Columbia’s founder, Dr. Tom Snell, was so frustrated with his education that he dropped out of high school. He soon realized that if he wanted to achieve any meaningful purpose in life he had to return to school. His previous frustration with education fueled his passion to create a learner-centered environment based on leading-edge research from around the world. Dr. Snell’s relentless commitment to excellence has created a unique college of dedicated faculty and staff whose students are achieving amazing results.

 Since 1986, we’ve supported over 40,000 adult learners in achieving their career goals and shaping their best futures. Our students thrive in a stimulating, student-centered environment that is focused on providing quality education that employers value. We’re designed to be both flexible and responsive to the educational and training needs of business, government, and individual community members at a regional, national, and international level. Columbia responds to identified learning needs in the form of programs, courses, workshops, products, and professional services. We provide innovative, flexible, and alternative educational programs, products, and services to all sectors of society in a caring, positive, and success-oriented atmosphere. 

Our classes are delivered in-person, online, and in blended environments – forging a path to success that is tailored to each student’s unique needs. Columbia has the reputation of being a leader in its field: we are one of 19 Canadian institutions recognized for exemplary adult educational programs and innovative practices by the Secretary of State (Government of Canada).

We’re Different, And We’re Proud Of It.

Completion Rates And National Exams

Over the last 30+ years, this private non-profit College has educated over 40,000 adult learners. Put simply, we are a student-centered institution. By this we mean that all decisions are made in our students’ long-term best interest. We are proud to say that we have achieved among the highest student program completion rates in Alberta (over 80%) and our students have achieved higher than average college marks on academic national exams.

Satisfied Employers

Columbia’s unique approach to adult education is designed to help ensure that employers are able to hire individuals who are not only able to perform their duties and responsibilities, but are better able to solve work-related problems, communicate more effectively, make important workplace decisions, interact more effectively as team members, and work more collaboratively with other professionals in the best interest of their internal customers (fellow employees) and external customers (patients, clients, students, and colleagues). Employers have given our professional program practicum students higher employer satisfaction ratings than a national study commissioned by the Conference Board of Canada.

Individual Success

As you will see, this is not a traditional college. It was founded to help each adult acquire not only the knowledge and skills they require in their education but also the professional behaviours they need to become highly successful members in their future occupations. To top it off, our career advising staff assist students who need help, to find related and relevant employment in their fields of training.

Professional Behaviour

Our highly educated faculty and skilled staff treat each student with respect, care, and understanding, and interact with them as professionals, both inside and outside the classroom. Students are coached on their professional conduct and encouraged to adopt professional behaviours that will assist them in becoming more successful in their future, not only in the workplace, but also in the community. Most of our faculty, in our career-focused programs, are still working in the workplace. This allows them to bring a wealth of current knowledge and experiences to share with students.

Greater Meaning And Purpose

Welcome to a new experience in education and learning. You are about to embark on a journey that will help shape who you are as an individual. Regardless of what program you enroll in, we want to help you adopt the professional behaviour employers are looking for. At Columbia College, we care about each student, treat them with respect, and help them change their lives by finding greater meaning and purpose in a new career. We are different and very proud of it.

Active Engagement In Class

Our students are not lectured to; instead their classroom activities are based on a review of assigned textbook readings and other homework. Each student in our career-focused programs will normally receive feedback on how they are progressing during each class. These students are encouraged to actively and collaboratively interact with one another in a respectful manner during each class where workplace problems or cases are normally discussed. Our faculty facilitate student interaction much more and lecture to students much less than most faculty in other institutions. This more hands-on experience in the classroom, as well as, a student’s individual practicum (work experience) in the workplace, gives these students a greater opportunity to experience and prepare for their future career.

Approach To Education


We deliver programs in shorter periods of time. This is referred to as accelerated program delivery or compressed learning. Class sizes are comparatively much smaller than traditional classrooms, giving learners more access to faculty, and as a result, enhancing the quality of their education. Faculty members actively and collaboratively engage learners by facilitating in small groups rather than lecturing to large audiences. This interactive and hands-on approach allows learners to gain and retain greater knowledge and skills that are transferable to the workplace.

In addition to student evaluation of courses and their facilitators, the college constantly seeks input from graduates and their employers. Each program has a board of advisors that includes members from the industry to help guide the direction of the program. This process of continuous evaluation enables the college to keep our programs and courses current.

Discover how these features set Columbia College student outcomes apart from those attending other colleges and universities in North America. Read more to see if these five distinct educational features align with your personal learning and educational goals.

Columbia’s Practical Nurse Diploma Program students have consistently achieved some of the best results in Canada. Our reputation for graduating highly competent professionals is something we are very proud of. This program is the only one we have found in Canada that follows a Mastery Learning Model. Columbia’s Mastery Learning Model provides students with up to 500 additional hours of free Mastery Learning tutorials over the course of the 20 month program. The tutorials provide learners with support from faculty, who work with them on strengthening competencies and skills and working towards mastery. Our free tutorials have proven to be an excellent resource for the students.
Columbia’s Practical Nurse Diploma Program students have consistently achieved some of the best results in Canada. Our reputation for graduating highly competent professionals is something we are very proud of. This program is the only one we have found in Canada that follows a Mastery Learning Model. Columbia’s Mastery Learning Model provides students with up to 500 additional hours of free Mastery Learning tutorials over the course of the 20 month program. The tutorials provide learners with support from faculty, who work with them on strengthening competencies and skills and working towards mastery. Our free tutorials have proven to be an excellent resource for the students.

