Provincial government working to introduce more dual-credit courses

A new place, with new people, that may have different expectations: university.

The transition from high school into a post-secondary setting can be smooth for some students, and challenging for others, said Shea Ellingham, manager of academic advising services at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

“There are lots of different avenues [in the post-secondary setting] that students could potentially find challenging, academically, emotionally, socially, mentally,” she said.

The Government of Alberta is currently working to introduce more programs that will help students with this adjustment. Details of the government’s strategy will be released in the upcoming months.

“The ultimate outcome is a more seamless transition between high school and post-secondary education,” said Rachel Bouska, spokesperson for Alberta Advanced Education and Technology.

The programs will be offered in a dual-credit format; participating students will be able to enroll in select post-secondary level courses and earn credits towards their certificate or degree while still completing their high school diploma.

Within Alberta, some institutions already offer programs like this:

• Dual credit, apprenticeship programs – such as carpentry – at Olds College

• Dual credit pilot project at Chinook’s Edge School Division in the 2008-09 and 2010-11 school years

• Health Care Aide Program offered by Red Deer College and Prairie Land Regional Division

• Career Pathways Pharmacy Technician (Retail) Program at SAIT Polytechnic

Julia Stein, who is now a nursing student at Mount Royal University, participated in the pharmacy technician program offered at SAIT Polytechnic in 2007.SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary is one of the post-secondary institutions in Alberta that has offered dual-credit programs to students in the past.
Photo courtesy of: SAIT Polytechnic

Stein said that the two-year program, which started when she was in Grade 11, has been a positive influence on her post-secondary career.

“I learned about the scope of practice of a pharmacist and a technician,” she said. “Having an understanding of how prescriptions are filled really paints a picture for me as a nursing student.”

Greg Michaud, dean of the Centre for Academic Learner Services at SAIT, said that the program was able to be offered to students at no cost because of a grant made available from Alberta Education, Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, and Alberta Immigration and Employment.

Greg Weadick, Minister of Advanced Education and Technology in Alberta, said that future programs, which will be funded partly by the province, and partly by the education institutions involved, will aim to help students at the post-secondary level.

“Dual-credit programming offers students the opportunities to explore their passions and career options,” he said. “Those currently participating in the programs have said that they feel motivated to learn and apply themselves at school because their work is being recognized for their long-term goals.”

Michaud agreed with Weadick that the programs are constructive.

“The programs serve a very useful purpose in allowing students to engage in a highly practical and career focused program of study while still in high school,” he said.

Weadick said that the dual-credit courses will help students to be more socially and emotionally prepared for post-secondary as well.

“These programs also allow them to build confidence so that they can succeed at the post-secondary level,” he said.

Bouska added that the programs are not only about the challenges that students face, but also about providing students a chance to pursue their interests.

“The focus is that the learning opportunities will appeal to the students individual interests and have strong links and support from industries that those interests surround,” she said.

Stein added that the most valuable aspect of the program was that it made her more familiar with the field.

“It was beneficial because I’m now in my third year of nursing with more experience than most students.”

jtwerdun@cjournal.ca