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Short courses, which are taught intensively by the American Vacuum Society (AVS) for one, two, or five days, represent the most important media for disseminating new educational material on the nature, maintenance, and utilization of the vacuum environment. The development of the AVS course offerings is traced from offering one course to 80 attendees in 1969 to an availability of 38 courses and over 2400 attendees in 1983. The topical content of the courses available is listed, and their relationship to the AVS chapter and divisional structure is reviewed. The means used to develop courses, to select the sites for presentation, and to monitor course quality are discussed. The different management plans used at various stages of growth of the short course program are identified and the economic impact of the AVS program on the Society is discussed. Of all who attend AVS courses, 85 percent of the course registrants are not members of the AVS. The background, professional tasks performed, type of employer, and the challenge of the diversity of student backgrounds for classroom teaching are discussed. The AVS experience can serve as a model for any science-related technical society to develop or expand a continuing education program in its topical area of interest.