Taking Notes: Eye on Education – Getting Through the First Course

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about. If you have a topic or a course alert you would like covered in Taking Notes, contact djabbour@ausu.org

Getting through the first course

Many students at Athabasca University report that they are having problems with their first course. Why is this? A lot of the time it’s just an adjustment to the whole notion of distance/online learning. But AU students face an adjustment that is unique, one that campus-based students don’t – the open admissions policy.

AU accepts students on a “prove yourself” basis. This means that you can enroll in university studies without having achieved a particular high school GPA, or without having any other university prerequisites. As long as you prove that you can pass a particular course, you will be accepted into a program. Its a wonderful concept that has opened the doors to university for so many of us who would not have been able to attend otherwise. But it can be a problem if you don’t have sufficient background skills to manage that first course.

Students have complained about certain accounting courses and certain English courses, stating that they are really struggling with the coursework and feel the course is too hard. On further examination, sometimes it is discovered that the student did not complete junior high school math, or have never finished high school, or their first language is not English. These things are not a problem at AU, where the goal is to remove barriers. But they can affect your success.

In a traditional campus-based university such students would have to complete skills assessments and upgrading courses prior to being accepted. AU does not ask for this, so the onus is on you, the student, to ensure you are ready.

AU has several options to help. First of all, check out the “Am I ready?” area of the AU website at:
http://www.athabascau.ca/cgi-bin/make_form.pl?templatefile=studserv/ssg.tmpl

Then take the tests for math and English level skills at:
Math: http://www.athabascau.ca/html/services/counselling/math/
English: http://www.athabascau.ca/html/services/counselling/esl/

If you are still having trouble with a course, you can take the option of enrolling in one of the AU prep courses for university level studies:
– English 140, Grammar
– English 143: Writing for Academic purposes
– English 146: Advanced Reading Skills
– Math 100: Developmental Mathematics
– Math 101: Transitional Mathematics.

If you are really struggling with a course because your skills are not quite up to par, talk to your tutor. It may be possible to have your course suspended to allow you to take one of the upgrading courses mentioned above.

Don’t set yourself up for failure. Make sure you are ready, and if you find yourself in over your head – ask for help!

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