From the Evollution – Continuing and adult education divisions have traditionally served the non-traditional audience that’s becoming the quiet majority at colleges and universities across the United States, and are well positioned to help their institutions adapt to the shifting demographics and market realities.

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Fred Holman | Vice Provost of Extended Studies, University of Nevada, Reno

Over the past 30 years, continuing and adult education programs have experienced significant disruptions and changes in the delivery of education and training for its students. Perhaps the most significant change has been the introduction of electronically supported learning modalities in the form of online learning in its various formats to higher education.

However, continuing and adult education units have been very successful in their ongoing effort to maintain strategic agility. Online modalities and strategic agility were innovations initiated out of necessity by adult and continuing education units in higher education rather than traditional academic units. Both will continue to have a profound impact in the delivery of education and training for current and future students enrolled in higher education.

Online Education

The continued growth of online education in all its forms has been ubiquitous. Whether or not online learning will be considered transformational in shaping higher education is still open to debate. However, it has influenced policies at the state and federal levels as well as the many national accrediting bodies’ standards and regulations concerning the use of online modalities.

Picciano, Seaman and Allen state that online education is, “a transformation based on access and convenience that has begun to occur in institutions and programs that have traditionally emphasized professional preparation (e.g., business administration, education, health services) and may see its way into other academic programs” (p.32).

The increasing threat from the disruptive technology of online education has also served to impact course formats and the ability of faculty to modify their pedagogy and teaching approaches within a compressed timeframe. Several states have opted to create virtual universities that forego having physical campuses while placing a significant dependence on online technology. Moreover, many colleges and universities have incorporated into their strategic plans, goals to provide academic and training programs in the form of online education to serve students who otherwise may not have the time to attend face-to-face offerings. A majority of American colleges and universities have now employed some form of course management system or learning management system to handle online courses and programs. Some studies show that twenty percent of college and university students enroll in at least one online course (Allen & Seaman, 2015).

While higher education is still largely disseminated in the traditional face-to-face format, current and future modes of online learning will have an impact on the training and education of students. The continuous improvement of online education delivery continues to have a growing acceptance among students in either credit or non-credit offerings.

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