computer-class-422.jpgThis post originally appeared in The Journal of Lifelong Learning Blog.

The field of continuing education (CE) and lifelong learning is going through a major transition in response to the new economy and the demands and interests of learners in the new economy.  As with other businesses and industries, technology continues to be one of the big drivers of change in CE today. 

Technology (software, social networking and the use of new devices) has taken over as a marketing force, subject of courses and events, and become an internal factor in determining the productivity and profitability of continuing education programs today. 

This change is both exciting and challenging for continuing education programs going forward, as those that are able to respond and adapt to the new technology forces will become even more successful.

Following then are the top 10 trends in the CE industry today according to the Learning Resources Network (LERN), the largest continuing education association in the world:

  1. Mobile Technology is changing the way CE programs communicate and market to its customers, including the ability to produce QR codes and place on brochures and catalogs. Courses on mobile marketing are being offered by many programs, online courses are starting to be formatted so students can take them on mobile devices, and printed materials are being turned into e-books.
  2. The focus from the Baby Boom generation to Generation Y (along with Gen X) is becoming more critical for CE programs going forward.  CE programs that fail to incorporate Gen Y into their staffing and moving them more into positions of leadership risk falling into irrelevance going forward.
  3. Despite our tough economy, absence of understanding and support from intuitional leaders, government and society, and lack of overall business investment, many CE programs are not only surviving, but thriving today.
  4. CE programs are offering new courses on topics such as mobile marketing, social media and Photoshop to improve the skills of information and knowledge workers.
  5. The need for CE programs to have the right data to help make the right decisions, and having someone on staff to analyze the data, is being recognized as vital to future success of the program.
  6. Online certificate programs are set to take off and promise to be one of the biggest new growth areas in CE.
  7. The shift in focus towards gaining more customer share vs. market share, and improving customer retention is helping CE programs to become more efficient and profitable.
  8. Grow or die: The CE programs that are thriving today are embracing the changes in the marketplace, tapping into areas of growth, and developing programs that are comprehensive, intensive and high dollar.
  9. With the need for learning at an all-time high in society, support for CE should also be at an all-time high. However, institutional support of CE remains fragile, meaning it is vital for CE programs to continue to strengthen their relationships with central administration at their institutions, local businesses, government and society at large.
  10. Good management will continue to be key to day-to-day execution of CE programs, but vision and leadership will become even more important as the CE industry moves from outdated practices to practices that respond to the needs of the new economy.