Continuing Education Enhances
Instruction Component of Outreach
By Catherine Doss
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 25 - March 26, 1998
(Editor's Note: This article about Virginia Tech's Division of Continuing Education is part three in a series about outreach at Virginia Tech. Future articles will highlight other units within the Outreach Division: international research and development, economic development, distance learning, and public service. A final article will focus on Extension and its critical role in the outreach mission.)
As a unit of the Outreach Division at Virginia Tech, the Division of Continuing Education is an important player in the instructional arm of the university's three-part land-grant mission of instruction, research, and service. Outreach, as this editorial series illustrates, is embedded in all three components.
To say continuing education reaches out to the community beyond the academic campus may be an understatement. Last year alone, the division addressed the post-college learning needs of more than 25,000 adults from across the state, the nation, and the world through more than 400 short courses, conferences, seminars, workshops, and research symposia.
"Our division has three main objectives," said Ted Settle, director of continuing education. "The first is to help disseminate research findings and new knowledge to various constituent groups of the university's academic units. This, in turn, provides an avenue for academic disciplines to help keep their practitioners current."
Another objective of the division is to connect discovery and knowledge to the performance-improvement and economic-development needs of organizations and their employees. The third is to practice the adult and continuing-education academic discipline.
Continuing education provides a vehicle for external organizations to access Virginia Tech's intellectual resources. The division makes personal contacts with employers to identify their training and technical needs, conducts focus groups and organizational assessments, develops and delivers custom-designed programs, and shares emerging trends through its own market research.
For faculty members launching a continuing-education program, the division assists with the definition, market research, and testing of an idea; shaping, promoting, and implementing the program; and evaluating efforts and summarizing recommendations. Programs are held at the Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center, The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center (HRCC), and at other locations of the customer's choosing.
Continuing education develops and/or supports a broad scope of programs, ranging from the U.S. Senate Productivity and Quality Award for Virginia--an annual process that recognizes businesses and organizations around the state for efficiency, productivity, and performance, to the popular Feed and Nutritional Management Cow College--a short course offered several times annually by the Department of Dairy Science and Virginia Cooperative Extension that covers new developments in nutrition and feeding programs for dairy herds.
In 1994, Virginia Tech established the Center for Organizational and Technological Advancement (COTA) to foster economic development and continuing-education initiatives, primarily at HRCC, with a special emphasis on connecting university research to the needs of Virginia's industrial, commercial, governmental, academic, and professional organizations. Administered through the Outreach Division with assistance from the Division of Continuing Education, COTA's primary objective is to help Virginia's organizations and individuals compete in an information-driven global economy by disseminating world-class research findings, updating employee skills and workforce development, and promoting best practices in the private and non-profit sectors.
To enhance the program, COTA fellows are appointed each year as distinguished scholars who wish to extend their knowledge to various external audiences. COTA fellows use a multidisciplinary perspective to focus university resources on specific real-world problems and areas where university expertise can make a distinct contribution. External COTA fellows enable the university to capitalize on the unique strengths of experts outside the university.
"I benefit greatly from my association with the participants, presenters, and leaders of COTA programs," said Greg Boardman, faculty member, COTA fellow, and faculty director of COTA. "Involvement in COTA programs provides me with an opportunity to develop a stronger network for sharing ideas, building research programs, and helping my students and colleagues."
Recent examples of COTA programs include the Commercial Recirculating Aquaculture International Research Conference--a bi-annual event that addresses issues such as isolation and quarantine, small-scale systems, automation, waste management, and business management--and the Wireless Opportunities Workshop, a two-day event that informs a broad audience about the commercial opportunities in wireless technology.
Through its diverse programming and professional support services, Virginia Tech's Division of Continuing Education enhances the university's connection with the vast community of life-long learners. For more information about developing a continuing education or COTA program, contact the division at 1-9982.