Editorial Pages

It's that time of year again...



The Voice introduces a new fiction writer, Carolyn Vaughan. Read part one of her dark tale about an overworked nurse kept too long on the night shift, then read more about Carolyn in AU Profiles. If you would like to be featured in AU profiles, contact the editor.

WCUCC: Part 2 of Debbie Jabbour’s report from the 17th annual Western Canadian Undergraduate Chemistry

Dear Sandra: Sandra counsels a student who has failed an exam. Do you know what your options are if you fail?

Retro Fedwatch: Karl Low takes a look at the first few issues of the Voice and notices some disturbing trends


For the average university student, May marks the end of study for another year. Despite the fact that many universities continue to offer summer courses, for all appearances, most campuses seem to roll up the carpets, turn out the lights, and soap up the windows come summertime. It’s easy for an AU student to forget this, but this year I’ve been keenly aware as the end of study has approached because as Voice editor I’m on the mailing list for the Canadian University press. I was quite surprised to learn that most university newspapers stop publishing in May, and only resume again in September. Many also go on hiatus during spring break and Christmas vacation. The past month the mailing list has been inundated with announcements of last yearly issues, and goodbyes from outgoing editors and writing staff:

The Voice is unusual because we publish 51 times a year, just as the AU student is unusual because he or she studies any day of the week, time of the day, or calendar month. Not only do many of us fail to take summer off from our studies, some of us intensify our school work during the holidays. It’s one of the greatest benefits of distance education that we can continue learning throughout the year, but it is also an unusual hardship for weary students.

The most important skill for succeeding in distance education is the ability to self-motivate. Generally, people who fail as distance students, do so because they are unable to motivate themselves so their coursework simply never gets done. Not everyone is cut out for distance education. Those who do succeed learn early on to fit study into their free time and to follow a self-prescribed and regular schedule, or they learn to complete their assignments very quickly at the end of the course contract period. Based on a number of tutors who have complained about students handing in all of their assignments at the last minute, I suspect that many are the fast worker types.

Unfortunately, once a student learns to force theirself into study mode, it can be difficult thing to stop! It is not unusual to hear from AU students who admit that they have been working year round for many consecutive semesters, and that they never take time off.

I wrote on this topic last year, and described my own perspective on the distance education problem. While I have been AU student for many semesters and I have completed many courses, often I feel as though I am not progressing and I think this is due in part to the fact that I never reach the end of the semester or the end of the year. A traditional student will be able to say, “I am in my third year.” The AU student often cannot. Years, and semesters become nebulous terms which can only be described by determining a set number of courses to represent a semester. If you decide, for example, that four courses comprise an average semester, and you have taken twelve, then you can say that you have completed three semesters even though you may taken all the courses separately, or in groups of two or even five.

Every year at this time I feel a little bit jealous of the traditional university student, because they have such a well-defined summer break and such a well-defined sense of completion. Of course most of the time I feel much more fortunate than the traditional student so this is really a small complaint.

Nevertheless, I decided last year that each summer I would convince myself that I have completed another year of university, whether I have completed ten in the past year, or two. The point is, time has passed and I have stuck with the studies to the best of my ability and to the limit of my finances, and while my progress may not be as quick as I had hoped, each summer I am at least a few credits closer to my degree. Simple mathematics tell me that regardless of my pace I will get there eventually!

So I would like to wish all AU students a very happy summer, and I would like to urge you all to take a little time this summer – and maybe even a short break – to think about the progress you’ve made this year, and all the things you have done to bring life closer to what you want it to be. If you are a mature student who already has an established career or who has significant life experience, make sure to credit yourself for all the non-academic successes you have had, because often changes in lifestyle, job, and even attitude can do as much to bring you to where you want to be in life, as gaining a university degree can.

Happy summer, everyone!

Tamra Ross Low
Editor in Chief.