The Division of Continuing Education
at the University of Florida
can boast enrollments of 38,500 students from around the world, by far the majority of the 50,000 students enrolled at UF. Very
impressive. Dr. Isabel Silver, Associate Director of Flexible Learning, answered my interview questions. The answers below are her words.
Tell me about the Division of Cont. Ed. at UF:
The University of Florida may be in Gainesville, but the Division of Continuing Education (DCE) touches the world every day — both online and in person. From on-campus programs to international conferences, the division’s reach is infinite both geographically and academically. This past year 38,500 students from around the world are enrolled in DCE programs, including 3,500 students in Flexible Learning courses.
What is the Flexible Learning program?:
The Flexible Learning/Correspondence Study program offers both courses for credit, especially General Education (GenEd) courses, and non-credit professional programs. This distance education unit has approximately 100 courses, with new courses opening all the time. There are currently 31 online courses and around 66 in print format. The online courses are developed, approved, and taught by UF faculty, departments, and colleges. They are the same as, or equivalent to, courses taught on campus. Students work independently and may complete courses in 32 weeks, or as few as eight weeks with instructor permission.
What do students generally enroll in continuing education to accomplish?:
Students have various motivation
s and needs, including: a final course needed to graduate, a general education requirement, seeking to achieve excellent performance to raise their GPA for re-entry into another higher educational institution, a prerequisite for an educational program, and career/workforce preparation.
Do you see a difference between students seeking degrees and lifelong learners?:
Those enrolled in professional courses are seeking pragmatic outcomes; the focus is on expected results after the course, while those taking courses for personal growth and edification are interested in the process of taking and being in the course—learning for the sake of learning.
What are the most popular Continuing Education courses at UF?:
The most popular for-credit course is ENC 2210 – Technical Writing, while the two most popular professional programs are the Dietary Manager Training for Pre-Certification
and the Pre-Licensing Bail Bond Agent Qualification.
How important is distance learning at your school? :
As part of a land-grant institution, the Division of Continuing Education has a mission to provide access to quality higher education for working professionals, traditional and non-traditional students in Florida, the United States, and throughout the world. Therefore, DCE’s purpose to provide distance learning
is very important to the University of Florida.
How is it delivered?:
Distance learning is provided in several formats: online, print, and face-to-face (conferences, meetings).
Why should a student choose your school? :
The University of Florida (UF) is a major, public, comprehensive, land-grant, research university, with membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU). It has a long history of, and commitment to, established programs in international and distance education, research, and service.
What do you find most surprising about adults returning to the classroom?:
Our classes are asynchronous
, and our learners are distance students who work independently. It appears that some of our non-traditional students are picking up certain courses to eventually retool and they are taking courses required for a mid-life career change.
What advice do you have for non-trad students seeking continuing education?:
Students seeking continuing education through a distance learning format should be aware of several aspects before enrolling in, and during, the course duration. Here are some suggestions:
- Make a commitment to take the course before enrolling.
- Remember that the course will have a start date and an expiration date, and it is imperative to finish the course a little early to ensure completion on time and to avoid the consequence of failing to complete.
- Make a time commitment to allow space in your busy life to study for the course.
- Practice good discipline in exercising time management skills on a weekly basis to ensure completion of this independent-study course.
- The online format does not mean “easier” or “more fun”. It is the same course whether it is offered face-to-face, online or in print format. You will need to do the same amount of work: read, study, write, and take exams.
- Contact your instructor if you have any questions about the course objectives, expectations, or assignments; it’s okay to request feedback on your performance.
A PostScript from Your Guide:
Thank you, Isabel. Sign me up!
One of the many things that impressed me about the website for the Division of Continuing Education at UF is the free self-assessment they offer that helps students determine whether or not they're good candidates for distance learning. Check it out.