Minds We Meet – Interviewing Students Like You!

Originally from Timmins, Ontario, Joshua Ryan currently lives in Ottawa with his future wife, a cat, and a rescued border collie. A reserve army officer with the Canadian Armed Forces who works with youth to develop their life skills, for the last six months he’s been working full as a strategic technology advisor in the government of Canada, and before that as a technical manager. Between all this, he’s been working on his Bachelor of Science, Computing, and Informations Systems degree from Athabasca University.

What brought you to AU?
When I started working for the federal public service, a university degree was the requirement for getting in to a management role. I knew I had to get a degree, but wanted to balance that with full time work. I was fortunate that my community college had an articulation agreement with AU that allowed me in to the Bachelor of Science, Computing and Information Systems (Post-Diploma) so here I am.

What do you do like to do when You’re not studying?
I lead a fairly active life, with a border collie that requires a lot of outdoor time. Aside from that, I work and volunteer part-time with a youth program, the Army Cadets. It’s great to have a chance to give back to a program that helps shape tomorrow’s citizens.

Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
My future wife has been my greatest influence. we’re both employed in the technology field which comes with a requirement for lifelong learning to stay current. That said, where I went to college, she went to university and completed a double major in engineering and management with distinction. Without her support, I wouldn’t be able to balance the commitments I have to be able to pursue my studies, and She’s constantly pushing me to my goals.

Describe your experience with online learning. What do you like or dislike?
Like many, I’ve had good and bad moments with online learning. I love that It’s self-paced and that I can do my courses anywhere that I have internet access. I’ve had some great courses where there’s a lot of tutor contact and interaction. My dislikes so far have been that the courses are very reading heavy with in some cases very little interaction with the tutor. It requires a very high level of dedication to ensure you don’t fall behind.

Does this reflect other students’ experiences based on your conversations with them?
So far, yes.

Have you had a time when you wavered about your education?

I had a short period of time where I took a break and spent a year debating whether I wanted to finish my degree. It was after a particularly rough course experience and during a very busy time in my life. Fortunately, I chose to stick it out and am now three courses closer to finishing my degree.

What was your most memorable AU course?
POLI277, Intro to Politics. It was great course material but the highlight was an assignment where you called the tutor, defined terms then answered a random question from the chapter questions. You had to explain your answer. It led to a great conversation that I really appreciated and which really helped reinforce my comprehension.

What is the most valuable thing in life to you?
My friends. I’ve been very fortunate to meet a great group of people over the years. Despite the occasional distance, we all seem to find ourselves back living in the same cities together every few years and It’s as if nothing has changed. I cherish all my friendships.

What have you given up to go to AU that you regret the most? Was it worth it?
I’ve been fortunate that the biggest sacrifice has been free time. My work and home life is occasionally very hectic and I’ve missed out on social gatherings and events I would have loved to attend. In the end, very worth it though. It’s a medium-term sacrifice for a long-term gain.

What’s the single best thing AU could do to improve your student experience?
More interaction. It doesn’t always have to be with the tutors. I took a course a few years ago that started each unit off with a video blurb from a Masters-level student on the topic you were about to cover. It broke up the heavy reading in a very creative way.

What is the most important lesson in life?
Be true to yourself and always find time for what’s important in life. We live in a society That’s increasingly characterized by never disconnecting from our devices but That’s preventing us from really engaging in the world around us and spending time with those we love.

E-texts or textbooks? Any particular reason(s)? Other than the aforementioned ones.
I like both. E-texts are convenient because I can take them with me without added bulk but the traditional texts are still nice. It would be great to have a choice.

How do you find the tutors?
Overall, I’ve been very satisfied with my tutors. they’re knowledgeable, however on a few cases I’ve been told “I can’t help you with that, I can only help with what’s in the course” or “Just Google it” which, when you don’t understand a course concept isn’t helpful. So, there’s room to grow but they’re human just like us.

Where has life taken you so far? (travels for pleasure, work, etc.)
I was fortunate to spend three weeks in Hawaii for work doing lunar simulations with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency. I’ve also been to Morocco with work, Chicago and across Canada on personal travel.

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