7 steps in selecting continuing education

Adults strive their education to be relevant to their needs. What they are learning must be further used at their work, increase their values or increase other responsibilities.

When they see the relevancy in the learning, adults want to create goals for their education. The desire to see the path that leads from the beginning to the end of a course, or even a whole curriculum is essential.

Each step of this path has to make its value evident: why is it important, how it will help them personally, or work, and further on – how it will help improve their life.

Finally, adults have life experiences and have gained knowledge from a variety of sources outside the formal educational environment. So, they want to understand how they can connect this prior gathered knowledge, what they already know, with what they will be learning.

These are the steps to take, in order to select the best value in an adult education online class, depending on the specific needs:

1. Determine the location of the class. This includes considering the time class begins and the time it ends. If you do not have a computer and Internet at home you need to check whether the online classroom will be at convenient distance. Typically, continuing education classes are held in the evening, due to adults working during the day, therefore the time of the classes needs to be considered, as well

Replies to these questions will help you deciding: How will I get to class (driving, public transport)? Will I leave for the class directly after work, or do I need to make a stop at home? How close is the location of the class from my home and my job? Will I need to have extra time before or after class because of traffic? Is there a parking place near the class (college campuses usually have limited parking outside their staff) or will I need to walk ?

2. Is the class and the institution offering the class allowing flexibility that you need? Often these requests are handled by the individual instructor, but if a diploma or certification is offered at the completion of the class taken online, the institutions offering the class may have certain guidelines you need to follow .

Replies to these questions will help: How many days am I allowed to skip a class? Does the instructor offer extra help for the class to those who might missed it? Am I allowed to leave class earlier or arrive later?

3. What are the prerequisites for the class? This means understanding what you need to know before enrolling. If you do not have basic knowledge for the subject matter being taught, a great class can end up being a frustrating experience. The prerequisites are normally given along with the class description and will indicate other classes that should be taken first, or skills you should already have before enrolling.

4. Which materials do I need and how much do they costs? Most classes require a textbook which are usually affordable for many students. Depending on the subject matter, your books can cost up to $100 each. This goes for subjects like technology, accounting and nursing. In addition to this you may also need other materials, apart from the books: access to a computer, calculators or other equipment (depending on the subject), paper or portfolios. Check their prices in advance, so that you have your budget ready.

5. Is your instructor available to respond to questions and meet with you? Obtain the instructor’s office hours, phone number and e-mail address. Most of the instructor will give you this information in the first class, but you should be able to easily find this information yourself, if you are considering enrolling in a class. Test the responsiveness of your instructor by contacting him prior to the first day of the class.

6. Review carefully the course description and outline. This is the most important step, since you want to make sure that the class you are investing your time and money in, is what you really need or want. The course outline is the map of the class, describing the objectives of the class (what you will know once the course is over) and the topics you will cover (how you will reach the objectives).

The reasons why you may attend an adult education course are various: is it required by your job, is it an initiative you are taking to further your career, is it because you want to increase your general knowledge of a topic, is it because you want to network with your peers, or to even just get away for a few hours a week.
Whatever your reason, make sure you are getting what you need from the course 100%.

If after reviewing the course outline, you find out that only one topic is relevant to your needs, then this is probably not the class for you. Search for another course that focuses specifically on that topic you are interested in.

In some cases, this course may be required for the particular curriculum you have chosen, and if you feel you have the experience with the topics of the required class, you can discuss it with your instructor about “testing out” of the course.

7. What you get for completing the adult education course or curriculum? You want to see the value of having taken the class or classes, therefore at the end of a class, you may receive a certificate of completion, diploma or even a professional certification. If you are attending a college or university, you will obtain a degree, graduate certificate or continuing education credits.

Understand what these completion “rewards” mean to you, your career and your life. They could mean a new designation you can place on your resume, a diploma to display proudly on your wall, or just a skill that you have learned and that will enable earning more money and changing your career.

Depending on the outcome you want to reach, it should be something to make you happy and appreciate the hard work you have put into the class.

Being an adult learner can be exciting considering you have obligations at work and with your family. It can also have serious negative effects on a person: self-esteem can be lowered if performance in the class is not as expected, frustration can occur if there is lack of convenience, and boredom is evident if the class does not seem practical.

Because of all these be sure to thoroughly review all of the information about the class you may be interested in enrolling and be certain you feel you will get what you need out of it.

Adults want and need their education to be relevant to their specific needs. What they are learning has to be applicable to their job, values or other responsibilities. When they see the relevance in their learning, adults want to create goals for their education. They desire to see the path that leads them from the beginning to the end of a course, i.e. the whole curriculum. Each step of this path needs to make its value evident to the adult learn – why its important, how it will help, what will it mean to their further career or life learning. Therefore, check all 7 steps, before selecting a class you want to enroll in, regardless whether it is an online class in a facility in your city or in your settlement.

More about adult classes:

Online Classes for Adult Learners at Loyola University Chicago

Michael Fertik, CEO, “How Social Media Affects Your Ability to Get (and Keep) a Job”

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