DC’s Continuing Education is getting a makeover

Debbie Johnston, the dean for Durham College's School of Continuing Education, stands outside the office. The school was officially rebranded Dec. 2 as the Centre for Professional and Part-time Learning. Photo credit: Courtney Mcclure

Durham College (DC) is looking to differentiate itself from other schools that offer part-time learning.

As a result, effective Dec. 2, DC is changing the name of its School for Continuing Education to the Centre for Professional and Part-time Learning.

Debbie Johnston, dean of Continuing Education at DC, says Durham has to compete with similar offerings from universities, private institutions, private colleges and private training providers. They are also competing against online creators on YouTube and other websites.

“We try to make learning as flexible and as convenient for people as possible,” says Johnston, who didn’t disclose the cost of the re-branding of the school.

Johnston also says they felt the name Continuing Education was old terminology and they needed something that was going to reflect their future strategy.

The demographic Continuing Education targets is changing. Johnston says DC’s target audience used to be the baby boomer generations, but it has changed to younger generations with different needs. DC has to make sure it’s responding to those needs, she says.

Broadly speaking, Johnston says younger generations prefer an online learning experience because it allows them to continue their home lives.

There are approximately 20,000 registrants in Continuing Education at DC every year. Continuing Education doesn’t track individual students, so their basis is off registrations, says Johnston.

There are still areas Johnston wishes to improve within the school. She wants to provide her clients with more programs that focus on general interest. For example, she spoke hypothetically about someone wishing to build their own deck. They would take a course so they could learn to how build it.

They have also started working with a group called Coding for Veterans. According to Johnston, the program helps people who have left the Canadian military get ready for jobs in computer programming.

Continuing Education is also introducing a specific type of certification called a micro-certificate. In Johnston’s words, it’s a very small, concise chunk of learning around something specific.

“Quick – get in, get out, develop the competencies that you need, and go out and get a job,” she says.

Primarily, Continuing Education deals with part-time students, who can attend day or night. They provide students with about 75 different programs and more than a thousand courses within those programs.

Continuing Education also works with OntarioLearn, a collaboration between all 24 publicly-funded colleges in the province, to offer a variety of online courses.

As an example, Johnston hypothetically cites a student wanting to take a specific course – but Continuing Education at DC doesn’t offer it but Algonquin College does.

If the program is offered on the OntarioLearn platform, the student can register with Continuing Education at DC, but their professor – in this case – would be from Algonquin College.