As my degree is slowly coming to its conclusion, I find myself reminiscing about how I view AU now, as opposed to the early days (some may call this procrastination). I can see a difference in myself and in how I view the world around myself. But how does AU appear?
As other students beginning this journey I was nervous to start, unsure where to find things, and the rumours of the school closing had me questioning my choice in schools. I learned my way around the course pages, became comfortable with contacting tutors, and the process became easier. I knew where to find information and how to best use it. My concerns about the rumour of AU closing were amplified by the intense feeling of isolation: sometimes it felt like I was the only one in a course. Part way through I discovered various social media platforms that made me feel like I was part of a vibrant community.
I recall posing a question early on about the validity and sustainability of AU. I was shocked by some of the answers. It seemed that a few had seen this question one too many times and their patience had run out. I try to remember this as I see questions about AU’s sustainability. Since starting my program four years ago I have heard the same “impending doom” rumour each year, and each year with a new, frightening, twist.
I think the fear this rumour generates is a testament to AU. If AU became unsustainable it would leave many students without a way to finish their degree. AU offers a unique learning experience with flexibility that we all need. I have spoken with several students of other universities and everyone I talk to has either a) used AU themselves to add a course to their degree, or b) know someone who has. Everyone I talk to who attends large and small universities alike know of AU and are appreciative of the service it offers.
Since beginning my degree with AU, the nervousness of the worth of the degree and the sustainability of AU has vanished. I am incredibly proud to have completed, on my own terms, my degree with AU. I was able to take my time and choose courses that most interested me without worrying if the classroom was at capacity. As I have grown with AU I have made connections with others?students and professors alike?that I will take with me beyond this university. I didn’t expect connections like these from AU; I would expect them from a bricks and mortar university, but not AU.
As I look back on my early days with AU, I can understand that my nervousness was simply because it was something new; it was something unknown. While other universities such as UBC or UNBC are well known outside of academic circles, AU is not. Yet, within academic circles, AU is well known. And, to quote a distance education commercial that has been playing “a degree is a degree”.
I suggest that anyone who is nervous about AU’s sustainability and validity to connect with fellow students, make a point to connect verbally with your tutor. AU offers so much, and yet without making these connections we can feel alone in our venture.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature