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Jul 1999 Vol. 3   No. 2
........   CONTINUING EDUCATION   ........
A Reflection on Continuing Education
Dr Danny C.C. Poo
School of Computing &
Information Technology Programme Director,
Office for Continuing Education

The term, ‘continuing education’, describes the process and opportunity to learn new skills and acquire knowledge beyond what is taught in our formal schooling years. Many take part in continuing education to enhance their knowledge base and/or employability in the workplace.

Increasingly, more and more people see the importance of continuing education. What most of us learn in our formal years of education are basic skills that are sufficient to help us start working, but insufficient to lead us on (given the rapid changes in technology and demands arising from the growing sophistication of the workplace). As Singapore enters into the new millennium and the call for her to become a knowledge-based economy gets louder, the need for her people to learn, adapt and apply knowledge on a lifelong basis becomes even more pronounced.

As a Programme Director (Information Technology) at the Office for Continuing Education (OCE) and a faculty staff at the School of Computing in NUS, I have the privilege of teaching students with rather distinct needs. Most of our undergraduates, if not all, are full-time students whose sole responsibility is to ensure they make the grade and graduate from the university. Consequently, they do not experience the kind of stress often associated with working personnel. Students in continuing education, however, are mostly working professionals who seek to enhance their intellectual capability while still in employment. As their time is divided between full-time work and studies, they therefore have to be highly motivated to succeed.

One characteristic that differentiates students in continuing education from full-time undergraduates is the tendency of the former to relate class lessons to their work experience. Instructors should have the appropriate practical experience to be able to address the concerns of these students. Students in continuing education are also very selective in the courses they wish to enrol, choosing courses that have direct relevance or benefit in their employment. The challenge in teaching continuing education courses thus lies in knowing the needs of the students and tailoring the courses to satisfy these needs. The courses must be carefully surveyed to ensure relevancy and demand for them.
More and more adults are also looking at continuing education that leads to formal qualifications to provide them a sense of closure to an area of study as well as pride of accomplishment in the courses. Offering a faster, less expensive and more focused means of achieving personal or career objectives, these credentials can be cited on resumes and presented in the workplace as evidence of the participants’ professional studies.
In this connection, I was involved in the proposal and implementation of a new Certificate programme—Certificate in Object-Oriented Software Development—to be offered in the second half of 1999 by OCE. This programme recognises the importance of Object Technology, a growing trend in the computing industry. Participants will be taught object-oriented programming using Java, analysis and design techniques and enterprise level implementation of object technology over a four-month period on a part-time basis. To ensure proficiency, participants are required to complete a practical project as partial requirement for the award of the Certificate.

The Certificate in Object-Oriented Software Development programme is an example of a course for continuing education as it is a highly specialised course designed in response to the growing demand for Object-Oriented software developers, arising from the adoption of Object Technology in the workplace. In addition to this Certificate programme, OCE is constantly studying market requirements in new and emerging areas to respond to the needs of continuing education in Singapore and the region.

With the rapid development of information technology, continuing education will not be limited by physical space. Distance and multimedia learning through interactive media will form part and parcel of the overall framework for continuing education. The Internet will play a major role in the delivery of course materials to participants. A virtual campus aimed at extending one’s mind and knowledge beyond the formal years of education will become a reality in the not-too-distant future when continuing education takes off as an auxiliary service of the overall education system. The challenge then for the continuing education supplier is to be able to integrate its programmes into cyberspace and deliver the same quality education to its recipients as it would in the traditional way. How far can continuing education go? We shall see.

 

 

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