From the Ground Up – Building a Solid Foundation for your Studies

From the Ground Up – Building a Solid Foundation for your Studies

Are you new to AU? You might be waiting for your first course to begin or perhaps you’ve taken a few and are ready to immerse yourself in a program. With many courses ahead of you and years of study, It’s sometimes overwhelming to decide where to begin.

If you’ve never taken university courses before, or you’ve been away from formal education for many years, you may benefit from a few foundation courses. Foundation courses allow you earn undergraduate credits while building a solid base on which to build the rest of your studies.

Here are a few courses I took early on—and I’m glad I did.

Critical Thinking (Humanities, PHIL 252.) A good place to start. Especially helpful if You’re been away from formal education for a while, Critical Thinking is a solid introduction to university studies. This course covers reasoning, analyzing arguments, and spotting logical fallacies. In addition to honing your thinking ability, you’ll learn how to structure an effective essay, a skill you’ll make much use of. This was my first AU course; I learned how to read academic texts effectively and how to organize my thoughts for writing. No prerequisites. There are two assignments of 15% and 20% each; a critical essay worth 25% and final exam of 40%.

Introductory Composition (Humanities, ENGL 255.) You won’t believe how much English grammar you’ve lost since high school! A required course in some programs, Introductory Composition is an essential review of English grammar and structure. You’ll also learn the essential elements of the paragraph as well as how to compose several types of essays. The text contains examples of essays and a section on the citation styles (eg. MLA, APA) you will come to know so well over your university career. For me, Introductory Composition was a much-needed review of English syntax. And although I still dislike writing essays, I can compose reasonably good ones thanks to the practice here. No prerequisites, unless your basic English skills are rusty. Marks are spread among a number of writing assignments, including three essays, and a final exam of only 20%.

Western Thought & Culture I: Before the Scientific Revolution (Humanities, HUMN 201; also HIST 201.) If your prior education missed classical studies altogether, you can begin to catch up with this course. Traipse though western civilization from its beginning stirrings circa 3000 BCE right through to the late 16th century. Western Thought & Culture I examines history, art, literature, and philosophical thought through the ages. The course syllabus describes this course as “a good starting place for new students” with “little or no previous university experience.” For myself, I would have been discouraged if I’d taken this as my first course. It was the most intensive of my early courses—we’re talking 46 centuries here—and requires more finely-honed study practices than a new student might possess. Definitely worthwhile, however, especially if you intend to take further courses in philosophy or history. No prerequisites. Two essays of 25% and 35% each, and a final exam of 40%.

Each course you take benefits the courses that follow. Build from the ground up. Selecting a few good foundation courses early on will serve as a strong support as you continue your studies.

If you’re registered in an AU undergraduate program, be sure to check your program requirements first. Then browse the AU undergraduate course listing to finding your educational building blocks.

If you’re an experienced student, what AU courses did you take early on that you’d recommend to new students? Contact The Voice Magazine at

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario

Editor’s note: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Information Systems (INFS 200) as a great course to take if you’re starting your university career, or even if You’re part way through it. The course teaches you how to use our information systems to easily find the information you need while eliminating false matches to your searches. Even if you think you know how to research, this course will very likely give you some extra tools to make it even easier.