Last Friday, shortly after I completed my editorial, the Alberta Government announced at AU’s convocation ceremonies that they would be giving Athabasca University a one-time grant of 4.9 million dollars to address its new strategic plan and upgrade its technology infrastructure. This money is sorely needed because, though the AU campus is beautiful, as you’ll see in our photo feature about convocation in this issue, AU is considerably behind many other institutions when it comes to the technology behind their course offerings. I found this out personally when taking an editing course from Simon Fraser University in BC. There were none of the little petty annoyances with getting materials or assignments submitted that we, as AU students, are just used to. No fighting with the obtuseness of the navigation as in the AU Landing, no fighting with trying to install outdated software as that’s all they were working with, it just all worked. AU needs that.
Shortly after the announcement, AU president, Neil Fassina, provided some details about AU’s plan for the money, as reported in the Edmonton Journal. 1.5 million will be going to a “five-year information technology strategy that will help shift from on-premises infrastructure to a cloud-based environment”, this will also be used to address security protocols that Alberta’s auditor general has cited AU for, such as off-site disaster recovery services of their records. Basically, improvements for the back-end of the university. This won’t affect students directly, but may help by eventually reducing other costs or risks that would normally be passed on to students.
1.5 million will be put toward implementing their new strategic plan. I use the word “plan” because it’s what they call it, but it’s more of a master-class in aspirational buzzwords. At best, it’s a list of goals, but even that might be being generous, as it honestly seems to me more a list of values that they want AU to have. But don’t take my word for it, read AU’s strategic plan for yourself. Don’t worry, it’s not a difficult or long read at all (which should have been a warning sign when trying to come up with a four-year plan for an institution as large as AU). Of course, given that, it’s little wonder they need that much money to deal with it. After all, it seems AU’s board of governors will probably need to pay someone to do their jobs now and come up with an actual plan.
There’s also $400,000 earmarked for a long-range development plan, that will include “a renewal of the teaching and learning framework.” So renewing the entire teaching and learning framework of AU gets less money than implementing a “plan” that’s little more than a list of values.
That leaves 1.5 million, less than a third of the total amount, to be directed to the planning and development of a student delivery framework. It’s not a small chunk of change, but I can’t help but think about the money going to what looks to me like a black hole of undefined activity in the strategic plan and sigh. Fortunately, we’ve got a great issue to cheer you up. Including a photo feature from convocation, and our feature interview with AUSU councillor Amanda Lipinski. Enjoy the read!