Editorial Pages – Review of the new AU Calendar


AU NOW CONTRIBUTING TO SCHOLARSHIP NEWS – Each month, the AU Awards Office will be forwarding The Voice a list of the scholarhips with upcoming deadlines, so that you can make sure to get your applications in time. See Scholarship News for the first instalment of this list:

NATURE NOTES – Devious and clever mimics in the animal and plant worlds:

FOREST FIRES – Those who fight on the front lines are not the only ones affected by fire’s devastation:

THERE IS NO ‘I’ IN ‘TEAM’ – Succeeding in the competitive world of high tech requires teamwork and recognition of each member’s strengths and weaknesses:

PROFILES! – Another Graduate Profile from Sandra Moore, and a current student profile too:

AUSU Survey on Tuition Deregulation at AU.

AU has asked the Alberta government for exemption from the cap which dictates how much tuition can be raised each year. So far, AU has not released a statement explaining the need for this change, but has communicated several reasons for this request to the Students’ Union.

AUSU has created a small survey to assess student opinions on the move toward deregulated tuition for AU. You can access the survey, and read more information on this topic, here:

All AU students are urged to voice their opinion on this very important matter.

NEW AU Calendar reviewed:

The 2003/04 AU Calendar is here. Print versions are available by request from the AU information center and for pickup at the Edmonton and Calgary learning centers, and a new version of the online calendar is now live.

This year, the online calendar has been completely redesigned by the AU website and calendar teams. The new format, which can be viewed at http://www.athabascau.ca/calendar/03/index.html, features a new, streamlined look, and simpler up-front navigation than the old one, which relied on pull-down style menus. The calendar team feel that this design will be more functional, and that students will find it much easier to locate the information that they need.

Students will also notice that the calendar now specifies that it is the ‘undergraduate’ version. Section 4 still features highlights of the grad programs, but in-depth grad program information is only available online at this time. This streamlined format ensures that students find only the information that they need, and do not have to wade through pages of grad information that is not relevant to their programs.

The calendar redesign is part of a much larger project, which includes the new Public Affairs Web design, and the upcoming UPortal interface, which will allow students greater access to their own registry and course data. AU web designers are hoping that students will provide feedback on the new calendar, so that future design updates can be planned to better address student needs. On the front page of the calendar web site, you will find a link to send an email comment to the Calendar Coordinator, and you are encouraged to do so.

Your feedback can also help with an upcoming AU project – the redesign of the course syllabi pages, which will be given a “new template synonymous with Calendar, so students won’t leave
that environment, unless they choose to, once they’re in it,” according to calendar designer Eve Comrie.

If students have any ideas about how the current syllabi pages can be improved, the may comment to Eve directly via the link on the Calendar page, or they may send comments to Tamra Ross Low (trosslow@ausu.org), chair of the Academic Committee, which is currently researching students’ satisfaction with the syllabi pages.

Now, on to the review of the new calendar:

The first item that most of you will be looking for is the updated tuition and fees page. I’ll provide an overview of the bad news here, but there is little I can do to soften the blow.

Effective September 1, 2003, new students will pay a one-time, initial application fee of $60 (up from $50), a change of program fee of $50 (the same as before), and an extension fee of $127 (up from $118).

The fee for a 3 credit course will be $541 in total, if you are an Alberta student, and $930 for a six credit course, while other Canadian students will pay $596 and $985 respectively – the latter amount having been raised by only $1 due to the reduction of the out of province fee.

These are significant increases, especially when compared to the rates just a few years ago. In 1999/2000, Albertans paid $404 and $711 for 3 and 6 credit courses respectively, and only $70 for an extension. However, given the trend toward high yearly increases and AU’s current bid to be exempted from the Alberta tuition increase cap (see http://www.ausu.org/tuitionsurvey/index.php to fill out a short survey on tuition deregulation), we may be looking back at these rates in a few years and wishing for a return of the good-old days.

On a better note, the multiple exam fee, parchment replacement fee, an withdrawal processing fee remain the same, while the transcript fee has been hiked by 50% to $15.

Another obvious item of interest in the new calendar is the updated list of available courses. The online calendar is updated whenever a new course is added, but only once per year does AU release a full print calendar including all courses. Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy way to pick out the new courses in the print calendar, so you’ll have to browse the whole list to see what’s new. Up until this year, AU sent out a twice-yearly newsletter called AU World which included information on new and upcoming courses – information that is sorely missed by students. Fortunately, a few tutors have submitted new course information to the students’ union, and you can find information on two new courses in the most recent AUSU news, online at: http://www.ausu.org/ausunews/index.php

The online calendar how has a link specifically for new courses, which you’ll find on the top of the undergraduate courses page, and which can be accessed directly here: http://www.athabascau.ca/html/syllabi/new/newcourses.htm. The list currently features 19 new courses for 2003, but the list also includes courses that were new for previous years, back to 2000. Interestingly, at least one course on the online new courses list is not in the new print calendar, so it’s well worth checking this list!

