Back to the Future: Adjusting University Continuing Education Research to an Emerging Trend

  • Walter Archer University of Alberta
  • Kirby Wright University of Alberta


A major change is presently occurring in University Extension or University Continuing Education (UCE) units, from ongoing continuing education (CE) programs (certificates, etc.) to unique major projects supporting overall institutional goals and specific community needs. Given this change, the type of research traditionally associated with CE (market research, ongoing program evaluation, etc.) now needs to be at least supplemented, if not replaced, by a type of research more appropriate to the new type of activity occurring in extension/UCE units.For a number of theoretical and practical reasons, this research should consist largely of case studies of UCE programs and projects. An on-line database of these case studies could serve not only as a resource for improving practice, but also as the knowledge base underlying a graduate program offered by a consortium of UCE units. By creating a practice-based graduate program focused specifically on CE, in contrast to the broader, more theoretical programs generally offered by adult education departments, CE units can increase the amount, quality, and relevance of CE research.