If you and your staff are struggling to meet demand for new courses, or, if your current continuing education lineup is falling flat, there are a few places to look for guidance you might not have considered.
Here are seven places you can find ideas for new programming and courses:
Pinterest: You can search for Pinners in your state and see if there are any common themes. Because Pinterest already is a haven for foodies, crafters and DIYers, the site may help you to narrow down a course offering on cooking, to a class on cupcakes and cakepops for example, or a design class that's geared toward repurposing old objects.
Your community: This can be thought about in two different ways: What are members of your community interested in? or, What is the history of your town? Take notice of how people are spending their free time and consider if a course could be built around some of the more popular themes. Even if you notice a large number of people are spending their free hours at the local pub, take that as an opportunity to think outside the box with a course on making beer, or the history of beer. As far as hometown history goes, consider your town's ethnic heritage, founding industries or other unique factors to find new course inspiration.
Reality shows: Dancing With the Stars and The American Baking Competition are just two examples of wildly successful shows that have viewers saying 'I wish I could do that.' Well, why not fill that role with a new course? With more than 1,000 different reality TV shows (yes, 1,000) with focuses ranging from cooking and getting fit, to becoming an entrepreneur or flipping houses, there is a lot of inspiration in this category.
The Future: To some extent, we can predict the future. We know there will be another presidential election in 2016, and that the Winter Olympics will be back in 2014, so why not be ready with courses centered around American Presidents or the history of winter sports? Thinking ahead can help you create classes that are ready when people's interest piques.
Yourself: Is there something you've always wanted to learn? Take a cue from yourself and assess your program's resources to see if a course you'd like to take is possible, then poll current or prospective students to gage whether people would register for such a course.
The Mall: What do you find interesting or fascinating at this seemingly ordinary destination? From a study of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs or Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, to ethnographic research or the science of smells (Cinnabon anyone?) the mall is rich with inspiration and great subject material.
Cable: Think about how the Science Channel or the History Channel repurpose existing or old content to make new, exciting television. The show Prophets of Science Fiction, which examines classic science fiction novels and the inventions or technology that came years after the fact, is a great example.
New offerings are now critical to maintaining the vitality and viability of your programming, and LERN recommends that every program offer 20 to 30 percent new activities or seminars each year.
Where do you find inspiration for new courses?