Despite recognized excellence, continuing education units have to advocate for equal resourcing compared to traditional departments.

Higher ed leaders believe continuing education units are undervalued

Despite recognized excellence, continuing education units have to advocate for equal resourcing

Key points:

In a landscape defined by innovation and academic excellence, Professional, Continuing, and Online education units (PCO) play a pivotal, yet under-appreciated, role in higher education. Despite their role in shaping the modern learner’s journey, a staggering 61 percent of higher education leaders feel their PCO units are not accorded the same recognition as other academic entities within their institutions.

This insight comes from the annual 2024 State of Continuing Education report, published by higher education learner-to-earner platform leader Modern Campus, in partnership with the Canadian Association for University Continuing Education (CAUCE), The EvoLLLution, and UPCEA, the online and professional education association. The study explores PCO unit program offerings, institutional support and capabilities, perceptions of the competitive landscape, and continuing education collaboration and integration within the larger institution.

“Online and professional continuing education continues to experience increasing support from institutional leadership. Unlike years past, support is now evolving into additional resources for these units, particularly in the form of staffing, as institutions employ a more concentrated effort to organize and manage continuing education,” said Bruce Etter, Senior Director of Research and Consulting at UPCEA. “However, these units are still far from reaching their true potential as challenges related to data accessibility, technology integration, and perceptions around academic quality persist. Institutions that can address these challenges and embrace continuing education as an academic equal will be best positioned to serve all students.”

Additional key findings

  • 54 percent of respondents agreed that their PCO unit is the most academically innovative unit at their institution.
  • 45 percent of respondents agreed that their PCO unit has an appropriate number of staff required to execute their institution’s goal.
  • 78 percent say that efficient course, section, and certificate creation/management is a major element to achieve the continuing education’s unit’s goals.
  • 48 percent of respondents are unaware of their enrollment data for continuing education.

“Continuing education has been an invaluable companion to the modern learner, adapting to their ever-changing needs. Now, higher education stands at a pivotal crossroads, presenting a distinct chance to rejuvenate our approach and ethos for their benefit,” said Shauna Cox, Content Strategist at Modern Campus and Editor-in-Chief of The EvoLLLution. “Through this survey, our aim is to illuminate the longstanding challenges and promising prospects that lie ahead, empowering CE professionals to advocate for increased resources in fostering lifelong learning.”

“North America’s continuing education landscape is undergoing transformative shifts,” said Dr. Rod Lastra, 2023-24 president of CAUCE and Researcher in the Division of Extended Education at the University of Manitoba. “These shifts, from demographic changes and economic models to the advent of generative AI, unforeseen political decisions, and global challenges, emphasize the need for us to scale our efforts and collaborate. Faced with increasing financial and resource pressures, our commitment to lifelong learning drives us to overcome these obstacles with foresight and determination. International efforts, such as those led by UNESCO, remind us of the significance of lifelong learning in enhancing individual outcomes. By championing innovation and inclusivity, we aim to bolster the role of lifelong education, acknowledging its critical and lasting impact on our institutions, learners, and society at large.”

This press release originally appeared online.

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Laura Ascione