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Managing an Institution | 6 minute read

Positioning Continuing Education to Grow the Institution

By Amrit Ahluwalia | Managing Editor, The EvoLLLution: A Destiny Solutions Illumination

Welcome to the first blog post in an ongoing series by The EvoLLLution’s Managing Editor, Amrit Ahluwalia. His articles will recap content recently published on The EvoLLLution, providing postsecondary leaders with some wider visibility on what's happening in the fast-changing world of higher education. 

The EvoLLLution recently published two fascinating interviews that tell an exciting story about the role non-traditional divisions and non-credit education plays in the future of higher education.

Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, set the scene with his piece How Continuing Education Divisions Can Help Their Institutions Thrive in the New Economy. He brings together a few key trends reshaping the postsecondary landscape, stemming from the shift in Canada and the United States toward knowledge-based economies (even in primary industries).

Then Geoff Wilmshurst, Vice President of Partnerships at Camosun College, helped bring those trends into sharp relief by sharing some insights into how his college is leveraging technology to meet the demands of these market shifts in From a Horse and Buggy to a High-Speed Train: Leveraging Technology to Increase Profitability and Enhance Services.

Two Key Trends Shaping Higher Ed in North America (and a related conclusion!)

  • 1. The majority of jobs—and almost all jobs that lead to careers—require some postsecondary learning.
  • 2. Educational outcomes are critically important—more important than how much time a student sat in a seat or how many credits a student has amassed.

This leads to an interesting conclusion for higher education, which has long based its value on its capacity to confer degrees. The truth is, in 2018 and beyond, degrees have limited value.

What’s critically important now, and will continue to be going forward, is lifelong learning and continuous education. This tracks with Moore’s Law, which states that computer processing power doubles every 18 months. This means no matter what job or industry an individual is in, approximately every 18 months their job demands will evolve as computers will be better-able to take over manual/automatable aspects of their work.

The Role of Non-Credit Education in Driving the Shift Toward a Knowledge-Based Economy

Continuous learning is central to keeping up with those changes and avoiding becoming a “dinosaur” in the labor market. This is where microcredentials and other short-term, non-credit programs will start to play a critical role.

“As we move towards just-in-time learning, the certification of people achieving those ends will come not in the form of degrees, but as microcredentials, badges and other types of credentialing,” Levine said. “Are degrees endangered? I don’t think they’ll disappear immediately, but I do think they’ll be less prominent. Microcredentials will become the more important designation.”

This spells major changes. I know that as a CE leader, you may be looking at that statement and licking your chops… but there’s potentially a thorn on the rose. As Levine points out, private providers, bootcamps and companies bring a lot to the table that’s enticing for learners looking for specific outcomes:

“New kinds of providers will see an opportunity to provide these new kinds of credentials, which will inevitably expand the space that we currently call postsecondary education,” he continues. “One has to ask: ‘Would I rather have a programming certification from Microsoft or from a state regional university?’”

We’ve already seen this trend begin: Google launched its own certificate program on Coursera to help fill the IT industry’s skills gap in hiring IT support specialists.

In this new environment, where accreditation matters less than relevance, colleges and universities need to begin staking out their competitive claim.

A Case Study: How Camosun College is Leveraging Technology to Stay Competitive

So how can postsecondary institutions stay competitive in this environment?

Simply put: non-traditional divisions have to take the reins to drive their respective institutions into the 21st (and let’s be honest, for some schools, the 20th) Century. Of course, this means non-traditional divisions must modernize their own operations to be able to play this role.

For Camosun College, this meant investing in a back-end system that allows them to deliver the kind of experience their clients—whether they’re individual learners looking for a course or corporations looking for customized training interventions—expect.

In his piece, Wilmshurst (from Camosun) dives into how their new Customer Lifecycle Management system—Destiny One—is helping them achieve that goal.

Basically, according to Wilmshurst, a major roadblock to delivering a great experience to CE students in the past was the decentralized structure at Camosun. Each academic department ran its own non-credit offerings, which created an inconsistent experience for students and didn’t deliver the clean, seamless engagement with the college a modern customer expects

The Impact of Centralizing Administration of Non-Credit Programming

With Destiny One, Camosun is able to centralize the student lifecycle management of CE offerings under the Partnerships division, allowing academic units to do what they do best: develop programming and teach it. Meanwhile, the business operations—the market research, the registration processes, the program approvals—are handled centrally.

While this is a new switch for Camosun, Temple University underwent a similar shift a few years ago. Temple's Associate Vice Provost Nicole Westrick reflected on how they got divisions to agree to adopt this centralized/decentralized framework in an EvoLLLution article called Boosting Non-Credit Revenues by Consolidating Non-Credit Administration.

“When you focus on three things—program development, marketing and curriculum—you really can sell a central system because you’re taking important tasks that can be done by anyone off their hands, and leaving program-specific staff member to focus on unique differentiators and high-value work,” said Westrick.

So what about the impact? Well, for Temple University, the outcomes of the shift to the centralized management/decentralized programming approach has been significant:

“In our first full year with the system, which was last year, our revenue was $9.6 million. This year, we’re on target for over 30 percent growth and fully anticipate $12 million in revenue,” she said. “It makes sense because we’re helping people shift their focus from administrative work to the things that really matter: program development, marketing and curriculum.”

The outcomes speak for themselves, don’t they?

When a CE unit is given the room they need to do critical work—creating access to the knowledge being generated across the institution and building a true Spectrum of Access—they can play a central role in ensuring their college or university is structured to stay competitive into the future.

Further Reading on this Topic: 


Camosun College Improved the Experience It Delivers to Its Continuing Education Students and Corporate Training Clients

Click Here to Learn How They Did It