Learning never stops: Extended Learning Services at IUSB

Extended Learning classes are available to the public, including students of the university; the program also helps local companies train employees (Photo provided)
Extended Learning classes are available to the public, including students of the university; the program also helps local companies train employees
(Photo provided)

Staff Writer

Life has a way of reminding us how much we have to learn – and how much we can forget.

One branch of IU South Bend that promotes learning at all stages of life is the Professional Development and Lifelong Learning program, which is part of Extended Learning Services at the university.

The program offers a variety of classes to the public and has designed customized training programs for local companies, allowing many to sharpen their skills or learn something completely new.

Mike Mancini is the program manager for professional development and lifelong learning.

“Individuals taking the public classes are looking to enhance their own skills,” he said, “Maybe to get that promotion at their particular place of employment, or they might be looking at other positions and they realize they might be lacking in an area.”

“We also get folks who may have lost a position or know their position’s gonna go away and they want to make a change,” said Tim Ryan, director of extended learning. “They are completely reinventing themselves because they have to. A number of years ago, when Elkhart’s trailer business went way down, there were a lot of people suddenly looking for new opportunities, and we worked with a lot of folks here.”

Communicating in the workplace, production and inventory management, real estate and sign language are a few examples of programs found in the course catalog.

Computer classes ranging from Microsoft Word to Adobe InDesign CS6 help participants become more familiar with digital tools.

The cost for a class can range from $49 to $1,380. The more expensive courses require more hours and include in-depth preparation for career advancement.

Susan Nastos has been teaching Conversational Sign Language 1 for 14 years, and continues to teach in her retirement.

“I teach the alphabet, words, sentence structure, and I always throw in a little bit of deaf culture and history,” she said.

Some IUSB students have asked why these sign language courses don’t count toward foreign language credits required for their degree.

John McIntosh, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the university doesn’t have the resources or personnel to provide a for-credit sign language program, and the not-for-credit courses offered by Extended Learning Services don’t have the accreditation necessary to be for-credit.

“We believe our continuing education courses provide some valuable and worthwhile skills and knowledge,” he said, “but they are not designed as courses that are part of our degree programs.”

Rather than earning college credits, those taking extended learning courses often earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs), which are useful in showing employers that they’ve completed a particular program and are certified in that area. Ten hours of class time is equal to one CEU.

Nastos’ class isn’t running this semester because it hasn’t reached the number of students that need to be enrolled, but she has positive things to say about extended learning at IUSB.

“It’s better to teach people that want to be there, in Extended Learning Services especially, because it’s not like ‘Aww, gotta go to class,’ it’s like ‘Oh, I gotta go to class!’”

She added that her students are more like friends to her than students.

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