Continuing education offers many choices for mature students

david cooper/torstar news service


Many continuing education classes offer online programs to accommodate their adult students’ schedules.

If you want to learn how to save someone from a heart attack, you might not want to consult your Margaret Atwood reader from that second year of undergrad English literature you took so many moons ago. Instead, you might take an emergency first aid course at your local college.

That’s just one example of what continuing education is all about. This particular stream of learning isn’t like your typical post-secondary curriculum and it serves entirely different types of student bodies: They aren’t undergraduates, but professionals looking to update their skills, mature students returning to school to get credentials they need for their chosen career or even retirees with time on their hands who want to broaden their horizons.

“The majority of programs in our school advance professional skills,” says Almira Mun, marketing manager at the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto. “Most focus on technical and business areas, but many courses, like art appreciations, or creative writing, nurture interests that students couldn’t feed during an undergrad.”

Learning is a process that happens not just in youth, but over the course of a lifetime, says Marilyn Booth, Director of the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto.

“The major reason someone might take continuing education would be to advance a career, or to get the credentials needed for a career change,” says Booth. “But learning is an essential life skill for everyone.”

For those looking to boost their prospects, it may not just be advantageous to go back to school, but necessary in order to get one over on the competition in a continually evolving workforce, says Jane Daines, Director of Continuing Education at York University’s Atkinson College.

“If I show I’ve taken an additional certificate, that gives me a leg up.

“Whatever bells and whistles you have will make you shine in the eyes of your prospective employer,” she says. “It’s a lifelong investment. Once you’ve been taught how to do it, you’ve always got it.”

This style of learning also takes an adult’s busy schedule into account: More in-class and online programs are being offered by institutions all over the country for those with day jobs and families.

“Continuing education students can take advantage of their options like smaller classes and Internet connectivity,” says Daines. “We’re all in the business of seeing people succeed.”

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