Continuing Education at Liverpool University is a department offering over 200 short courses, lectures and workshops that provide accessible learning for everyone, regardless of their age, qualifications or experience. The courses cover a diverse range of subjects and include creative writing, music, local history and languages. The programmes seek to offer a ﬂexible timetable of daytime and evening courses including popular Saturday courses.
Continuing Education also collaborates with cultural institutions across the city to provide free talks and workshops and has a long-established link with Southport University Education Society (SUES). Indeed many lecturers from the university, including the Academic Director of Continuing Education Department, Dr Glenn Godheno, have given talks at SUES events over recent years on a wide variety of subjects.
At all universities there is a new intake of undergraduates every year, making it easy to maintain the same courses year-on-year. The challenge in adult education is that the pool of those attending tends to be similar each year. This means that lecturers have to constantly devise new courses to maintain interest for their students. The planning timetable of courses is also very different. Continuing Education’s marketing and advertising for the new academic year in September must be in place by the latest June. With publishing of brochures and other material, this means planning begins in some cases over a year in advance of courses actually taking place. Feedback at the end of each course is also a very important component in terms of the future planning of subject matter, style and content.
Over the years the format of presenting courses has changed from originally being verbal, one-way lectures to a scenario where a greater engagement with students is actively encouraged. Beginning with the introduction of overhead projectors, even more use of visual imagery has been employed with the likes of PowerPoint, YouTube videos and more recently remote learning through systems such as Zoom. It is now more challenging to make the sessions more “alive” for those attending or viewing to enhance the class experience.
Over recent years, the approach of the whole university (including the Continuing Education department) to the teaching/student relationship has become much more commercial where hard decisions are made regarding the economic viability for running courses. Fees have been increased markedly and this had the unfortunate, but not unexpected, consequence of less people attending. A substantial downturn took place for Southport in 2018 when numbers dropped to barely half of previous years. Fortunately, it was at this point that the association between SUES and Continuing Education came into being.
The funding and financing of courses were taken over by SUES but a close connection was maintained with the university who have provided the lecturers and facilities through a contracting arrangement. Most universities no longer have a specific department focussing on adult education, but Liverpool is determined to find a way of keeping this going, albeit under changing circumstances which is likely to see more online engagement. Whilst SUES has been able to offer some limited online services, it is likely that there will still be a preference for face-to-face courses with the joy of regular interruptions with questions, clarifications and even contradictions, even as we move forward into an increasingly digital age. This all helps to create a far more challenging, engaging and enjoyable experience.