What is Unique About Columbia College?

The following is a list of the distinguishing features of this College that sets us apart from other institutions. We are proud of the culture we have created over the last 28 years and are so pleased with the unquestionable influence we have had on learner’s lives.

A. Prior to Enrollment

Columbia College has gone out of it way to present a lot of information so that you will be able to make a more objective and informed decision regarding a future career, employment possibilities, and range of future wages. It has also been designed to provide details about each program we offer. We hope this information will help you move your life forward. We have even added a tool that will assist you in making a better decision about which institution to attend. Take a look at the document called Which College is Right for You listed under the program you are considering or under the Columbia: The Right Choice? section on the website. We know of no other institution that has done all this. It is all about helping you, the student.
The primary role of Columbia College’s Student Admission Advisors is to take the time necessary to listen to you and understand your questions, concerns, and apprehensions. Their role is to provide as much assistance as needed in answering these questions and to assist you in better understanding your program of interest and how to proceed through our enrollment process. It is not about how fast we can sign you up, but rather how we can help you make a more informed decision.
While most institutions require students to provide transcripts of their previous education, at Columbia we have learned that too often transcripts do not provide a clear understanding of the student’s current academic skills in high school subjects such as math, English, and science. We want every student to succeed at Columbia. Our assessments help both us and you better understand which of our resources would benefit you the most. For example, our assessments may reveal that you may need some extra help in one or more subjects to meet entry requirements before beginning a certain program. If you need help and have met other entry requirements, we offer help through our College Prep courses to students who are provisionally accepted into one of Columbia College’s professional programs.
We have challenged ourselves to not only have one of the best adult learning environments in Calgary but to offer one of the lowest tuition fees possible to our students. Our ability to deliver programs over shorter periods of time also tends to lower the overall cost of an education to our students. Unfortunately, a few of our programs have higher tuition than some providers. While we wanted to lower the tuition rates in these programs, we realize that such changes would require us to significantly increase class size up to 60 or more students; this would seriously reduce the quality of these programs. We are not prepared to compromise on the quality of the education we offer. We do not think it is in your best interest to have classes of 60 or more students. Large class sizes may be one of the reasons so many institutions in North America have so many students who are not successful.
Our review of other institutions indicates that many of them have limited amounts of student orientation activities. In some cases, these activities are either shorter than Columbia’s or are less focused on preparing students for classroom success. In some institutions student orientation is simply not offered, while in others it is not mandatory for students to attend an orientation. An important component of our orientation for professional students is a mandatory week long free course called College Skills for Student Success. This course is offered during the week or on Saturdays depending on the program the student is enrolled in. This course is taken prior to you starting your program so you will be ready to be successful. Knowing how to learn and study are critical skills for students preparing to enter a professional program. It results in better grades and overall success. In this course you will find out about your learning style and strategies to incorporate your learning style into your studying; active reading strategies; strategies for test-taking; overcoming test anxiety; time management; stress management; memory strategies, and much more. The College Skills for Student Success is a mandatory credit course that professional students must take prior to starting their program. That is just how important we believe the right orientation is in helping students get off to a sound start.
We believe our primary role is to help you succeed; all people are equal – regardless of their backgrounds. With this in mind we have created a learner-focused culture that does all it can to treat each learner in a more respected manner. We operate on a first-name basis. We interact with our students in a caring and personal manner and go out of our way in our classrooms to create more supportive, stimulating, experiential (hands-on) and high quality learning environments.

