Minds We Meet – Interviewing Students Like You!

Marilyne Whitty is completing AU’s bachelor of human resources and labour relations degree from her home in Ottawa, Ontario. This 33-year-old mother of two is using a short leave of absence from her full-time position as an HR Generalist with Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa to work on the remaining 6 courses required to complete the degree. Having been working in the field of Human Resources for 12 years, she already holds a 3-year business administration college diploma with a specialization in management.

What brought you to Athabasca University?
I decided to pursue the human resources and labour relations bachelor’s degree through Athabasca in order to help further my career, as many employers require a bachelor’s degree for Human Resources positions, especially management positions. Also, the HRPA association requires a degree to grant the CHRL professional level designation. Completing a degree has been one of my goals for a long time.
The post diploma bachelor of human resources and labour relations at Athabasca program allowed for a significant amount of transfer credits from my college diploma and is enabling me to pursue a degree program that is directly related to my field of work. The program seemed like a perfect fit for my goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

What do you do like to do when You’re not studying?
When I’m not studying or working, I’m spending time with my family. I like to travel so most of my free time is spent planning vacations and going places with my family.

Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
Definitely my mother. She’s always been a great advocate for post secondary education and she motivated me to pursue my academic goals.

My boss (and mentor) of 11 years has also encouraged me greatly to pursue my goal of completing a degree.

Describe your experience with online learning. What do you like or dislike?
I really like the flexibility. I like being able to make it work around my life. Also, I like being able to sign up for courses at the beginning of any month.

I wish there was more structure and deadlines other than the 6 months allowed to complete a course. I thrive on deadlines.

I miss the interaction within a regular classroom. I sometimes wish I was able to bounce ideas off other classmates. I miss the community of students pursuing common learning goals and feeding off each other. I miss attending professor’s lectures and lesson presentations. I like that professors can put more emphasis on important information in a live classroom and they can also link the information back to personal experiences that they have.

But the flexibility provided by AU outweighs everything else.

Have you had a time when you wavered about your education?
Absolutely! In 2007, I enrolled in the same program and signed up for a course. A lot of things were going on in my life at the time and I got overwhelmed and I did not complete the course. That was my first attempt at distance education and my previous education was done in French so it was a big adjustment do a course at AU and thought ?Maybe, distance education is not for me?.

When I re-evaluated my options for furthering my education in 2014, I concluded that AU was still the better option out there for me therefore I re-enrolled and completed my first course successfully.

What was your most memorable AU course?
My most memorable course at AU is the first course I completed successfully: Employment Law HRMT 322. I’m interested in employment and labour law therefore I enjoyed the course and got an A. My success in this course gave me confidence to continue with the degree.

What is most valuable thing in life to you?
The most valuable thing in life is definitely my family

What have you given up to go to AU that you regret the most? Was it worth it?
I don’t know if I would say that I have any regrets. I have given up full-time income for a few months to focus on my studies which is financially difficult, but I can’t say that I regret it. The most difficult sacrifice I have had to make in order to focus on my courses is the time away from my kids, they’re ages 6 and 3 right now. I’m hopeful It will all be worth it in the end. I have not reaped the benefits of those sacrifices yet, but I’m pretty confident it will pay off.

What’s the single best thing AU could do to improve your student experience?
The biggest issue I’ve experiences with AU is the limited tutor availably. The HR bachelor consists of course from the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences and some courses from the faculty of business. I find the business courses have better support, better systems and easier access to tutor support. My issue right now is that most of my courses are in the social sciences and the availability of the tutors is vey limited. They have availability twice a week, usually in the evenings which is late for me given that the time in Ottawa in two hours later than Athabasca. Email communication can also be slow given the tutors can take up to 2 business days to respond. It’s hard to continue working on assignments when you need some directions. I think AU should consider increasing tutor availability and account for different time zones when considering their availability.

Another piece that I would like to see improved is the timelines to correct assignments. Because I’m currently a full-time student, I find it particularly challenging that it takes up to 8 business days to mark assignments and provide comment and I have to wait for an assignment to be marked before submitting the next. It makes it difficult to plan accordingly.

I would also suggest that AU increases videos and visual learning materials. I would like to be able to access recorded lectures. I would also like to be required to do less essays and more varied assignments that are interactive with tutors.

What is the most important lesson in life?
As I am nearing the end of my program at AU, I think that the most important lesson in life is that perseverance and hard work pay off in the long run.

E-texts or textbooks? Any particular reason(s)?
Textbooks, I buy the textbooks for courses for which AU provides e-texts. I prefer to read textbooks because I find I can read them faster and I can physically put notes and highlight important sections. However, since the Bookshelf iPhone app can now read aloud, I’m finding it really useful to have e-texts also even tough I prefer textbooks.

How do you find the tutors?
Most of them have been nice. The majority of tutors I’ve interacted with have impressive academic backgrounds and experiences and have been open to sharing experiences and providing me with good insight. My issues with tutors is their limited availability and the time it takes to get assignments graded.

Where has life taken you so far? (travels for pleasure, work, etc.)
I have mostly traveled for pleasure. I’ve been to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica, St. Lucia, London, Paris and Rome. In the US, I’ve been to Florida many time, New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. In Canada, I’ve been to Vancouver, Calgary, Quebec City, Mont-Tremblant, Montreal and Toronto. I’ve also been on 6 cruises and visited the following countries: Barbados, St. Thomas, Antigua, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos St-Kits, Cayman Islands, Tortola, Alaska, Turkey, Egypt, Greece, and Italy.