance, and conference-type study, or two of these three types, may be used for a particular continuing education course or program. 

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Manu Goel is senior editor at


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