B. Program of Study

To ensure that you are learning from the most qualified faculty members, Columbia only hires professionals who are very well educated and experienced in their field of training. A large number of our professional program faculty has Master’s degrees and doctorates; however, we feel it isn’t enough just to be highly educated. Faculty members also need to be professionals who are currently working in industry. Some ninety percent of our faculty is working in industry and they bring that current industry knowledge, dynamism, and experience to the classroom. This allows them to not only help you learn relevant theories but also learn how these are applied in the real work world.
Columbia College has spent decades researching, developing, delivering, and refining its unique “Four Stage Learner-Centered Model”. This model takes learners out of the traditional classroom where they are most often expected to sit and passively listen to faculty who stand at the front of the room and lecture. However, at Columbia we place our students in a classroom where they are much more actively engaged throughout each class interacting with other adult learners as well as our faculty member. Almost every class in Columbia’s professional programs begins with a review of written questions submitted by students. These questions are based on their homework assignment. Following a class discussion of these questions, you will write a test based on a previous homework assignment. This test is marked in class and you will be able to see your results right away. This process will enable you to review test results and focus on incorrect questions. This will give you an opportunity to raise these questions in class discussion and better understand what the best answer was and why. Class discussion regarding a test is normally followed by a discussion of an industry-based case study that you may encounter in your future workplace. In the case study you will be presented with a problem that you are expected to solve by applying your newly acquired knowledge. To solve the case you may be asked to work in small or large groups, provide demonstrations, make presentations, debate, role play, or engage in other activities. Collectively these activities help you learn more effective ways to apply what you are learning to solve a problem. This approach to learning adds greater depth of understanding to the concepts being taught. Students better understand and retain what they are learning longer. This will also help you develop stronger critical thinking skills which employers from around the world say is missing in many educational programs. In many programs you will also build your reflective thinking skills by doing a short daily summary about what you learned and what new ideas you have thought of by the end of class.
Almost every employer is looking for two things when deciding who they will hire. First, they want to hire employees who have graduated from an adult educational institution. Without the required education, there is little hope that an individual will even get a job interview. Second, employers wish to employ individuals who effectively demonstrate a set of critical work-related skills referred to as Employment Skills. Employment skills include a broad range of life and essential skills such as communication skills, listening skills, decision making skills, problem solving skills, team work, leadership, customer or client services, work ethics, and managing change skills, to name only a few. To review a complete list of Employment Skills please go to http://www.columbia.ab.ca/employer-satisfaction/ and click on the Employment Skills Survey link at the bottom of the page). Department Chairs and faculty integrate this broad range of Employment Skills, as much as possible, in the delivery of their programs and courses. In some respects our faculty has modified the traditional learning environment into more of a work environment where you are asked to take on the role of an employee and faculty take on the role of the employer. You will be assigned duties and responsibilities and will be expected to be at work (class) on time each day and complete assignments (homework). You will be continually assessed on your attitude and behaviour and receive coaching and support from your employer/faculty member to improve in areas needing help. You may be praised for showing respect to others and working as a team member. You and your team will celebrate when effective results are achieved. Students (employees) needing extra assistance may receive support from other students (team members) or receive help from the faculty member (employer). We have learned that the most successful students are the ones who have (1) acquired the academic knowledge and skills included in their program of study and (2) have demonstrated more effective Employment Skills. Some students have become so effective that employers not only hire them first, but tend to retain and promote them sooner than other less effective employees.
While some institutions evaluate their faculty on the basis of the number of papers they have published in research journals, Columbia evaluates its faculty on the basis of their effectiveness in helping students acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours outlined in their course syllabus. To help faculty plan appropriate learning activities, the facilitator receives a summary of their students’ learning styles. Our faculty understands that what they are helping students learn is a critical building block that contributes to our students’ future success. Our classroom is the heart of the College. Faculty effectiveness is therefore measured in their students’ ability to apply their newly acquired classroom knowledge and skills in their labs as well as their cooperative education/practicum workplace. Finally, faculty effectiveness is based on their Student Satisfaction surveys, classroom observations of their work, the results students achieve on National exams, and their contributions to the program.
Although some students find themselves in a position in other institutions where they may feel like ‘a number’, this is not the case at Columbia College. Smaller classes allow faculty to get to know you on a first-name basis. It allows faculty to better understand your needs, motivations, and learning challenges, and allows them to interact with you and provide guidance, coaching, and support in a respectful and caring manner. This interaction takes place before, during, and after classes. In some cases groups of students are offered free tutorials in order to better acquire the knowledge and skills being taught.
Columbia, like some institutions, has established Employer Advisor Boards in order to take advantage of industry advice on the changing needs in the market place. However, unlike a lot of institutions in North America, Columbia hires part-time faculty from a wide range of high-performing industries which contributes to the economy of Alberta. These professionals deliver most of its courses. This adds more currency and relevancy to what you are learning in the classroom. The College further asks cooperative education/practicum employers to complete performance evaluations on students assigned to their organization. Their feedback also helps us identify program areas needing improvement.
A large percentage of institutions either do not offer or do not require students to complete a practicum course/s. This is considered a critical course/s in each professional program at Columbia College. This field-based work experience will allow you opportunities to see how theory courses can be applied in the work place and provide you with employment advantages in being able to observe workplace culture and workplace practices. This means you will be able to interact with individuals performing the duties you may be expected to perform in your future. In fact, you will be engaged in networking within your career area! This exposure will allow you to develop a relationship with the organization such that effective work may lead to future employment opportunities within that organization, an employment referral to another organization, or a valuable employer reference. You will be able to list this practical experience on your resume as an example of previous work experience. Previous experience is something most employers are seriously looking for when hiring new employees. Some of our practicum employers are so impressed with our students that they offered part-time employment while these students are still enrolled in our program.
A class size of 60 to 160 students is not unusual in many educational institutions in North America. At Columbia we believe that it is critically important to keep classes smaller so students have more time to interact with each other as well as their faculty member. Smaller class sizes will increase your ability to learn and succeed academically. Our classes tend to range between 16 and 36 students. In fact the ratio of students to faculty in our labs is about 1 faculty to 8 students, depending on the program and activity. This ensures that the facilitator is able to observe each student and provide individual guidance and correction where needed as you learn new skills and techniques. Our average class size is among the lowest in North America.
It is quite common for students to enroll in institutions across North America that deliver 26 weeks of classes over a 52 week period. This is achieved by providing students with many breaks, such as no summer classes. This method of delivery can seriously slow down how long it will take to complete a two-year diploma program. At Columbia College we have removed most of the breaks in the delivery of our programs so you can complete a two-year diploma in 50 weeks rather than 104 weeks. This allows you to graduate sooner and enter the workforce sooner. This may be referred to as an accelerated delivery model. In our model we cover the same amount of educational material and graduate students who are equally qualified as students attending much longer programs. In fact, students from Columbia, who write national exams, score as well or higher than students attending programs that take much longer to cover essentially the same material.
Even after students in Nationally Accredited programs complete their program, Columbia offers free weekly review classes where students receive additional support and guidance as they prepare to write their National exams. As long as you are committed and working hard, we work with you until you are successful. Students who attend these classes significantly increase their likelihood of passing the National exams. This is another example of how this College goes out of its way to help its students succeed.

