The Other Lesson

I have always loved learning. I was the kid in school that enjoyed being there (mostly). One thing that Athabasca University taught me was that I had the ability to teach myself, if I had the proper sources. AU gave me the resources to continue to learn beyond the figurative walls of the university. In my time with AU I learned how to research effectively, how to properly source and quote, when to use which system (CMA, APA, or MLA) and how to appreciate each despite the headache they gave me in the beginning.

Since graduating from AU I have been striving to learn what I can about an industry that is highly subjective: publishing. Each time I settle in and start to research I am grateful for everything I learned along the way. Because maybe the most important thing you can learn at university isn’t the subjects, or theories, but a life skill on how to continue to teach yourself the skills you need to succeed in your chosen industry.

There were many courses I took that when I looked to the final assignment I wondered, how am I ever going to do that? It didn’t make sense to me, the questions may as well have been in another language. But, I would take a step back, start at the beginning and work my way to that final task. And without exception by the time I got there I had it figured out enough to work my way through it. I have been thanking the skills AU taught me recently, skills of perseverance and persistence, as I try to build a website, start a blog, and a page of book reviews. At times, I grew so frustrated that I wasn’t sure how it was going to be possible, buttons were missing, links were broken, and posts would vanish. But, I thought back to all those courses, all the assignments that I finished, everything that I accomplished with AU and I reminded myself that I could do it, I could teach myself, I just needed a source.

I learned where to research: be it for a writing project, or a how to build a website project. AU gave me the confidence to push forward when it seemed impossible and never give in.

Everything I learned with AU has changed and shaped who I am, everything in the virtual classroom, and the lessons that hovered around the edges. I think some of these lessons are learned in bricks and mortar universities as well, but the self-dependence is something that students of AU need to learn quick if they’re going to succeed. We learn to rely on ourselves for motivation, comprehension, and confidence. While we find community within each other online, we are mostly alone in our studies. This is a reality that set me up well for my current aspirations. My hours spent in the office are focused, as focused as I was within AU. My planner is as organized as I was when I was trying to fit in four courses in a day. I learned I could be consistent, I learned to be driven, I learned to be self-sufficient.

All these things that AU taught me without intent (or perhaps with) have proven to be priceless, there could be no course on how to guide and motivate yourself, or how to use these research skills outside the classroom, but with AU we get a little extra for our money because we learn these things. We learn how to teach ourselves and how to rely on ourselves alone because, sometimes, we don’t have the time to wait for an email back, or for office hours. Sometimes the only person available to help us is us. And by the time we are through our program, we are comfortable with that.

Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature. Follow her path on the writing journey at

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