Terry Ratcliff Photo

Continuing Education for a New Generation of Working Adults

Terry Ratcliff, Dean of the School of Distance and Extended Education at Antioch University, was recently elected as a Director at Large to the Board of Directors of the Association for Continuing Higher Education (ACHE). This is exciting news for both ACHE and for Antioch! Ratcliff believes that higher education, training, and lifelong learning are undergoing a major transition. A developing trend, exacerbated by the pandemic, is that most working adults aren’t looking to formal higher ed as a next step. In an unstable economy, shorter seminars and certificates are increasing in popularity – continuing ed opportunities that people can undertake without leaving their existing jobs. “Institutions are responding with more short term programming, and many are creating “stackable” offerings that can eventually lead to academic credit and serve as incentives to continue formal higher education,” Ratcliff says. “Lifelong learning continues to gain interest, from “second act” careers to the “60-year curriculum” and personal enrichment in later years.” He is eager to help facilitate this transition and to help ACHE continue to develop as an organization helping professionals gain the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the challenges of the hour. 

Antioch and ACHE Working in Tandem

ACHE is an organization of colleges, universities, and individuals dedicated to promoting lifelong learning and excellence in continuing higher education. Ratcliff is committed to assisting the organization as it broadens its offerings. He believes that one of the most important tasks to undertake at this time in the field of continuing ed is to encourage and support the creation of new,  innovative, and invigorating programs designed to meet changing demands. “We need to answer the question: How do we honor our past while charting new paths for the future?” he says. His goal on the board of directors is to recognize continuing education as a dynamic, ever-changing field that must evolve to progress, and to identify ways to optimize what is being offered in the current landscape. Tasked with reconsidering Continuing Education at Antioch, he’s in a perfect position to do so. 

“While Antioch has traditionally held a fairly narrow definition of Continuing Education, in the greater higher education environment it is a broad field encompassing for-credit and non-credit programs that encompass professional development, personal enrichment, degree-completion, online education, senior programs, and a myriad of other programs that lie outside the traditional classroom instruction model,” Ratcliff explains. “Although I have been involved in the organization for decades, my election to the board at this time coincides with a developing broader view of continuing education at Antioch, and gives us access to the full resources of our membership in ACHE and puts Antioch at the forefront of change and innovation in the field.”

Next Steps…

Ratcliff thinks that the shifting needs of the population will place continuing education programming at institutions across the country and internationally at the forefront of education. His first action as a board member was attending a strategy meeting in early November, where they discussed the future of continuing education in its many forms across institutions, and how to make the organization more viable and attractive to CE professionals. This process involved identifying who the organization serves and strategizing about how to positively influence continued formal education, professional development, and personal enrichment. They also discussed how to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion in education/training in general and in the organization specifically. Part of the ACHE function is to facilitate the exchange of research and information between members as a means of enhancing and improving society. More participation = a larger, more diverse network of voices and inputs = a more effective, influential organization. 

The To-Do List

  • Develop a strategic plan for the organization as we move into the post-pandemic world.  
  • Clearly identify the target membership for ACHE in the future
  • Bring creative and innovative ideas back to Antioch as a result of my leadership role in ACHE

Ratcliff’s list of objectives in his new role illustrate his collaborative and progressive hopes for the future of continuing education. He sees a great deal of potential for it to fulfill the needs of students taking non-traditional paths to education and career, for professionals who want to build on their existing careers, and to fill gaps in an education system that has, in recent times, proved wanting and in need of revitalization.