C. Graduation and Employment

It is probably fair to say that the primary motivation for virtually every Columbia College student is to enroll in a program that will lead them to a better life, new employment opportunities, higher income, a more rewarding career, and an opportunity to play a more meaningful role in society. We understand this motivation. That is why we constantly spend so much time designing, developing, delivering, evaluating, and re-designing every aspect of our educational programs. We understand that the needs of individuals and employers are constantly changing and if we are going to remain effective, we must be prepared to constantly change. If we don’t, we will be left behind. Your future employment success is always paramount in our minds. We also know that our work is not complete until we have provided every assistance we can in aiding our graduates in finding employment in their field of training. Your success is our success
Many students enrolling in Columbia’s professional programs have a clear understanding of their career choice and the steps they will follow in achieving their education. Those who are uncertain can meet with a qualified career advisor to further explore the choices. Upon entering our professional programs, you will be assisted to create an effective and contemporary, employment-ready resume. This is very valuable when seeking a practicum placement or employment. Prior to graduation, you will receive assistance in identifying and contacting prospective employers, preparing for and managing an effective interview, and completing follow-up activities after a job interview. Before graduating, we will help you to take the necessary steps that will lead to employment in your field of training. This is why our employment rate is one of the highest in North America.
For every 100 students who enroll in a one-year or two-year program in a public or private institution in North America, only about 50 of them actually complete their program and graduate. This low rate of success is shocking. We are very proud to say that graduation rates in our one-year and two-year programs at Columbia College are well over 90 percent. This means that individuals who enroll in our programs have about twice the likelihood of actually completing their program at Columbia College and graduating. Columbia College’s student success rate in program completion and graduation is well above the North American average.
To be employed in a field of training means for example, that the student who graduated from a Practical Nurse Program or a Dental Assisting Program would be employed as a Licensed Practical Nurse, a Dental Assistant, or a clearly related position. It does not mean that the individual would be employed in an unrelated position such as a cashier, waitress, or sales clerk. Unfortunately, a large number of university and college graduates across North America find themselves employed in a position that is clearly unrelated to the program they completed. This should not be the case. At Columbia College, we are very proud to say that over 90 of every 100 of our graduates are employed in their field of training. It is not unusual for many of Columbia’s students to be offered employment prior to graduation. Now, this is success!
Unlike most private Colleges in Alberta, Columbia College has signed block transfer agreements with a number of universities. These formal agreements will enable you to enroll in these universities and receive up to two full years of credit towards a four year degree. These formal relationships allow you the opportunity to continue your education. This is also a clear indication of the quality of education Columbia provides.
Background Information

A great deal of educational research, reports, and books have been published over the last sixty years. Some of this research focused on understanding how individuals learn and what enhances their ability to learn. Some describe effective methods of delivering educational programs. Columbia College has studied these publications and incorporated a great deal of what was learned in the design and delivery of our programs and courses. Columbia’s application of leading edge research has greatly assisted students like you achieve excellent outcomes. To review Columbia’s outcomes, please read the Columbia College document titled What Outcomes Matter Most to Students (see above).

A large number of Columbia’s students are between ages 25 and 45. In fact, a good number are married, have children, and have household bills to pay. Almost all have expressed some degree of apprehension and concern about attending college. While it is common to have these feelings, making the decision to go to school is taking a solid step towards reaching your dreams of a better life. Our knowledgeable staff at Columbia College is here to help you make your dreams come true.

We are different and so very proud of it.