Test Drive’ is revving up its engines: TWU’s new program helps high school cruise into university

Langley, B.C.—When you’re buying a car, you don’t just pick one off the lot without test driving it first. You want to know how it runs, how it feels—you want to know if it’s a good fit. Why should a university investment be any different? Trinity Western University doesn’t think it should. So they’ve developed ‘Test Drive,’ a new concept to help ease high schooler’s transition into their post-secondary institution by allowing them to try out university classes ahead of time.

The on-line, dual-credit program was created so high school students could take actual university classes for both post-secondary and high school credit. Students would therefore receive double credits for their money and time, accelerating their university education.

Test Drive was developed as result of TWU research findings, and in response to issues raised by the Ministry of Education concerning graduating grade 12 students. According to public information released by the provincial government, “B.C.’s education system is not adequately preparing students for life beyond Grade 12.” The provincial government is currently in discussion for expanding its legislative rules and regulations regarding dual credit in an attempt to help schools better prepare graduating students. These expansions are expected to pass in May of 2003.

Dr. Philip Laird, Assistant Academic Dean responsible for TWU’s Global Learning Connections (GLC) and the brains behind Test Drive, explains the significance of such a program.

“Right now, at public institutions, the government funds the majority of each student’s actual tuition cost to deliver education,” says Laird. “The amount of funding is on a per student basis. However because of the large volume of university students combined with budget limitations, the government has had to limit the number of students it will fund at each university. This means fewer qualified students can be accepted, causing university entrance requirements to skyrocket,” says Laird.

As part of the solution, the Ministry of Education wants high schools to make university education available to students ahead of time, hence the dual-credit option. The concept is attractive for students—it prepares them better for university, gives them a jump on their education, and gives them two class credits for the price of one. It’s particularly beneficial for students in smaller schools since the on-line format provides a wider selection of courses to pick from.

“But the problem with this legislation arises from the structure of FTE funding,” says Laird. “Public institutions have little motivation to begin a dual credit system.” According to Laird, a dual-credit program involves cooperation between both a high school and a university, but for publicly funded schools, it’s unclear which institution would receive the funding.

“But because TWU is privately funded, the structure works for us,” says Laird. “We are able to say, ‘here’s what it’ll cost a student to take the course and here’s how much your high school will get.’ In short, the program kicks back a percentage of the tuition rates to the student’s high school. If ever there was a win-win situation, that’s it!”

Laird explains the methodology behind the new concept. “What we’ve done is reconstructed the university level on-line class to suit the needs of a high school student.”

“For example, a Trinity Western University e-course is normally a two month on-line course, but for Test Drive it has been extended into a three month course with additional learning tools. The content and expectations are still at a university level, but in each course the ‘learning tools’ are introduced at the beginning of each model to help students prepare for the course, as well as for university.”

Learning tools help support: improved reading, and studying skills, writing and listening skills, time management and preparation for academic work. In the last module, students learn about career options, how to choose a major, register for a course and other university processes.

As part of the process, these students also become part of an on-line community. “The goal is to have them in a mentor relationship with student leaders from on our campus. We want the new students to feel connected with people before they even get here,” says Laird.

In addition to having an online mentor, students will be able to upload and download assignments, chat with each other and participate in an online discussion forum. They will also have access to all library and news resources and a 1-800 and email support line where staff from the Global Learning Connections at TWU can help and support students.

For more information on Test Drive or TWU’s online learning program, contact Global Learning Connections at 604-513-2067.

Last Updated: 2015-07-13
Author: Keela Keeping