Continuing Education as community development
Colorado Mountain College adopted a multi-year strategic plan a year ago to guide our work in the community. Continuing Education is one of the plan’s highest priorities.
Being a high priority might seem odd if Continuing Education (CE) were simply a series of personal enrichment courses. But Continuing Education at CMC has a much wider purpose. Many in our communities already have college degrees or do not need a degree for their work or family lives; CE’s prominence on the plan signals the college’s effort to reach all community members in a fuller fashion.
As the coordinator of Continuing Education, I’m very aware that questions and interests and problem-solving start long before college and, if your life is like mine, don’t stop with — or without — a degree. For example, two-year, four-year, graduate or professional degrees introduce us to new skills and a tradition of scientific and critical thinking, but degrees and graduation don’t automatically solve the complex issues we face in life and society.
Ongoing — continuing — education, in a classroom with other interested and concerned community members, provides a special opportunity for shared discussion and a more thoughtful community. We all do well in an environment like that.
So this year we’ve begun to expand our Continuing Education courses, offering, for example, courses on mathematics and science for parents and children, taught by a retired researcher from Los Alamos, as well as a workshop on early reading for preschool teachers. These courses reflect a widening perspective on CMC’s relationship to community-related issues.
And this wider perspective may be needed. At a recent gathering I was startled to hear that the private prison industry uses third grade achievement scores to predict the number of prisons that will be needed in 10 years. In contrast, we feel that Continuing Education can play a positive role in community development by working with teachers and families to boost achievement in early reading, math and science.
CMC is also beginning to review our internal procedures for Continuing Education. A current question is whether the habit of designating CE courses by the term noncredit is advisable. Identifying CE courses primarily as noncredit may be giving the impression that the courses don’t really count. If so, this could undermine the positive job of building a wider learning community. Let me know your thoughts.
Speaking of positive tasks, there’s an ambitious software upgrade currently under way at CMC, including a new software program specifically designed for Continuing Education. This software will provide the electronic shopping carts we all expect these days, and a much more visual and user-friendly registration interface to improve communication.
If you haven’t taken a Continuing Education class recently, or have always wondered about taking one, now’s a great time to find out. This summer we’re offering a free first class in several courses. You can do the free first class to help decide if the learning experience is for you. Give one a try!
Dr. Jim Green is the coordinator for continuing education at CMC and the director of the Glenwood Center on Blake. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see a listing of classes that have the free trial opportunity, please visit coloradomtn.edu/events/free-classes.
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