Athabasca University’s 50th Anniversary—Beyond 50

Athabasca University is celebrating their 50th anniversary.  On June 25, 1970, the Order in Council of the Government of Alberta had opened it as a campus-based institution.  Two years later, they decided to run a test pilot of an open, distance university.  The first course they offered was World Ecology in 1973 and, after that, it began to take off.  The first time AU had a convocation was in 1977 and for only two students! They had mastered self-governing and became Alberta’s fourth public university in 1978.  At the time they were located in Edmonton, but by 1984 had outgrown it and moved to the town of Athabasca.  Remarkably, AU was the originator and pioneer of using computers to deliver courses online.  In fact, AU was the first to offer an MBA online.  It was termed the EMBA.  This was the Executive MBA program and it was the year 1994.

Being among the first Canadian Universities with open access and registration, and providing distance (online) delivery, AU has earned their reputation as a world-class institution.  They provide what most typical universities cannot: a method of access to university programs for those who live in remote areas and cannot, or do not want to, travel; those who want to pursue education while also pursuing other interests or demands in life; those wishing to finish high-school and start at university early in life; as well as people who like the flexibility of  studying online.  Our other main characteristic is in the word “open.”  AU maintains an open admissions policy.  This means you can enroll in university even if you don’t have the traditional educational background (Rainsberger & Buchanan).  I for one am very grateful for having this type of university, as I would not have been able to attempt this without the online aspect.

As part of their celebration, at the beginning of the month, they offered 50 new bursaries.  Unfortunately the deadline has passed, but there are some with a July 15th deadline.  Termed the I-CARE Completion Bursaries, they help provide support for students who have a financial need or burden and may help them continue with their studies.  Also look out for Beyond 50 events coming up.  You can check the news section for those events, or The Voice Magazine’s event column, and anything new.  Also, you can tell your story to AU in order to be featured in the hub and get a free Beyond 50 t-shirt.  They want to find students who can give “a personal story of your history and an imagining of your potential.” (AU News).

Athabasca University’s history is indeed fascinating and shows how they had been at the head of online and distance education in Canada.  Today, they offer 950 online courses and serve over 40,000 students worldwide.  They have a been a source of access and flexibility to many students and a source of achievement for those who would may not have been able due to access and educational history.  From me, thank you, AU!

Sarah.  Buchanan, Marian.  Open and Distance Universities in Canada.