Continuing education to help extend your resume during economic crisis

This Daily Yomiuri article posted below suggests that pursuing continuing education at local universities can help extend your resume during an economic criss. 

Universities help you extend your resume with extension courses

Cristoph Mark / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

The economy feels like it’s getting worse. Massive layoffs and bankruptcies have been in the news constantly for the past several months. Fittingly, you may be wondering about your own future. You may be looking at your skills, fearing they won’t be enough to land you a new job in these tough times. So, what do you do?

Japan is filled with options for continuing education, though few actually focus on courses or skills that could help the average person beat out competing job-seekers. Despite Japan having a widely recognized penchant for education, its “open colleges,” lifelong learning and public courses–all offered at major universities–center largely on cultural classes, such as ikebana or illustrations for picture books. Other times, as in the case of Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, they offer a range of interesting classes that are only available to current students or alumni. Not much use if you are looking to expand your resume or knowledge within a given field.

With some serious searching, though, U.S.-style extension courses are there to be found, if few and far between.

In North America, Britain and other parts of the English-speaking world, so-called extension courses have become de rigueur, with most universities and even two-year colleges offering them in some form. Affordable, open to the public and often held at night or on weekends, extension courses are popular with working men and women who want to study for personal or professional gain.

Even renowned universities such as Harvard and Oxford open their doors to members of the public. In fact, a recent New York Times story told the tale of a young woman who, as a high school student, applied to Harvard as her dream school, while applying to Harvard extension as her “safety” school. She ended up, the story goes, receiving her Harvard degree after all–through extension courses. Schools such as the University of California, Los Angeles, even offer the majority of their extension courses online, making them accessible for perennial students around the world.

One of the few–and as far as this writer’s research could uncover, perhaps the only–universities in Japan to offer fully American-style extension courses is Temple University, Japan Campus, in Azabu-juban, Tokyo. A one-time enrollment fee of 10,500 yen entitles students to choose from a wide variety of courses (costing between 16,000 yen and 200,000 yen, though most seem to hover around 50,000 yen for a semester), ranging from Typography 101 to International Trade to Legal Translation Skills.

Temple University Japan’s extension courses–like those found in the United States–are taught almost entirely by professionals in the fields, not professors. Courses on business negotiation or organizational behavior, for example, are likely to be taught by a successful CEO; Web design classes will be taught by designers making a living by building Web sites.

According to the extension center’s founder and director, Eugenia Medrano, this teaching style results in better instruction than is found even in regular TUJ classes. But extension courses offer more than just experienced instructors: Quite often, Medrano says, they are filled with experienced students, as well.

On the day that The Daily Yomiuri visited, it was clear how intent the students, who appeared to be mostly in their 30s or 40s, were on learning from their teachers. Unlike any Japanese classroom I had been in, where the teaching style tends toward one-way communication, the students were shouting out answers and helping people with work from across the room, creating a fun, energetic atmosphere in which to learn. Of course, they are there for serious study and are accordingly expected to do homework and take tests. And for nonnative English speakers, their English must be at an appropriate level.

Waseda University, meanwhile, lays claim to having the largest and perhaps oldest extension course system in Japan. With more than 30,000 students enrolled in 1,500 different classes, it offers a very diverse selection of courses. Prices are comparable with those at TUJ, while the classes are taught entirely in Japanese. The student body at Waseda’s extension center is made up largely of retirees and housewives, as most of the non-business classes are offered on weekdays. Classes held on nights and weekends, however, tend toward language and business-oriented subjects, such as [English] Presentation Skills or a course called “Learn the essence of an MBA in 12 hours.”

Keiji Ohta, program manager at the extension center, says the extension teachers–including both professionals and professors–do not often assign homework or tests, making the classroom atmosphere more comfortable for students with a wide range of abilities and time constraints. Even foreigners are not tested for their Japanese ability upon entrance.

Though currently targeting daytime students, Ohta says the school is looking into offering its extension courses via online e-learning, bringing it in line with schools such as UCLA. (While Tokyo University does not have its own online courses, it does offer Internet access to teaching materials used at the university through its Web site.) Ohta predicted the e-learning program could be launched as early as late this year, thereby making it possible for people in the working world to study at their own pace on a schedule they can afford.

According to both schools, there has been an increase in the number of students applying for career-building courses over the past few semesters, resulting in the classes filling up earlier. So, maybe it’s time to dig up that resume, check out your local universities for what they offer and get skill-building.



Temple University, Japan Campus (03) 5441-9864

Waseda University Extension Center (03) 3208-2248


Jul. 3, 2009


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