Athabasca University

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Athabasca University
AthabascaU COA.jpg
Motto Learning for Life[1]
Established 1970
Type Public
President Frits Pannekoek
Students 38,464[2]
Undergraduates 34,921[2]
Postgraduates 3,543[2]
Location Athabasca, Alberta, Canada
Campus Rural and urban
Faculty & Staff 1,382[2]
Colours Blue And Orange         
Nickname AU
Affiliations AUCC, ACU, CVU, UArctic, CBIE, CUP, CAGS.
Website www.athabascau.ca
AthabascaUniversity.svg

Athabasca University is a Canadian university in Athabasca, Alberta. It is an accredited research institution that also offers distance education courses and programs. Courses are offered primarily in English with some French offerings. Each year, around 32,000 students attend the university.[3] It offers opportunities for professionals to finish undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs. Canadian athletes, politicians and broadcasters have chosen Athabasca to complete their studies due to the flexibility in the university's schedule. In 2004, Athabasca's Executive MBA was rated in the top 75 by the Financial Times, the only executive MBA on the list that is delivered entirely online.[4][5] The enabling legislation is the Post-secondary Learning Act [6]

Origins[edit]

The university was created by the Alberta government in 1970. It was part of the expansion of the higher educational system at that time: the University of Alberta had long been established, the University of Calgary was created after legislation had been changed, and an order in council created the University of Lethbridge.[5]

In 1967, the Manning government announced its intention to establish a fourth University, but it was later delayed by two to three years. The University of Alberta wanted to expand rather than see another University open in Edmonton to compete with it. One proposal favoured establishing a Christian university instead of a secular one to cope with rising enrollment. One early suggestion for an alternative was an "Alberta Academy" that would take credits students had earned at multiple Universities and evaluate them for transfer, and perhaps even award a degree. A Department of Education ad hoc group favoured the establishment of a fourth University.[5]

A group of University of Alberta graduates, including Preston Manning, influenced the development of an independent fourth University. In 1970 Grant MacEwan, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, established the University by an order in council. The name for the new university was a challenge, as it was not desired to associate the new university in a primarily rural province with a city that already had a University. Athabasca Hall, a student residence at the University of Alberta, was scheduled for demolition, so the name was appropriated for the new university.[5]

While the school is a traditional research university, it is also known for its distance programs. This began in 1972 when a pilot project was developed. After being considered a success, the university was granted a permanent, self-governing status in 1978. After growing too big for its location, Athabasca University moved 145 kilometres (90 mi) north from Edmonton to the town of Athabasca, Alberta in 1984, where it is now established. The university also has satellite centers in Calgary and Edmonton.[7]

Mandate[edit]

Front entrance.

The initial mandate for the University dictated that it be primarily undergraduate in scope. Developing new procedures in curriculum was part of the mandate for the University. The initial Governing Authority of the University had eight members, and a broad range of powers to set up the new University. July 2–3, 1970 they met for the first time, and Carl W. Clement was the first chairman. It was expected by the government of the day that by 1979 the University would have 10,000 students. September 1, 1973 was set as the target date to open.[5]

First president[edit]

In April 1971 Tim Byrne was appointed President of the new university, and he assumed office in June that year.[5]

The administration chose the University of California, Santa Cruz as its model, deciding that the individual colleges should serve as the basic planning units for the new university, which would be organized as a federation of colleges.[5] Each of the colleges of the new university was to have 650 students with corresponding lecture and office space, and a learning approach that would have students learning in small tutorials instead of large lectures. Research within the new university was to be limited to a specified region starting around the city of Edmonton. One criticism was that the university was trying to do too much.[5]

The government of Peter Lougheed in 1971 brought a change, which included a cabinet portfolio specifically for post secondary education. The newly elected Conservative government was opposed to building a new University in Edmonton, but architectural plans were permitted to continue. A proposal was made to the government to test the new model for three to five years, and if that succeeded, they would become a fully independent university. This happened under the chairmanship of Merrill Wolfe. The proposal was accepted by the government.[5]

