Bright Ideas

Leveraging Local Organizations

Category: ,

Institution: , , , Canada

Project Partners: Bell Canada

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All Comprehensive Community Institutions (CCIs) in Alberta have a mandate to serve rural communities, but two colleges in Central Alberta have set a new standard in collaboration. Red Deer College (RDC) and Olds College have overlapping catchment areas, so in May 2010 they launched a joint venture initially called “Central Alberta College-Community Partnership,” and now called simply Campus Alberta Central (CAC).  The model appears to be unique in Canada, and is held up by Alberta’s Ministry of Enterprise and Advanced Education as an example to emulate.

RDC and Olds found that “the traditional model of satellite campuses was not sustainable” to meet the needs of a great many small rural communities.  With the help of $3.5 million in startup funding from the Rural Alberta Development Fund, they established 14 community engagement sites between 2008 and 2011, but once the initial financing ran out over half of these small communities could not afford to continue the projects.

More sustainable have been a network of 24 learning sites, in which CAC has embedded its PSE programs into existing Community Adult Learning Councils, which have been in existence for as much as 40 years in some communities. The CALCs arrange for facilities and local staff, and drive the programs and support services; CAC brokers PSE programs from Olds College, RDC, or other Alberta institutions, and provides training for the local CALC staff. Program mix at each site ranges from foundational and interest-based learning through post-secondary, and CAC has served 14,999 learners in identifying their educational pathways in 2012-13 (a 398% increase over 2011-12).

The model is community-driven, enables CAC to help build capacity in small rural communities though a “one-stop-shop site,” and allows adult learners the opportunity to learn near their homes.  It leverages related community supports (such as Alberta Works offices) and provides services to learners often by people they know from the local community. CAC has agreements in place with eCampusAlberta and the Community Learning Network, a provincial organization of 82 rural learning organizations.

“Education can go beyond physical boundaries traditionally laid out for students. Through this partnership, we expect to see great growth in the learning patterns of our communities and schools.” -- Joel Ward, President, Red Deer College "Relationship building is critical in developing and maintaining the connections with the learning site staff and through them with our learners. The connectedness enhances and builds capacity in each site." -- H.J. (Tom) Thompson, President, Olds College

Key Contact

Name: Jean Madill

Title: Executive Director, CAC


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