Online Continuing Education Courses: Overview and Requirements
The term online continuing education, which is mostly used in the United States, refers to a wide array of post-secondary courses and programs geared towards lifelong learners. Some of the programs and courses pursued by an online continuing education student may include degree courses taken for credit, workforce training and non-degree career training.
An Overview of Online Continuing Education
Continuing education and adult education are similar in that both apply to adults who wish to learn. However, where adult education focuses on vocational training, GED preparation and learning basics skills, such as English literacy, online continuing education is designed for students who have a university education and are interested in continuing it. Typically a university or a college offers online continuing education through its university extension program or extension school.
Although it may seem like a recent phenomenon, continuing education was established at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1907. Later, in 1964-1968, Charles Wedemeyer of the University of Wisconsin - Madison introduced the Articulated Instructional Media (AIM) project, designed to provide learning to an off-campus population by using various technologies available at the time. Empire State College, which is a division of the State University of New York, and the University of Florida also established continuing education programs in 1969 and 1976 respectively.
Historically, continuing education classes that were taught through distance learning were called correspondence classes. Students received materials by postal mail and often took proctored exams at community colleges or high schools. Some distance learning, continuing education classes also used video and public television to transmit course content. Today, most distance learning, continuing education classes are taught over the Internet.
Online Continuing Education Requirements
A student who wishes to enroll in an online continuing education course must already have a university education or work experience. The goal of an online continuing education course is to further a student's knowledge in a particular area. Sometimes students may be interested in completing certificates or degrees entirely online. In other cases, students may simply wish to complete one or two non-credit courses. Many certification and licensing agencies require workers to take continuing education classes as a condition of maintaining their certification or licensure.
Learning is conducted by combining asynchronous and synchronous technologies with some type of learning management system. A student wishing to enroll in an online continuing education course will benefit from access to some of the following types of equipment and software:
- Computer (PC/Mac)
- High-speed Internet access
- E-mail account
- Web camera
- Internet browser
- Real Player or QuickTime
- Microsoft Word or WordPerfect
- Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Shockwave and Flash software
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