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Chinook's Edge seeing significant growth in online dual credit participation

Hugh Sutherland student Olivia Halverson with teacher Kristin Pollock

Chinook’s Edge School Division is seeing a significant increase in the number of students participating in online dual credit courses this year.

Registration in online dual credit has increased from 163 students in 2022-23
to 270 students in 2023-24.

According to Alberta Education, dual credit is optional career-based high school programming, aimed at helping students in making meaningful transitions to post-secondary or the workplace. Students who participate get credit for their work at the high school and post-secondary level.

Some dual credit programs are delivered in person, such as welding and heavy duty mechanics. Some dual credit programs are offered online - for instance: animal sciences, accounting and business, agriculture technology, environmental science, and sociology /psychology.

“We’re thrilled to see the increase in students choosing to participate. Dual credit learning is an incredibly powerful experience for students, which is why we’ve worked hard to create these opportunities. Our data tells us that when students take at least one dual credit course, they graduate from high school,” said Jason Drent, Associate Superintendent, Chinook’s Edge School Division.

Drent said, “We see that because of their participation in dual credit, students increase in their academic confidence, they are more engaged in their academic learning at school, and they are more likely to choose to be in challenging academic classes. Dual credit helps students see the ‘why’ of school; it helps them connect what they are learning to their future.”

“Dual credit gives relevance to current learning, and it creates a level of excitement and confidence in students about who they want to become,” said Jackie Taylor, Director of the Central Alberta Collegiate Institute.

“When students find their purpose, especially early on in high school, it gives meaning to their school journey. Connecting in such a meaningful way is transformational for our students and prepares them with confidence and skills to successfully transition on to their post-secondary career training after high school,” said Taylor.

Taylor said provincial data shows that students who take dual credit while in high school are twice as likely to successfully transition to post-secondary career training.

“The fact that dual credit has seen such huge growth in Chinook’s Edge speaks to how hard our schools are working on career readiness with students. Schools are seeing the positive impact of dual credit for students, and so they want to offer more opportunities for them,” said Taylor.

Teachers help students successfully navigate the post-secondary world
A key piece to the success of dual credit in Chinook’s Edge is having school staff support each student on their dual credit journey. This includes an assigned teacher, and often key support staff, who check in on a student individually at least once a week to review the status of assignments and deadlines. School staff in these roles help students navigate the post-secondary environment and requirements of that world.

“We see that students are far more successful this way,” said Dean Nielsen, the Principal of Hugh Sutherland School (HSS) in Carstairs, which has 40 students participating in dual credit courses this year. 

“The teacher in this role helps students by answering their questions and supporting them, while also holding them accountable. She genuinely cares about the students and wants them to get full value from the post-secondary courses they are enrolled in,” said Nielsen.

Kristin Pollock is that teacher at HSS. Pollock said most of the students enrolled in dual credit are in her classroom during one option block in the school timetable.

“I help students remember week by week what needs to be done. I help them meet the technical requirements such as navigating the Microsoft environment for the first time. I help them write emails to their instructors. Also, together we decide how they will record their learning,” said Pollock. 

How students feel about dual credit learning
Kiera Pennell said she jumped at a chance to take Psychology 260 online through Red Deer Polytechnic, “because for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a psychologist.” Pennell, a Grade 11 student at HSS, said, “I thought this would be a good opportunity to see what the post-secondary workload is like and it was good that I didn’t have to pay any fees.” 

Pennell said she likes having a teacher in her high school to rely on. “Post-secondary is different from high school. It’s helpful to have someone who will help me figure it out, and if I have a question I can ask without any stress. Being able to work with my teacher helps me build confidence,” said Pennell.

Alexis Taylor, a Grade 10 HSS is taking Sports Management 1020. “It all started with a love of sports,” said Taylor. “One day I was thinking about my future and I saw that sports management was an option, and I thought I could travel the world with a team, helping athletes if they’re hurt. I took sports management at school and when I saw I could take the dual credit course I was excited.”

Alexis Taylor said even though she has just started the course she is already making connections. “The anatomy I learned about last semester at school is the same as what I’m learning in Sports Management.” 

And Alexis Taylor said being in dual credit “has made me think about classes I need for the future. It makes being at school more interesting and fun.”

Olivia Halverson, a Grade 11 HSS student decided to take the Health Care Aid dual credit course through Red Deer Polytech because she wants a career in health care.

“I think it’s a cool opportunity to look into something you want to pursue in the future, and I’m really enjoying it. I like learning about what people in health care do and seeing how it runs,” said Halverson.

Halverson also appreciates having a teacher available in her school. “She helped me figure out how RDP works. And with all the core classes I’m taking, having a teacher that reminds me about what is due is really helpful.”