In 2002 I realised that it was more than past time for my life to change. I hadn’t finished my university degree the first time around, and this fact was dogging me for many reasons; a lack of self-satisfaction not being the least of them. I realised that in order to move forward personally and professionally, I needed a degree. I knew about distance education, but the requirements for entry to most schools were beyond my scope at the time, and it wasn’t possible for me to attend the local university. I started looking around on the Internet for other options, and quite by chance I ended up at the website for Athabasca University.
I thought AU would be “just like all the other schools”, but lo’, I was mistaken. Rather than judging me on educational mistakes I’d made in my teens, or even my first time at university, AU allowed me – as it does all students who choose to go this route – to enter without notice of previous qualification. Certainly they’ll assess prior learning, but you don’t have to utilise that option if you don’t wish to. I couldn’t believe my fortune! I felt like a kid in a candyshop looking at the course choices and degree options – it was almost impossible to choose. I wanted to take everything. I finally settled on a degree option and course path, and signed up without hesitation. I have not yet had any reason to regret my choice, and I certainly don’t envision it happening.
Since my time with AU began, I have been impressed by the friendliness and cooperation of the staff, the knowledge level of the tutors and their willingness in helping me when I needed it, and the quality of course packages and study materials I’ve received. I’m relieved by the fact that I don’t have to worry about extra money for books, or having to run around trying to find them; I’m more than thrilled by the fact that the university library will mail study and research materials out to me at no cost; and the way courses have been set up has been enough of a challenge to push me onwards.
I recall one fellow student once mentioning that her friends, who were attending in-class institutions, thought that her education at AU was somehow less than what they were receiving, and having done both in-class and distance education, I can honestly say there is no way I could agree with their opinion. In no way have I felt slighted in my education via Athabasca; in fact, I think the material I’ve had from AU so far, has been more challenging than what I received from my first university.
I am not alone in my high praise of Athabasca University.
The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) (http://www.icde.org/) recently recognised AU as a world leader in open and distance learning, by awarding them one of two Institutional Prizes for Excellence; an award given for outstanding contributions in the field of distance education, “particularly in terms of innovation, quality and leadership.” This prize was first given in 1999 for “deserving institutions and individuals for the highest possible excellence in the fields of open, distance, virtual, and flexible learning,” and qualifying institutions’ achievements should “have components of significant contributions, across cultural and linguistic barriers, to the international community of open distance learning during the last five years.” I think it speaks very highly of AU that they are joining this short list of schools so early on
The ICDE, founded in 1938 to help provide educational resources for students living far from schools, is a global membership organisation of educational institutions of all levels, associations, corporations, and other educational organisations, has members in 142 countries around the world, and a mission to “provide leadership and facilitate cooperation, development and communication at the global level in distance and virtual learning.” The ICDE’s efforts in education are varied, including focusing on a global need for education and training at all levels, the application and consequences of information and communication technology, regulation in terms of access and quality of education, and working with governments, companies, educational facilities, teachers, and other professionals, to develop quality education and educational technology.
My congratulations to Athabasca University for receiving this award, my thanks to them for providing me a way to further my education, and my wishes that AU do nothing but grow stronger in the future.