According to the university’s About AU page, Athabasca University currently serves over 37,000 students and offers more than 90 undergraduate and graduate programs. This wide range of programs presents AU students with a great number of choices in a variety of fields. Just one of these options is a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.
Athabasca offers both a three- and four-year degree in psychology, and both programs are ?designed to develop or expand [students?] knowledge of the broad field of psychology? and ?provide grounding in foundational courses central to psychology as a science.? In addition to foundational psychology courses, the university also offers a number of electives in the areas of Psychology, Career Development, Educational Psychology, and Counselling. Students in the three- and four-year psych programs have the option to either focus their degrees on one of these individual areas or take classes from more than one psychological stream of enquiry.
Though the three- and four-year programs have many similarities, one key difference between the two is the number of further educational options available to graduates. While students who graduate with a concentration in psychology do have a number of options for further related post-secondary education, their choices are not nearly so broad as those of students who graduate with a major in psychology.
Students who hold three-year psychology degrees are eligible to apply for AU’s Master of Arts – Integrated Studies and Master of Distance Education programs, among others. Students who complete four-year degrees, however, are not only eligible for the MAIS and MDE programs, but also AU’s Master of Health Studies and Master of Counselling programs, as well as to graduate studies at other universities.
The Centre for Psychology estimates that of the roughly 5,000 students who register for AU’s psychology courses each year, about 900 are enroled in either three- or four-year psychology degrees at AU, making psych degrees a popular choice for AU students. Centre for Psychology tutors are also very popular with students: AUSU’s most recent Tutor of the Year contest saw 19 psychology tutors nominated, more than from any other department. Psychology major Tia Siewert says that so far she has been ?impressed with most of the staff at AU? and found them both ?helpful and friendly.?
One of these Centre for Psychology staff members is Dr. Lyle Grant, Professor of Behaviour Analysis at AU. Dr. Grant believes that online resources and technical innovations are among the greatest strengths of the psychology program at AU. While the department began by using primarily ?telephone tutoring coupled with print-based self-instructional materials,? the 1990s brought the realization that much greater efficiency could be achieved by making use of the Internet. Printed study guides were found to be ?readily adaptable to Web-based instruction,? and helped pave the way for the creation of many other online resources, including ?interactive tutorials, glossaries, study guides and evaluative tools like online quizzes and exams.?
Dean Mah, a technical support staff in AU’s Centre for Psychology since 1997, has an active role in the maintenance and development of these online resources. ?In the past,? he explains, ?most of our online efforts have been in adding interactive elements to all of our course offerings.? Interactive tools, especially those which give instant automatic feedback, have been an important focus for the Centre.
Recently, though, the department has also begun to branch into the world of social networking, working ?to become more active and visible on sites like Twitter and Second Life,? as well as on Facebook, explains Mah. Facebook users can now check out the Centre’s Daily Psychology Term application, which opens the department’s psychology glossary to more people and aims ?to expose it to the AU students who may not have known about it.?
And while resource developers obviously hope that students will derive educational benefits from these online tools, Mah hopes they will also be fun and engaging. ?We want you to be able to share your enthusiasm and experience of being a Centre for Psychology student,? he says, ?and we want to make that easy. We want students to be able to connect with each other,? without being forced to use any one manner or medium. The Centre is also eager to hear feedback on what students like, dislike, or would like to see in future.
Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, Dr. Grant notes that ?data show that students evaluate our Psychology courses more highly than any other discipline at AU.?
In light of students? satisfaction with psychology courses and tutors, as well as the Centre’s dedication to developing innovative new ways for students to interact, it seems that AU’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, available as either a three- or four-year degree, is an option well worth examining.