Five Distinct Educational Features of Columbia College

Read more to see if these five distinct educational features align with your personal learning and educational goals. Discover how these features set Columbia College student outcomes apart from those attending other colleges and universities in North America.

About Columbia College

For more than 30 years, our students have thrived in a stimulating, student-centred environment that’s focused on their outcomes and their futures. Founded in 1986, we’ve supported over 40,000 adult learners in achieving their career goals and shaping their best future.

established in calgary

Established in Calgary in 1986

non-profit institute

Non-profit institution


200+ full-time and part-time faculty and staff


Serving over 4,000 adult learners per year

class room basedonline-class-room

Classroom-based and on-line courses


Providing education primarily to a more mature, motivated, multicultural student population

caring-1 (1)

Provides up to the first two years of university

About Columbia

Founder Dropped out of School, Then…
Columbia’s founder was so frustrated with his education that he dropped out of high school, then later realized that if he wanted to achieve any meaningful purpose in life that he had to return to school.

His previous frustration with education became his passion to create a more learner-centered environment based on leading edge research from around the world.

Dr. Snell’s relentless commitment to excellence has created a unique college of dedicated faculty and staff whose students are achieving amazing results.

Greater Meaning and Purpose
Welcome to a new experience in education and learning. You are about to embark on a journey that will help shape who you are as an individual. Regardless of what program you enroll in, we want to help you adopt the professional behaviour employers are looking for. At Columbia College, we care about each student, treat them with respect, and help them change their lives by finding greater meaning and purpose in a new career. We are different and very proud of it.

Individual Success
As you will see, this is not a traditional college. It was founded to help each adult acquire not only the knowledge and skills they require in their education but also the professional behaviours they need to become highly successful members in their future occupation.

Completion Rates and National Exams
Over the last 30+ years, this private non-profit College has educated over 40,000 adult learners. Put simply, we are a student-centered institution. By this we mean that all decisions are made in our students’ long-term best interest. We are proud to say that we have achieved among the highest student program completion rates in Alberta (over 80%) and our students have achieved higher than average college marks on academic national exams.

Satisfied Employers
Columbia’s unique approach to adult education is designed to help ensure that employers are able to hire individuals who are not only able to perform their duties and responsibilities, but are better able to solve work-related problems, communicate more effectively, make important workplace decisions, interact more effectively as team members, and work more collaboratively with other professionals in the best interest of their internal customers (fellow employees) and external customers (patients, clients, students, and colleagues). Employers have given our professional program practicum students higher employer satisfaction ratings than a national study commissioned by the Conference Board of Canada.

Professional Behaviour
Our highly educated faculty and skilled staff treat each student with respect, care, and understanding, and interact with them as professionals, both inside and outside the classroom. Students are coached on their professional conduct and encouraged to adopt professional behaviours that will assist them in becoming more successful in their future, not only in the workplace, but also in the community. Most of our faculty, in our career-focused programs, are still working in the workplace. This allows them to bring a wealth of current knowledge and experiences to share with students.

Active Engagement in Class
Our students are not lectured to; instead their classroom activities are based on a review of assigned textbook readings and other homework. Each student in our career-focused programs will normally receive feedback on how they are progressing during each class. These students are encouraged to actively and collaboratively interact with one another in a respectful manner during each class where workplace problems or cases are normally discussed. Our faculty facilitate student interaction much more and lecture to students much less than most faculty in other institutions. This more hands-on experience in the classroom, as well as, a student’s individual practicum (work experience) in the workplace, gives these students a greater opportunity to experience and prepare for their future career.

Employment Support
To top it off, our career advising staff assist students who need help, to find related and relevant employment in their fields of training.

Columbia is Unique
As a result of Columbia’s unique approach to education and our method of engaging learners in our more stimulating, student-centered environment, our students achieve some of the most outstanding results in Canada. We are definitely different and proud of it!
Welcome to Columbia College.

Mastery Learning in the Practical Nurse Program

Columbia’s Practical Nurse Diploma Program students have consistently achieved some of the best results in Canada. Our reputation for graduating highly competent professionals is something we are very proud of. This program is the only one we have found in Canada that follows a Mastery Learning Model. Columbia’s Mastery Learning Model provides students with up to 500 additional hours of free Mastery Learning tutorials over the course of the 20 month program. The tutorials provide learners with support from faculty, who work with them on strengthening competencies and skills and working towards mastery. Our free tutorials have proven to be an excellent resource for the students.

Practical Nurse Olympic Games

Columbia College follows an Olympic Games approach in the delivery of 4 hour Gamification sessions once a week. The sessions are delivered using a fun-based approach to support student learning, by using a series of nursing-related activities to build and consolodate the knowledge and skills they have acquired in their regular courses throughout the preceding week. The Olympic Games sessions were added to the nursing program to help ensure that students moving into field-based practicums are able to recall information learned earlier in the program. This strategy and delivery is aimed to greatly increase their confidence, ability to perform in a nursing role, and successfully complete the program.

Columbia’s Foundation Documents

For greater insight into higher education learning and Columbia’s approach to education, please see our Foundations Documents.

To learn more about Columbia’s beliefs on Professional Behaviour, please refer to our Professional Behaviour document.

Diversity Statement

Click here to read Columbia’s Human Rights and Diversity Policy.

Customer Satisfaction Results

Each year Columbia College conducts surveys of stakeholders to better understand the challenges and to celebrate the successes each year. These reports are reviewed by the College and the management team. This information is used to create an action plan to move forward in continuously improving the College. To view the most recent report (covering September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2019) – Click here.

Commitment to the Community

The Columbia Learning Society

To help individuals, Columbia College established an independent and separate non-profit society called The Columbia Learning Society. The Society’s principle aim is to provide bursaries to children and adults who wish to attend workshops, seminars, courses or programs at Columbia College.

The Columbia Learning Society has been active since September 2002. To date, over 3700 adults and children utilized bursaries to attend classes, workshops or tutoring sessions at Columbia College.

For a current list of workshops running please see our Free Learning page.


Each year a limited number of bursaries are provided to those individuals attending Columbia College who have been identified as potential candidates based on the society’s established needs criteria.

Community Relations

College personnel visit schools and community groups to provide information about the College and offer a variety of services such as free resume-building workshops. They also participate in career days and trade shows and distribute information to prospective students and student advisors.

The College is committed to developing the community. The College demonstrated this commitment by establishing an independent and separate non-profit society, The Columbia Learning Society. The Society offers bursaries to attend workshops, courses, or programs at Columbia College.

Computer Donation Program and Charitable Events

Columbia College regularly donates computers that are being replaced to its students who may need a computer and to community groups who identify this as a need for their group. During 2012 Columbia College donated 30 computers to its students and community groups. The College also spends time each year having fundraising events for various charitable organizations.

Dental Services

Columbia College has a dental patient care clinic that is open to the public several times each year.

For more information, please see our page: Columbia College Dental Clinic.

International Day

Each year students of the English as a Second Language Program and our Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) host International Day, a celebration meant to showcase the College’s cultural diversity. The event features over 25 different cultural groups creating interactive displays and activities highlighting the music, dance, food, and traditions of their particular community.

For pictures of our most recent event, visit our FLICKR site.

Recognition of the College

We are proud of the following list of organizations which represent the level and diversity of recognition the College has achieved. The list includes accreditation, licenses, memberships and professional associations. Either the College or its employees have a formal relationship with:

  • Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
  • Adult Higher Education Alliance
  • Alberta Association of Career Colleges
  • Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies
  • Alberta Association for Supported Employment
  • Alberta College of Paramedics
  • Alberta Corrections
  • Alberta Council of Disability Services
  • Alberta Education
  • Alberta Education – Teacher Certification
  • Alberta Education, Private Institutions Branch
  • Alberta Government Advanced Education
  • Alberta Teachers of English as a Second Language
  • American Management Association
  • American Marketing Association
  • Association of Canadian Community Colleges
  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
  • Athabasca University
  • CAEL – Council for Adult and Experiential Learning
  • Career Development Association of Alberta
  • Calgary Area LINC Coordinators Committee
  • Calgary Community of Adult Learning Association
  • Calgary Region Community Board, Persons with Developmental Disabilities
  • Canadian Association for Supported Employment
  • Canadian Chamber of Commerce
  • Canadian Criminal Justice Association
  • Canadian Dental Assistant Association
  • Canadian Federation of Independent Business
  • Canadian Military Police
  • Canadian Taxpayers Federation
  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada
  • City Police Forces in Alberta including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta
  • College of Alberta Dental Assistants
  • College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta (CLPNA)
  • Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada
  • Electronic Recycling Association
  • Human Resource Institute of Alberta
  • Calgary Language Assessment and Referral Centre (CLARC)
  • Immigrant Services Calgary
  • Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
  • National American University
  • National Dental Assistants Examination Board
  • Royal Roads University