Traditionally, education has been a top-down affair; students were told what they needed to learn and how they were going to learn it. That logic is being turned on its head as an increasing number of colleges and universities, in co-operation with school districts, turn to a more client-driven model, says Robin Tizzard, dean at Portage College in Alberta. One of the manifestations of this revolutionary way of delivering education has been the introduction of dual-credit courses for high school students that allow them – at no charge – to take university- and college-level courses for a test drive before committing time and money to them at the post-secondary level.
“There are a lot of young people who don’t know what they want to do, or what options are available for them,” she says. “If you give them the chance to try different things, they can find out.”
According to Amanda Wildman of the Lakeland Catholic School District in Bonnyville, who is working in partnership with Portage to develop programs, the “try it before you buy it” option is not only immensely popular, it is helping many students re-engage with an education system they were losing interest in because of a perceived lack of relevance to their lives.
“We’re now able to offer flexible pathways to education, which is helping [students] build confidence in their abilities and take a new interest in their future,” says Ms. Wildman.
In an effort to create further linkages between trades and technology, Portage is currently developing a dual-credit robotics course in co-operation with Lakeland Catholic School District, which will introduce students to coding and computer science. A new introduction to heavy equipment technician course will allow grads to challenge the Alberta Apprenticeship period one exam, making them job-ready faster, and at less personal expense. The ability to offer these programs is accelerated by Portage’s capability to deliver at least some content online.
Ms. Tizzard adds that the key to the dual-credit model’s success is establishing good partnerships with school districts. “Working together, we’re able to find out what students need and want, and once we know that, we can get to work on delivering it in such a way that they can move seamlessly onto the next level when they leave high school.”
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