The new Deputy Minister of Advanced Education stated in the summer of 1972 that there was a demand for lifelong continuing education. there was also need for an "Alberta Academy" which would evaluate University courses that were taken at multiple institutions. The academy would then award a degree. A second proposal came from the University to also serve part-time students, and it would not affect the other traditional Universities already established, or the new approach of Athabasca University. An open door policy was part of this proposal, removing admission requirements.[5]

In 1972 a new order in council was issued to include only the new pilot project of distance education.[5] November 17, 2009 a revised mandate was approved by the Minister of Advanced Education and Technology. AU's mission and mandate statement are on the Athabasca University website.

First course[edit]

Study manual/guides from AU courses

Trial and error characterised the pilot period, as there was no similar model to follow for the mandate the university were given. In 1973 the university began to advertise for students to help with course development. "World Ecology" was the first course, and was the core of the pilot project. In-house production of the learning packages was important to the staff, so the university developed its own printing process.[5]

Contrary to much current belief, Athabasca University was not modelled after the Open University, but was developed in its present form during the pilot project. AU became aware of what the Open University was doing when, during the final year of the project. A representative went to Milton Keynes to discover any methods its staff might have devised to speed up production.[5]

In 1975, plans came together to reach out to students through field services tutors and regional learning centres. In 1976, the first 24 part-time telephone tutors were appointed. The tutor role was to facilitate learning, not teach the course. Tutors are assigned blocks of between 20 and 40 students each. An unlisted toll-free number is provided to contact the tutor with. All tutors have at least a Masters degree.[5]

An early test project for a learning resource centre had books and tapes relevant to the courses available at branches of public libraries throughout the province. Although the libraries were keen on the idea, learners preferred to remain in their homes to learn. By 1975, the median age was between 35 and 40, and there were 725 students. A minority of students had only completed grade 9.[5]

Inviting students to register in a course and then forcing them to wait an unconscionable length of time for delivery of units was obviously not a way to establish a reputation as a reliable institution.[5]

In 1975 at the end of the pilot project, an agency was appointed to evaluate the overall success. A recommendation was made to the government that the University be made a permanent member of the university system. It was to remain an open university. Under the chairmanship of Edward Checkland, the University gained permanency.[5]

In 1976 W. A. Samuel Smith took over as president and the university's permanency was established through an act of the Alberta Legislature.[5]

The first collaboration the university embarked on was with Keyano College, eventually leading to the opening of a regional learning office in Fort McMurray, Alberta; North Island College in 1976 took on the challenge of delivering many courses from the university in its many campuses.[5]

In the mid-seventies, two young Canadians, one of whom was the son of a prominent Edmonton family, were indicted in an English court for attempting to smuggle drugs into the country. They were each sentenced to a lengthy prison term and incarcerated in one of England's most infamous prisons. Each registered in one of Athabasca University's first three courses, becoming the first two in a long list of prison inmates to join its student body.[5]

In 1985 an agreement was reached with the Correctional Service of Canada for the payment of tuition and program delivery fees related to federal inmates taking courses through the University.[5]

Distance education[edit]

Water fountain at the University

The Athabasca University Centre for Distance Education has programs which are geared to continuing education using modern communications technology and have attracted students from around the world, using on-line study programs and a special dedicated website for that purpose.[8] It is home to North America's first online Doctor of Education in Distance Education program, and offers a Masters of Distance Education degree, and a Graduate Diploma in Distance Education. It has ten core faculty members and contracts additional sessional faculty. Athabasca University supports the publication of the International Review of Open and Distance Education which is indexed in Social Sciences Citation Index (ISI), and which is arguably the most well known and most frequently cited scholarly journal in the field of distance and open education [9]

Accreditation[edit]

Athabasca University reports to the government through the Minister of Advanced Education and is publicly funded through the Province of Alberta. The university's governing council is authorized to grant degrees through the Post-Secondary Learning Act along with governing its own affairs. Members of the governing council are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in council.[10]

The university is accredited with the United States by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.[11]

Select memberships[edit]

Academics[edit]

AU is Canada's only exclusively open university, and Maclean's Magazine called it Canada's fastest growing university.[12] 50% of AU's students are between the ages of 25 and 44, and admissions are year round. AU hosts to 3 Canada Research Chairs.[13] 260,000 students have taken courses since the University was founded.[14]

AU has 27,107 undergraduate students, with 77 undergraduate programs. Of that two are university diplomas, fourteen are university certificates and one is a certificate of completion.[15]

Research[edit]

AU spends over $2 million per year on research.[14] The university has four Canada Research Chairs and one NSERC/Xerox/Markin/ICORE Research Chair. The Athabasca University Research Centre is the primary centre at the university, along with the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute and the Centre for World Indigenous Knowledge and Research.

Notable faculty

  • Martin Connors, Canada Research Chair, Space Science, discovered Trojan asteroid associated with planet Earth (2011)
  • Joseph Pivato, Professor, Literature, published eight books on ethnic minority writing in Canada
  • Norman Temple, Professor, Food Science, published several books on health and nutrition
  • Tracey Lindberg, Canada Research Chair, Indigenous Knowledge and Law, many publications on social and legal questions
  • Anne Nothof, Professor Emerita, English, published several books on Canadian theatre
  • Michael Gismondi, Professor, Sociology, books on environmental and social questions in Canada and Central America
  • Terry Anderson, Professor, former Canada Research Chair, Distance Education, published seven books, articles on distance education
  • Rory McGreal, Professor of Distance Education and UNESCO/COL Chairholder in Open Educational Resources
  • D. Kinshuk, Professor, NSEARC/iCore/Xerox/Markin Industrial Research Chair, Computing and Information Systems, IEEE editor and very active research publisher
  • Dragan Gasevic, Canada Research Chair in Semantic Technologies, Alberta Ingenuity Faculty, Associate Professor of Computing and Information Systems, well-known books, award-winning research, and active research community involvement
  • Jeffrey Vallance, Assistant Professor of Nursing, Health Solutions Population Health Investigator, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) New Investigator
  • Evelyn Ellerman, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Directed the construction of the E Lab
  • Alvin Finkel, Professor, History, published several books on contemporary social and political history

AU is also a participating member of the WestGrid Research Network.

Scholarships and bursaries[edit]

The Government of Canada sponsors an Aboriginal Bursaries Search Tool that lists over 680 scholarships, bursaries, and other incentives offered by governments, universities, and industry to support Aboriginal post-secondary participation. Athabasca University bursaries for Aboriginal, First Nations and Métis students include: Alberta Historical Resources Foundation; Syncrude Canada Ltd./Athabasca University Aboriginal Scholarship; Frank and Agnes Cardinal Neheyiwak Bursary; Harold Cardinal Essay Prize for Aboriginal Students; Canative Scholarship for Métis Students; AU President's Scholarship for a Blue Quills Student; First Peoples Technology Bursary [16]

Rankings[edit]

In 2004, Athabasca's Executive MBA program was rated 74[17] by the Financial Times, the only executive MBA on the list that is delivered entirely online. The MBA has since fallen from the FT rankings, and doesn't show up in the 2009 FT rankings for MBA.[4] In 2005 38% of the students in the MBA program were female.[18]

For a number of years, AU was not included in the annual rankings by Macleans Magazine,[19] because of its "special mission."[20]

In October 2008, Athabasca was named one of Alberta's Top Employers by Mediacorp Canada Inc., which was announced by the Calgary Herald[21] and the Edmonton Journal.[22][23]

Delivery models[edit]

AU's classes are taught in several ways:

  • Individual study: Students are provided with the textbooks, computer software, and video material required. A preset recommended schedule comes with each course. Each course has a professor, as with any university course. This person publishes creates a series of learning activities, readings and assessments. That publication becomes additional reading and activity for the student. Assignments are submitted to the professor via email or more commonly via the Moodle assignment drop box.. The final exam is administered by at Athabasca's learning centres or a partner university, college or accredited individual. Students have up to six months to finish their course, unless they have received a student loan, in which case, they have up to four months. Courses start at the beginning of each month. Most courses are now augmented with additional resources and activities using the Moodle LMS
  • Collaborative, online: Courses in the graduate programs are paced, usually beginning three times a year. The primary delivery platform is the Moodle Learning Management System, that is augmented by web conferencing using Adobe Connect and social networking using elgg based Athabasca Landing
  • Grouped study: Offered primarily to students physically in Alberta, this method allows students to get together with other students in the same course, and study in a manner similar to that of a regular university. Students studying in this method have up to 4 months to complete their course. Courses start in September and January.[24]

Notable people[edit]

Some notable people have studied through Athabasca University, including Alberta politician Debby Carlson,[25] Olympic bobsleigh racer Christian Farstad,[26] Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, professional hockey player Alyn McCauley,[27] and cross-country skier Milaine Thériault.[28] AU serves over 38,000 students (over 7,900 full-load equivalents)and offers over 900 courses in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs in a range of arts, science and professional disciplines.[29]

E Lab[edit]

The e lab was directed and launched by Dr. Evelyn Ellerman, who teaches the Communication Studies Progamme at the Athabasca University. The E Lab was originally intended solely for the communications studies program, however, has now been extended on a larger scale, for the whole university. There are various different sections that make up the e lab, to enable the students to learn, create, connect, share and research all in one place. The tool cupboard contains online resources, tutorials and tools, which is always accessible for the staff and students. Workshops are for users to become familiar with online technologies to facilitate easy guidance through self-directed study and improve or develop existing skills. E lab's online resources section offers some existing projects enabling the students to develop upon their education during University courses. The e lab's e-portfolio enables anyone associated with the university, whether students or staff, to keep a record of achievements and ideas etc. A further branch to the e lab, is the Visualization & Data Analysis. This allows students to create data visualizations. The Connect part of the e lab, allows users the ability to connect to other students using social media and share work with other people. The landing is the users own space where they can communicate with other people, share files or discuss topics with other people. The showcase and the e-portfolio are ways that the users can share their work and projects. The e lab also gives the students the opportunity to partake in a research project to support what they learn at University, developing the overall experience.[30]

Controversy[edit]

In May 2004 the Premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein, brought public attention to the university due to allegations that he had plagiarized a paper that he submitted for a communication studies course he took from the school. While speaking before the provincial legislature, he held up a copy of the paper to provide evidence on his views about former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet. Afterwards, there was public criticism that portions of five pages of the 13-page paper had been copied from the Internet without proper citations to the sources.[31] The university investigated the matter and told the news media that Klein's instructor had noted the mistake when grading the paper and offered guidance for correcting it. A university spokesman described the failure to properly cite sources as a "relatively minor error, undisputed by [the] student, easily corrected, and not an ongoing or repeated problem."[32]

In 2012, it was revealed that Athabasca University was one of the institutions of higher education involved in illegal donations to the provincial Progressive Conservative party. The university spent $10,675 on Conservative fundraising events, including golf tournaments and dinners.[33]

Student representation[edit]

Undergraduate students[edit]

Undergraduate students at Athabasca University are represented by the Athabasca University Students' Union. The AUSU head office is in AU Edmonton, though the students' council may have elected members from any area where AU students reside.

AUSU was formed in 1993 and was formalized as a registered Alberta society until students' unions in Alberta were granted recognition under the Post-Secondary Learning Act. On 13 September 2004 the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta approved an order in council which states:

The Lieutenant Governor in council establishes and incorporates a students' association to be known as "The Students' Association of Athabasca University" to provide for the administration of students' affairs and the promotion of the general welfare of students consistent with the purposes of Athabasca University.

AUSU has established several clubs for students. Clubs currently sponsored by AUSU include the AU Health Sciences Society, La Société Française d'AU, the AU Literature Club, AU Business Students’ Association, AU Science Students' Society, AU Sports Club, and the AU Student Moms' Club. Student media at Athabasca University is provided by the official publication The Voice Magazine. Previously published on paper, the magazine since 2001 is published exclusively online in HTML and PDF format.

Graduate students[edit]

Visiting and program students at the graduate level are represented by the Athabasca University Graduate Students' Association.[34] The organization was founded in 2010, and approved by the Alberta Advanced Education and Technology.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Coat of Arms: Athabasca University". Athabasca University. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Athabasca University Business Plan 2010-14". Athabasca University. Retrieved 2010-07-19. 
  3. ^ "About Athabasca University". Athabasca University. Archived from the original on 25 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  4. ^ a b "EMBA rankings 2009". FT.com. Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Byrne, T.C. (1989). Athabasca University The Evolution of Distance Education. Calgary, Alberta: University of Calgary Press. p. 135. ISBN 0-919813-51-8. 
  6. ^ http://www.qp.alberta.ca/574.cfm?page=p19p5.cfm&leg_type=Acts&isbncln=9780779737932 Post-secondary Learning Act
  7. ^ "History of Athabasca University". Athabasca University. Archived from the original on 19 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  8. ^ "Athabasca University". Canadian Business Schools. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  9. ^ Zawacki--Richter, Olaf; Terry Anderson; Nazime Tuncay (2010). "The Growing Impact of Open Access Distance Education Journals: A Bibliometric Analysis". Journal of Distance Education 24 (3). 
  10. ^ "Athabasca University Regulation, Alta. Reg. 50/2004". CanLII. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  11. ^ "Database of Institutions Accredited By Recognized U.S. Accrediting Organizations". Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  12. ^ "The chalkboard is dead: researchers". Macleans Magazine. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  13. ^ "Canadian Research Chairs". Government of Canada. Retrieved 2007-09-09. [dead link]
  14. ^ a b "Facts & Statistics". Athabasca University. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  15. ^ "Undergraduate Degree Programs List". Athabasca University. Archived from the original on 19 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  16. ^ Aboriginal Bursaries Search Tool
  17. ^ http://rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/emba-rankings-2004
  18. ^ "Athabasca University". Business Week. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  19. ^ "Universities drop out of Maclean's survey". The Gateway. Retrieved 2007-09-16. [dead link]
  20. ^ "Time again for Maclean's rankings". University Affairs. Archived from the original on 2007-11-03. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  21. ^ "Calgary Herald, "Alberta’s top 40 places to work", October 18, 2008". 
  22. ^ "Edmonton Journal, "Alberta's best focus on attracting, keeping staff", October 31, 2008". 
  23. ^ "Reasons for Selection, 2009 Alberta's Top Employers competition". 
  24. ^ "Who studies at AU". Athabasca University. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  25. ^ "Centre for Innovative Management Update". Athabasca University. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  26. ^ "Olympian joins the Canadian Olympic Committee in new role". Canadian Olymptic Committee. Archived from the original on 2007-09-06. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  27. ^ Koshan, Terry. "No end in sight". CANOE. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  28. ^ "Milaine Thériault". Cross Country Canada. Archived from the original on 7 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  29. ^ "Athabasca University at a Glance". 
  30. ^ staticred, 2012. Athabasca University e-Lab Launch November 2, 2012. [Online] Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/staticred/athabasca-university-elab-launch-november-2-2012-14968630 [Accessed 26 March 2013]
  31. ^ "Klein accused of lifting info for school essay". CTV.ca. May 14, 2004. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  32. ^ Klein cleared of plagiarism by his university, Canadian Press, May 28, 2004 (on CTV.ca website; accessed November 4, 2007)
  33. ^ "Alberta colleges, universities made illegal donations to Tories". CBC.ca. 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2012-03-21. 
  34. ^ "Athabasca University Graduate Students' Association". Retrieved 4 May 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Small, Michael W. "A Case Study of Educational Policy-making: The Establishment of Athabasca University." Ph.D. diss., University of Alberta, 1980.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°43′20.63″N 113°18′12.19″W / 54.7223972°N 113.3033861°W / 54.7223972; -113.3033861