For love or money

Tips for finding the continuing-ed courses of your dreams
By ELLEE DEAN  |  August 17, 2006

You suffered the high-school advisor, her dizzying floral-print dresses, her tightly-wound chignon, and, in your catatonic, college-search state, heard her statistics-riddled drone. Big or small? State or private? Will you or will you not be seeking financial aid? And, if you were smart, you answered: how ’bout a party school?

Now that you’re a grownup, sort of, you want to continue . . . something. But shopping for continuing-education courses is a veritable question spree. Thankfully, there are course listings and Web sites, which are a good source of information and are easier to use than sifting through stacks of old-school brochures and catalogues. Surf the Web for course descriptions and register online; it’s all a click away. Before you try on a continuing-ed course for size, though, you should figure out what it is you’re looking for. Your high-school advisor isn’t coming into the dressing room this time, and that’s sort of a gross thought anyhow.

You’re on your own now, baby. And it’s time to ask yourself the big question: scholar, are you in this for business or pleasure?

Business, baby
No more dungeon desk job. No more busing tables. If you mean business, time is money and so are continuing-education units (CEUs). Adult-education courses are
schedule-friendly and CEUs are credits you can transfer and apply toward undergraduate or graduate degrees.

You can work around your current schedule or finagle a way to sleep in:
continuing-education courses work double shifts and even online. A post-work, weekly, three-hour workshop finishes fast, and some schools offer the same course in multiple locations, making for convenient commutes.

The city’s top schools also offer upward of a hundred courses online. Throw on some sweats and view multimedia presentations in bed. Not sure you’re down with desktop discussion boards and downloaded simulations? Look for online course demonstrations, well, online. Check school Web sites to sample the online structure and see how the contemporary computer classroom operates.

Yes, the classroom is a virtual reality. No, the professors are not.

In it for higher pay or higher education? Judge a course by professor, credit, or its New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) cachet. Choose Ivy League professors or industry professionals — if you’re looking to break into a new field, you might prefer the latter, since a prof in a business provides networking opportunities. Look for industry nights, panel discussions, and career services available to open-enrollment students, and figure out if a certificate or master’s program is worth the workload.
If you want the credits you take now to count toward a degree down the line, choose courses accredited by the NEASC or check with your pipe-dream college or university to find out which credits count.

Pleasure trip
Forget what you think you know about education, i.e. it’s more work, less play, and not really fun at all. Courses with titles like “Digital Blender” or “Bumps on the Wall” defy all prior school-sucks stereotypes. Art, baseball, costume-design, and that wine-tasting course you’ve heard all about: this is why you want to continue your education.

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