The provision of extension services that would allow the University to reach out beyond the confines of the campus has been one of UBC's goals since its inception. It first provided university-level education to adult students throughout the province through the Extension Lectures Committee (1918-1935), and later through the Department of University Extension (1936-70). In 1968, a Senate Committee on Continuing Education, struck to formulate long-term goals in the face of budgetary constraints, proposed a centralized administration for extension programs, and a more integrated approach to continuing education. The Department of University Extension agreed to this, and in 1970 the Senate established the Centre for Continuing Education.
The Centre administered and, in cooperation with the appropriate University faculties, developed and offered part-time degree programs, professional programs, and general interest programs, and provided personnel, facilities, and administrative support. Its Director reported to the President's Office, acted upon the President's Coordinating Committee on Continuing Education, and was responsible for policy and program development, and the direction of the Centre in general. Program Directors were responsible for coordinating specific programs. The Centre was also involved in experimental projects and programs focussing on community problems and the unique interests of adults. For example, in 1971, the Centre co-sponsored a conference on the 1970 Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women; this eventually gave rise to the Women's Resources Centre.
In 1975, responsibility for credit courses were gradually transferred to Guided Independent Study (now usually known as UBC Access), and the Office of Extra-Sessional Studies. The Centre eventually came to be responsible for providing university-level, non-credit, continuing education in a wide variety of fields, including computer science, educational travel, languages, English for international students, humanities/sciences, urban planning, public affairs/lifestyles, and reading, writing, and study skills. In 1991 the Centre, along with Extra-Sessional Studies and UBC Access, was brought under the authority of an Associate Vice-President, Continuing Studies. In 1993 all three units were merged into one unit called Continuing Studies after an extensive reorganization project.
Beginning in 1995, Continuing Studies focused on local and international students emphasized social movements focused on women, First Nations, older learners, and environmental sustainability. There was a strong emphasis on immigration, internationalism, interculturalism, language programs, and mental and physical health care. Also, in 1995, Continuing Education was an early adopter of online learning. After the implementation of UBC's Strategic Plan, Trek 2000, in 1997, another reorganization occurred, and the program moved to UBC Robson Square. Post-move, the Women's Resources Center was renamed the "Life and Career Centre." In 2003 Continuing Studies partnered with several other agencies to establish a Certificate in Aboriginal Health Care Administration, which was renamed to the UBC Certificate in Aboriginal Health and Community Administration in 2009. In 2009, Continuing Studies hosted the 2009 Canadian Association for University Continuing Education (CAUCE) conference.
In 2017 the UBC Senate decided to convert Continuing Studies to a new department known as Extended Learning. The new department still offers its courses and adheres to its previous mandate. Eventually, though, Extended Learning is expected to primarily be an administrative unit that will help UBC's faculties provide courses to individuals not enrolled in established degree programs. Around the same time as the establishment of Extended Learning, UBCx became a part of Extended Learning and began offering MOOC courses through edX.