Practical Nurse Professional Games

Columbia College follows a Professional Games approach in the delivery of 4-hour Gamification sessions once a week. The sessions are delivered using a fun-based approach to support student learning, by using a series of nursing-related activities to build and consolodate the knowledge and skills they have acquired in their regular courses throughout the preceding week. The Professional Games sessions were added to the nursing program to help ensure that students moving into field-based practicums are able to recall information learned earlier in the program. This strategy and delivery is aimed to greatly increase their confidence, ability to perform in a nursing role, and successfully complete the program.

  • For greater insight into higher education learning and Columbia’s approach to education, please see our Foundations Documents.
  • To learn more about Columbia’s beliefs on Professional Behaviour, please refer to our Professional Behaviour document
Each year Columbia College conducts surveys of stakeholders to better understand the challenges and to celebrate the successes each year. These reports are reviewed by the College and the management team. This information is used to create an action plan to move forward in continuously improving the College. To view the most recent report (covering September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2019) – Click here.
and successfully complete the program.
We are proud of the following list of organizations that represent the level and diversity of recognition the college has achieved. The list includes accreditation, licenses, memberships, and professional associations. Either the college or its employees have a formal relationship with:
  • Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
  • Adult Higher Education Alliance
  • Alberta Association of Career Colleges
  • Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies
  • Alberta Association for Supported Employment
  • Alberta College of Paramedics
  • Alberta Corrections
  • Alberta Council of Disability Services
  • Alberta Education
  • Alberta Education – Teacher Certification
  • Alberta Education, Private Institutions Branch
  • Alberta Government Advanced Education
  • Alberta Teachers of English as a Second Language
  • American Management Association
  • American Marketing Association
  • Association of Canadian Community Colleges
  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
  • Athabasca University
  • CAEL – Council for Adult and Experiential Learning
  • Career Development Association of Alberta
  • Calgary Area LINC Coordinators Committee
  • Calgary Community of Adult Learning Association
  • Calgary Region Community Board, Persons with Developmental Disabilities
  • Canadian Association for Supported Employment
  • Canadian Chamber of Commerce
  • Canadian Criminal Justice Association
  • Canadian Dental Assistant Association
  • Canadian Federation of Independent Business
  • Canadian Military Police
  • Canadian Taxpayers Federation
  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada
  • City Police Forces in Alberta including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta
  • College of Alberta Dental Assistants
  • College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta (CLPNA)
  • Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada
  • Electronic Recycling Association
  • Human Resource Institute of Alberta
  • Calgary Language Assessment and Referral Centre (CLARC)
  • Immigrant Services Calgary
  • Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
  • National American University
  • National Dental Assistants Examination Board
  • Royal Roads University
Click here to read Columbia’s Human Rights and Diversity Policy.

Commitment To The Community

Scholarships And Bursaries

To help individuals, Columbia College established an independent and separate non-profit society called The Columbia Learning Society. The Society’s principal aim is to provide scholarships and bursaries to individuals who wish to attend workshops, seminars, courses or programs at Columbia College. The Columbia Learning Society has been active since September 2002. To date, over 3700 adults and children utilized bursaries to attend classes, workshops, or tutoring sessions at Columbia College. For a current list of workshops running please see our Free Learning page

Office Of Indigenous Engagement

We strive to promote Indigenous awareness and education as a crucial part of our journey towards learning and growth. Our Office of Indigenous Engagement has compiled various resources to support those seeking to learn more about Indigenous history, culture, and contemporary issues in Canada. Learn more here.

Community Relations

College personnel visit schools and community groups to provide information about the College and offer a variety of services such as free resume-building workshops. They also participate in career days and trade shows and distribute information to prospective students and student advisors. The College is committed to developing the community. The College demonstrated this commitment by establishing an independent and separate non-profit society, The Columbia Learning Society. The Society offers bursaries to attend workshops, courses, or programs at Columbia College.

International Day

Each year students of the English as a Second Language Program and our Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) host International Day, a celebration meant to showcase the College’s cultural diversity. The event features over 25 different cultural groups creating interactive displays and activities highlighting the music, dance, food, and traditions of their particular community. For pictures of our most recent event, visit our FLICKR site.

Computer Donation Program And Charitable Events

Columbia College regularly donates computers that are being replaced to its students who may need a computer and to community groups who identify this as a need for their group. During 2012 Columbia College donated 30 computers to its students and community groups. The College also spends time each year having fundraising events for various charitable organizations.

Dental Services

Columbia College has a dental patient care clinic that is open to the public several times each year. For more information, please see our page: Columbia College Dental Clinic.