Continuing education takes new directions

In an increasingly complex world, the requirement for lifelong learning is important for people who want to continue to advance in their professions.

Continuous learning is the mandate of York’s Division of Continuing Education, based in the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. The division provides non-credit courses, programs and certificates and gives people the opportunity to pursue new areas of study, enhance their existing qualifications, learn new skills and bridge to full-time university studies.

Many of the courses and learning solutions offered by the division focus on areas not traditionally served by the academic community. As director of continuing education, Jane Daines (right), is spearheading the expansion of York’s Division of Continuing Education to include corporate and customized training courses and programs. "We are in a growth mode working to enhance our offerings to include corporate and customized training along with mid-management training in our roster of initiatives," said Daines.

A vibrant part of York University, there are more than 1,000 students enrolled at any one time in continuing education courses taking place on the Keele campus. Unlike other areas, continuing education takes place throughout the year at York University and many students enrolled in continuing education courses come to the Keele campus during the evening and on weekends to pursue their studies.

"The perception of York as a commuter university works in its favour with respect to continuing education," says Atkinson Dean Rhonda Lenton. "The Keele campus is very busy in the evenings."

In addition to its traditional evening and weekend continuing education courses, a new direction spearheaded by Daines involves taking training directly to companies and organizations seeking professional development and customized training. One such initiative involved delivering a series of courses on infant mental health to non-governmental and aid organizations based in the Ottawa area. "This involved a series of customized courses developed directly for this audience," said Daines. "By taking our [York] expertise to them, we are able to meet their needs. We are investigating other ways of delivering course material including online delivery with a residential component (blended learning)."

Another area of focus for the division includes retraining of professionals who are seeking a career change. "Many professionals become involved in continuing education when they take retraining courses," said Gervan Fearon, Atkinson associate dean. "They take a series of retraining courses and decide they enjoy the university experience and they apply to a formal degree program. Continuing education offers a gateway to new learning options. One student enrolled in retraining decided she wanted to study law and is now at Osgoode… she got the bug."

The division offers a host of certificate courses and students enrolled have the opportunity to work towards achieving a professional certificate, including professional development certificates in dispute resolution, infant mental health, transformational leadership for women, and organizatonal learning & quality improvement in the human resources sector. All of the courses are taught by qualified professionals and by York faculty. As well, the division offers a variety of workshops in targeted areas designed to enhance existing skill sets. Every year, certificate recipients are honoured in a ceremony on the Keele campus. During last year’s ceremony, 80 people received certificates.

Daines said the division is constantly searching for new ways to deliver York expertise to new markets. "Ideas are always welcome," said Daines. "I encourage faculty to contact me."

The Continuing Education team is continually working on expanding the division’s course offerings and has most recently added a new course for marketing professionals to its roster. "We are very excited to be collaborating with the American Marketing Association in offering a new marketing for professionals course designed for business professionals and highly motivated emerging marketers looking to advance their careers," said Daines.

Visit the Atkinson Division of Continuing Education Web site for more information on the many opportunities for continued learning and customized training.