Continuing on in Cont Ed

Continuing on in Cont Ed McGill University

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McGill Reporter
April 19, 2001 - Volume 33 Number 15
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 33: 2000-2001 > April 19, 2001 > Continuing on in Cont Ed

Continuing on in Cont Ed

What should continuing education be at McGill?

It's a question that Principal Bernard Shapiro posed at Tuesday's Board of Governors meeting and one which he says should be explored carefully over the next few years. There is no crisis brewing; the centre more than pays its own way and attracts 15,000 students a year. But Shapiro wonders if the centre has yet to find its niche. He worries that it has no coherent focus.

The man who will be at the centre of these deliberations is Dean of Continuing Education Robin Eley, officially reappointed at the board meeting for a five-year term ending in 2006.

In a memo sent to board members, Shapiro described Eley as "an imaginative and effective leader."

A lecturer in the Faculty of Management since 1983, Eley headed the centre's Department of Career and Management Studies for 15 years and was selected to take over as dean of continuing education in 1999 when his predecessor, management professor Morty Yalovsky, became vice-principal (administration and finance).

Eley says one thing is clear for the centre's future: developing more partnerships with McGill faculties. The centre already has a very tight connection with the Faculty of Management, offering an array of programs tailored to typically older students who want to be able to pursue certificate or bachelor's programs despite cramped schedules. One recent collaboration, a new graduate certificate program in e-commerce, has been a winning proposition, drawing more students than the centre's classrooms can accommodate.

Dean of Management Gerald Ross is anxious to explore new collaborations, says Eley. The centre might, for instance, develop a program related to the recent boom in financial advising and there are projects in the works with the Schools of Computer Science and of Physical and Occupational Therapy.

Eley thinks such partnerships could benefit faculties as they reach out to new types of students, students who are interested in acquiring new skills, but who don't fit the profile of your standard full-time undergraduate.

"The faculties aren't really equipped to deal with continuing education students. That's where we have the expertise."

He says the profile of continuing education students has changed markedly in recent years. "It used to be that only 10 to 15 per cent of our students had undergraduate degrees. Now about 70 to 75 per cent of our students have undergraduate degrees."

These students typically need to upgrade their skills and knowledge base to advance in their jobs or to meet the needs of a career shift. They want access to the expertise of McGill's faculties, but they can't afford to put their lives on hold for a few years to get a master's. In any case, they don't necessarily need a full-fledged graduate degree. A few courses or a very focused short-term program might fit the bill.

Given that most of the centre's students have plenty of work- and family-related responsibilities, part of Eley's job is to make it as easy as possible for these students to deal with McGill.

"It used to be that people would lose half a day of work to come here to register for a course. Or they would have to turn up in person to request a re-read [of an exam]. We're making more use of [the Internet] to make it a lot more convenient for them. These are not our typical daytime students. If we make it too hard for them to deal with us, they just won't take the course."

On the non-credit side, the centre's well-regarded language offerings continue to do well and a recent partnership with Cisco Systems to launch an Internet training centre is "going gangbusters," says Eley. "IT in general is an area where we're thinking of expanding."

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