Higher learning

School isn’t just for kids and teens. Plenty of adults are going back to class — and making the grade

Whether you’re looking to make a professional change or upgrade, it’s possible — and you don’t have to quit your job to go back to school.

Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE)’s classes are flexible. “Our classes are all virtual and the curriculum is geared to adult learning,” says CECCE’s superintendent of education France Goulard. She understands the hurdles that adult learners can face. “Many of our students have jobs or families,” says Goulard. “Our PLAR — Prior, Learning, Assessment, Recognition, a formal evaluation of prior learning experience, work experience and skills that can be the equivalent of a credit — program can help get them that credit.” Once they determine what’s left to achieve, a plan can be structured, says Goulard, “and our guidance counsellors, as well as teachers and staff, are there to help support our adult students.”

France Goulard. Photo Courtesy CECCE

There are unique challenges for adult or mature students, but most are hugely motivated to get the credit they need to obtain their high school diploma or that prerequisite for college or university. “Our adult students know what they want,” says Goulard. “And their own life experiences have helped provide that goal. Yes, there is sometimes that self-doubt, but they get to know what they need and we’re there to help them achieve that success. We’ve made it easy for anyone to finish their high school education.”  

Algonquin College also provides options for mature learners. The college, says Lindsay Hinds, has offered online learning for years. Because of this, instructors have mastered courses online and proven that it works, says the academic manager, Community Studies, Health and Police and Public Safety, AC Online at Algonquin College, adding that flexibility is key for adult or mature students. “Once a student is organized and managing at home, they realize how efficient online learning can be,” Hinds says. “They can learn anywhere, anytime. And our online support team is invaluable in helping students stay focused.”

Lindsay Hinds. Photo Credit_Byfield Pitman Photography

Staying current is another advantage of online learning. Algonquin’s courses stay up-to-date, so their graduates stay up-to-date. And if a student is upgrading for their job, their employer knows they are getting the latest in current technology and information. “The college continues to develop more courses for delivery online,” says Hinds. “We know it works — the pandemic proved that — and testimonials from our mature and adult students demonstrate not only the advantages of online learning, but of continuing lifelong learning.”

At the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute, there are no evaluations and no homework. They trust their adult students want to learn, so they can return to their workplace and immediately apply what they’ve learned. “We’re geared to offering learning to private and public sector professionals,” says Paul Grenon, manager of marketing and external relations. “We provide short, intense sessions in digestible chunks over a couple of days or a week with very clear learning outcomes for our adult learners.” Courses at the Institute range from cyber security to business communication and influence, to knowledge management, project management and more. “Our instructors all have their own lived experience in their field and a track record,” says Grenon. “And the classes are small and interactive so you can learn from your peers — that interaction is an excellent learning opportunity.”

Paul Grenon. Photo Courtesy Paul Grenon.

In 2018, the facility was re-branded from the Centre for Continuing Education to the Professional Development Institute. “Receiving that accreditation came with other mandates,” says Grenon. “It’s allowed us to develop and create other programs and innovate.” The institute also focuses on corporate group training as they can easily tailor courses to business needs. “We really think this is a win-win for both the business and the student,” says Grenon. “Our instructors can focus on filling that knowledge gap for the business and our students gain that knowledge to take back to their workplace. You never stop learning.”  



For more information on adult/mature student learning: