What is the quality of Athabasca University?
April 13, 2021 2:30 PM   Subscribe

So, there are some standalone courses that I would like to take. It might not be possible to take them at my "physical university" due to other things that might take my time away. Nonetheless, since there's summer break, I figure that's a lot of time in which I won't be doing much. I figured I'd just put the time into other courses that might get me ahead.

At any rate, what's the university like? I'm not looking for a degree, I'm only interested in taking 1 or 2 courses. I've never really done online stuff, so I'm unsure about what this involves. I mean, I learn a lot online, but I've never taken an actual university course online, much less complex math classes like Real Analysis.
posted by Tarsonis10 to Education (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, PS, and sorry for using a comment to ask another question, but it's important. If AU doesn't work then, are there other alternatives besides them? Thanks in advance.
posted by Tarsonis10 at 2:32 PM on April 13

I work as a student advisor at a top 5 university in Canada; we have students take one-off courses from Athabasca all the time. Your province likely has a transfer website that will show you exactly how the courses transfer to your physical University.

The positives I hear a lot from students: the timing is really flexible, you get up to 6 months to complete the course, and then you can pay for extensions instead of needing to start the course again. The courses were also designed *from the start* to be offered online, vs the ad hoc mess that can be online learning from the in-person universities that were forced online last March, so the quality/organization tends to be pretty great.

If you are self-directed/motivated it will probably work really well for you and is a really good option.

The negatives I hear often: if you have any academic accommodations, it can be difficult to get them in place for Athabasca. It can also be slower to hear back from your instructors when you need extra supports.

For Math in particular, be really honest with yourself about how much self-motivation you have and how much support you'll need to succeed. Our physical university offers extra seminars, academic supports, special pre-calc courses etc to help you pass, Athabasca will offer very little of this extra support.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 2:40 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just took statistics, psychology, anatomy and physiology at Athabasca. It is a lot of self teaching. I needed to get a tutor for statistics, where we just got a book but no lectures. Other math courses are probably similar. I watched a lot of Youtube explanations of things and made a lot of flashcards for the other classes. They are very organized in their methods and the flexibility to schedule the exams and quizzes when you want to is great.
posted by zdravo at 3:16 PM on April 13

Best answer: I'm a doctoral candidate at AU and have written courses for them as well, so I'm absolutely biased. Obviously, I would not hesitate to recommend the university. Any prejudice against the university is usually about distance learning in general, and that prejudice is unsupported by research. (In my opinion, it's also classist/elitist: affordable and accessible education "must be" inferior to unaffordable/inaccessible education.)

Something to remember is that online/distance ed is not the same as completely independent ed. Many of my courses had regular in-person classes and participation/presentation was absolutely expected, as were substantive contributions to wikis, discussion threads, etc. that were part of the course. My experience has not been the same as other posters: extra support was always readily available. However, support for grad students is nearly always better than support for undergrads at any post-secondary.

The other thing to remember is that AU students reside all over the globe. This presents some scheduling challenges for students way outside the Mountain time zone where AU usually bases its schedule, and for group projects where group members may be literally on the other side of the globe from each other. A few of my classes included a student in Singapore and one in Denmark. On the other hand, it was cool in the middle of a Canadian winter to hear the kookaburras in the background from the prof's home in Australia.
posted by angiep at 3:30 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]

Since you mention Real Analysis, I'm moved to note that was the name of my most advanced undergraduate course, and one of my first grad school courses. I don't remember much overlap. So be very careful checking prerequisites and where in a typical course sequence it falls.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:00 PM on April 13

If you'd be taking these courses to fulfill a requirement of your degree, check with an academic advisor in your program: you will probably need to apply for a Letter of Permission *in advance* in order to have the courses counted in your degree credits. If you're just taking them for fun, this is irrelevant.
posted by heatherlogan at 6:05 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Math professor here. I’d be wary of taking your first proof course in a self-paced way. Real Analysis is an intense class, as it is what trains you in mathematical reasoning, and feedback from a teacher is critical. I’d make sure this class has synchronous sessions, and a real prof you can talk with. Classes like Calculus, non-proof linear algebra, and differential equations lend themselves better to the self-paced model.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 1:06 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A few years ago now, I took some med school prereqs through Athabasca; organic chemistry, genetics, English. They were great courses, but you do need to be motivated to learn independently. I had to go to Edmonton for in person labs. It all worked out, graduating med school next week!
posted by piper4 at 10:47 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]

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