The Evolving World of Continuing Education and Fully Online Certificates

Start up business people during a kick off meeting sitting on a big conference table and listening
(Tom Werner/Getty Images)

Today’s working professional realizes career advancement, adapting to changing work requirements or switching careers entirely requires earning certificates from proven higher educational programs.

For experts in continuing education, the challenge is providing these courses in convenient online formats with the same beneficial opportunities for networking, career support and direct interaction with instructors.

The professional landscape is ever-changing, and employees’ educational needs and resources are constantly evolving. For professionals to grow and thrive in their careers, continuing education is essential to help them fill in the gaps of their skills and experience.

Higher educational institutions are developing new programs and innovative delivery systems to reflect and adapt to these marketplace shifts - and to meet the needs of individuals who either may not live near a continuing education classroom or desire a more flexible learning platform and schedule. Recent studies show post-college online learning is increasing in popularity because of more user-friendly formats.

A powerful example of an institution adapting to the needs of professionals and employers is UCLA Extension, which is launching UCLAxOnline this fall. UCLAxOnline is the next evolution in online continuing education to help professionals thrive and advance their careers while offering the convenience of studying remotely. This major initiative offers new certificates carefully designed around the application of the latest, innovative technologies combined with a completely immersive, interactive experience.

A fully online continuing education suite of certificates requires careful planning and testing. In the case of UCLAxOnline, the collaboration began more than a year ago between educators at one of the nation’s largest continuing education schools and leaders in various industries who are UCLA Extension instructors.

This newest initiative, built upon the recent research as well as the deep experience of UCLA Extension, is one of the early pioneers in online continuing education for professionals.

Perhaps one of the most significant challenges in any online post-graduate program is to ensure that students receive courses that have been rigorously designed and presented as if they were being given in person. Professionals considering a fully online program also want assurances they will receive personal support and career-building assistance that typically are included in the in-person class format. Accessing classes is one thing, ensuring personal support is a key differentiator.

Focusing on the End-User
The design of the UCLAxOnline certificate programs - instructor-led with multimedia functionality - is dynamic and effective. Enrollees will have significant flexibility in studying and completing assignments on a weekly basis (which benefits workers balancing existing careers and family commitments).

Instructors are another key component of any online continuing education certificate program.

In the case of UCLA Extension, there are two advantages in play. First, certificate courses are taught by accomplished instructors who are industry experts and practitioners approved by UCLA.

These instructors often provide students with invaluable practical insights and industry connections. Next, UCLAxOnline is structured to ensure student engagement with their instructors and other learners.

In preparation for launching UCLAxOnline, these instructors received specialized training and instructional design support to enhance the learning experience for fully online formats.

Careers in Demand, Additional Benefits
The UCLA Extension initiative is launching with 11 enhanced certificates in professions or specialties currently in high demand, such as accounting, accounting fundamentals, business and management of entertainment, college counseling, data science, GIS and geospatial technology, human resources management, personal financial planning, project management, sustainability, and user experience (UX). More certificates will be added every quarter.

Another thing professionals should examine in choosing an online learning program are the extras. There are exclusive benefits in completing a certificate that is aligned with a major university, such as UCLA. These include workshops, networking events, career counseling services and job search resources as well as access and membership to the UCLA Alumni Association.

For employers, established university-based continuing education programs have delivered consistent results with better-trained employees and managers adapting to the disruptions of a dynamic economy. For professionals, taking advantage of the latest online learning platforms like those offered by UCLAxOnline is a must-have for advancement and career development.

In the fall of 2021, the re-imagined age of effective online learning for professionals emerges.