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Graduate Certificates in Ontario colleges: uniquely engaging in specialized skills development

Laura A. Thorsell (School of Business, Algonquin College, Ottawa, Canada)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine Graduate Certificates in colleges in Ontario, Canada, and their distinctive ability to generate intrinsic student engagement in specialized skills development, and a culture of progression and scholarship.


This is a review of selected literature on student engagement. While extrinsic motivation, such as employment, has most often been discussed this paper purposefully considers intrinsic motivation and factors that build deeper engagement in students. This paper compares and contrasts the literature, and its link with the features of the Ontario College Graduate Certificate in Canada. More specifically, it examines the background and development of the credential in the context of the movement towards competency-based education.


This paper postulates that colleges can uniquely provide applied and intrinsically engaging programming through credentials like the Graduate Certificate. The Graduate Certificate helps heighten graduate skills engagement, a culture of progression and scholarship, and ultimately competitiveness in today’s workplace.

Practical implications

The findings of this paper have implications for colleges to distinguish themselves amongst post-secondary institutions as providers of specialized skills development in higher education, especially as competency-based education grows in importance. It also puts in to question how this type of engaging design can be further built in to post-secondary graduate curriculum.


This paper illuminates innovative practice at the post-graduate level, as an example of a skills-based scholarly activity. It helps position colleges as providers of effective, competency and outcomes-based higher education. This paper can add value to practitioners looking to build similar programming, by combining this Graduate Certificate design with evidence-based factors that build student engagement, particularly intrinsic motivation.



Thorsell, L.A. (2015), "Graduate Certificates in Ontario colleges: uniquely engaging in specialized skills development", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 74-85.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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