Accessing course information from the new site is fairly simple, and the links are easy to follow right from the front page. It does require quite a few ‘clicks’ to get to the course page, however, and the final course search page opens up in a new window from where you started. I suspect this may be streamlined once the redesign is complete, but at this time, when you click on “Courses and Programs” from the front page, you have to select three more links to get to the Course Search page, and one more to get to the course list. If you are like me, and you very frequently get on the site to look up course information, this is a little unwieldy. The extra navigation is due in part to the fact that the Courses and Programs link now takes you through the online calendar front page, rather than directly in to courses. This may be of benefit to newer students, who are often unaware that the entire calendar is available online. The Calendar index pages also have helpful information ‘bytes’ which may be of interest to newer students. For example, the title page for the Courses section includes information on Start Dates, Availability, and Challenge for Credit.

Speaking of course availability, a common complaint of students has been that they find it too hard to locate information on which courses are available, which are on hiatus, and which ones are being updated. In particular, I’ve heard many complaints from students who enrolled in a course, only to find out that it was being updated soon after. In this case, most students would prefer to wait and take the newer version once it is available.

To partially address this problem, the calendar’s Undergraduate Courses page has a link for Course Availability which takes students to a page where they can search courses in any subject and see which ones are open, which are under revision, and which ones can only be taken by students of certain collaborative institutions or which have other special entrance requirements. Unfortunately, the lists do not appear to indicate which courses will be revised in the near future, so it is recommended that you contact the course coordinator if you are concerned about this.

Course coordinators, course professors, and academic coordinators, are another issue, however. There are still many references in the syllabi and the calendar to these phantom figures. When you wish to challenge for credit, or you want to take a course that requires the permission of the professor, you are advised to contact the professor directly for further information. If you want to know more about a course’s assignment structure, or you have a concern about your tutor, you are also referred to the course professor. In fact, most AU course Student Manual’s make reference to the course professor as the person to contact if you have any questions that cannot be addressed by your tutor.

It sounds simple enough, but unfortunately there is no information on the website indicating who the course professors are. They are not listed in the syllabi [even of the project courses, which require contacting the program head], nor are they listed on the Academic Center web pages. You can find out on the center websites who the head of a department is, but that person is not necessarily the professor for all of the courses in that subject.

I’ve also tried using the online AskAU automated response system to find out who the professors/coordinators are, but the response has been that I should telephone the information center for more information. In fact, this is the most common reason that I call the information center.

If other students feel that course professor/course coordinator/academic coordinator (I hope they settle on a common title for these people soon!) information should be available online, let me know and I’ll forward this request to the team working on the syllabi.

This small omission aside, the new calendar is much nicer to look at, and has been designed with actual student usage in mind. Instead of being a passive information source – where students must wade through a sea of information, seeking the answers they require – this new format attempts to deliver the most relevant and commonly needed information directly to the student as they browse each section of the calendar. Links for more information are provided within these front-page info bytes, which can help students locate information that would otherwise be deeply imbedded within the calendar’s many web pages. If students take a little time to skim the front pages of each section, they may find that they can locate what they are looking for with a minimum amount of time spent reading through irrelevant material.

This new design uses the power of the web to help students target their reading and get answers fast. In the past, I have very much favoured the print version of the calendar to the online one. Only time will tell, but I may end up using this online version much more frequently now that the new design is in place.

Tamra Ross Low
Editor in Chief

The Voice archives project continues:

PDF format archives for almost all of the Voice issues from 2001 are now online. These issues are not yet available in html [web site] format, but will be in the coming months. The PDF archives for 2002 will be online shortly.

Coming Soon

The Voice will soon announce a writing contest for all AU students. The prize will be substantial, and we’re looking forward to lot of great submissions. Watch this space for details to come soon.

Fiction Wanted

The Voice fiction feature has become popular, but submissions have been slow. Send us your best fiction today, and it might become our next feature.

Attention Budding Writers

The Voice needs some new voices. We know you have plenty to say, so why not get paid for it. Send us a writing sample or article for submission and you might be published in an upcoming issue. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it pays. Contact voice@ausu.org for more details.

Link of interest
Students interested in learning about conferences, job openings, internships, and other student opportunities should check out the Outside Opportunities page on the AUSU website, located at: http://www.ausu.org/opportunities/index.php

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