LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Michelle Morris wanted to expand her expertise after several years working in human resources.

She found a continuing education program — a non-credit training course — that would prepare her to take the certification exam after meeting one night a week for six weeks at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

That was in February. The small class of HR professionals met twice in person before COVID-19 caused major disruptions to just about everything, including Morris’s new class.

The class moved online, with Zoom instead of the classroom. She was disappointed at first.

“I didn’t schedule an online course,” she said. “I scheduled an in-person course. I wanted the benefits of an in-person course.”

But she came to find some conveniences to the shift, especially as she transitioned to working from home, too.

The class continued to meet virtually for three hours a week and stayed on track to complete the program in April.

Morris, 52, sat for the exam the next month and passed on her first try.

“It’s helped me, because I have more confidence in my role now that I’m certified,” she said. “And it’s given me confidence to take other courses. There’s more I want to do.”

That’s what continuing education is meant to be, university officials say. As the non-credit training arm, the department aims to help people continue learning, whether that be bellydancing, Cajun French or how to write a will, all courses at UL Lafayette.

“If you want to learn Spanish or Sign Language, if you want to learn about investing… more than likely we’ve got a course that can get you started,” said Dawn Provost, interim director of Continuing Education.

Sometimes it’s a higher certification in a field the learner already knows, like Morris, who is looking now at the “senior” certification option. Other times it’s something completely new to try, either out of interest or necessity.


The pandemic has taken a major toll on employment across Louisiana. The unemployment rate hit a modern-day high of 14.5% in April, according to the Louisiana Budget Project, and it’s going to take time to recover.

“Right now employment is not where we would like it to be,” Provost said. “Times are a little bit uncertain. We have beefed up our online offerings to try to empower individuals to acquire new skills and re-enter the workforce, maybe in a different capacity than what they’re used to.”

The courses could be the tools learners need for a different or better opportunity, she said.

“Education will always be your best tool,” Provost said. “It gives us a sense of hope, it gives us a sense of opportunity, and it’s really the foundational tool for change.

“That’s one thing I feel like we’ve all learned right now — whether we want to or not, we’ve got to change. We have to start taking the steps to better ourselves in these uncertain times.”

Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System, said the interest in continuing education courses as a way to increase job opportunity has been steadily growing for the past 10 or more years, as technology has made tremendous leaps in development.

“As technology advances, it creates new opportunities, but it also makes some jobs obsolete,” Henderson said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated that with isolation and working remotely, which I think can create opportunities for Louisiana.”

With increased ability to work remotely, employees no longer need to be based in a larger metropolitan area instead of the Bayou State to obtain job opportunities, he explained.

“But there are only opportunities for those who are prepared, who continue to develop and hone their skills,” Henderson said. “This is the beginning of that.”


Morris sees her experience with the HR certification prep course as a long-term investment in herself and her career. That’s what prompted her to start, to pay her own way, to spend three hours at night on Zoom after a full day of work and to do hours of reading each week, she said.

“It was hard, but I definitely think it was worth it,” Morris said.

As the pandemic continues and there is more demand for online delivery, UL Lafayette Continuing Education has transitioned more and more programs to a digital format. The school offers three different delivery models for classes like Accounting Fundamentals and Introduction to Interior Design.

“We did that to try to help meet individuals’ needs and also to empower them,” Provost said.

Learners can take a self-paced course taught by an instructor on video. They can access and watch in the middle of the night or between other responsibilities, whenever works for them, Provost said.

“That’s a good option because people have the option to participate at their comfort level and what is the best fit for their learning style,” she said.

Those looking for a little more structure can try courses in which instructors release two lessons every week. These also come with the opportunity for interaction with “classmates” through discussion boards.

A third option is to take live online courses taught via Zoom, like Morris did in the spring.

Courses might be taught by instructors in Lafayette or from partner institutions outside of Louisiana. They also range in time for completion, from six weeks to three months.

“Learners are connecting with instructors and other learners from around the world,” Provost said.

More information on programs for work and for fun can be found at and

“We offer a variety of courses in multiple buckets — personal enrichment, professional development, and environment and safety training,” Provost said.

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