Athabasca University: They're the Big Four now

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by SteveFoerster, Nov 5, 2006.

  1. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    While at the Pan-Commonwealth Forum recently, I had the chance to speak at length with someone from Canada's Athabasca University. He confirmed the following:

    1. They have U.S. regional accreditation, which they got because they wanted to market to Americans. (Congress then rescinded the ability for Title IV funding to be applied to distance programs at foreign universities.)

    2. They have a Bachelor of General Studies that is 90 credit hours. The rest of them are 120 credits, but for someone stopping at a Bachelor's, that may be appealing.

    3. They have no residency requirement, which means 100% of needed credits can be transferred in.

    4. They accept credit by examination, and they have their own robust set of challenge examinations.

    5. For those who can pay out of pocket or get other kinds of loans, they also have online self study courses, so you can go at your own pace.

    In other words, Athabasca University is the fourth of the Big Three. They're not for everyone, especially the Title IV dependent, but there are a lot of people who ought to check them out.

  2. pugbelly

    pugbelly New Member

    I looked at Athabasca a few weeks ago. I don't think you can really group them with TESC, Excelsior, and COSC.

    1) They only offer 1 degree without residency requirements (General Studies).

    2) They require 45 hours at the upper division level (300 and 400 series). So even though they allow testing, half of their 90-hour program would be difficult or impossible to test out of.

    3) Not nearly as flexible as the other schools as far as the number of open electives.

    All in all, I really like the program, but it's not going to work for most people I'm afraid.

  3. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Regarding the first two points, since they have their own challenge exams, it's possible to do many of their programs solely by examination. I suppose you're right that the programs other than the BGS have a residency requirement, even if it is covered by the exams, but since there are only a few options for getting upper division credit by examination, the only people who would be inconvenienced would be people who have already taken Excelsior tests or TECEPs.

    As far as the third point, no, it's not quite as flexible, but for someone just interested in having a Bachelor's as quickly as possible by transferring credit in, that BGS is unique.

    You're right, it's not exactly the same, but it's really cool, and it's cool in the same direction as the others, if you see what I mean.

  4. dlkereluk

    dlkereluk New Member

    I'm going to suggest that AU is a bit more difficult than the "Big Three" when it comes to accepting CLEP and DSST credit. Depending on who I've spoken to in the past, credit from these sources is not acceptable.

    I'd like to be able to test their mantra that accreditation is the best thing since sliced cheese by presenting a "credit bank" document from Excelsior in support of a BGS. I can just imagine the groans from the senior folks at AU Central when I try this.

    I'd like to be able to tack on a BGS to the BHumanResources/Labour Relations that I am taking and prove to the genii at AU Central that the accreditation thing was not the panacea for the future that AU Executive made it out to be.
  5. turtle

    turtle New Member

    Interesting post. I am not sure how you have equated the University obtaining accreditation so they can sell in the American market with a mantra. The choice, like UNISA and several Australian universities, is a business choice and is not an academic requirement. I suspect that Athabasca made a wise business choice that put to rest some questions raised by prospective students. It would seem a modest investment and an easy accreditation given the quality demands placed on universities in Canada by the provincial ministries of education.

    I found their program quite flexible and very open to various transcripted learning alternatives. Please note there are two streams in the BGS program at AU. The Applied stream is the most flexible.
  6. dlkereluk

    dlkereluk New Member

    I said "panacea" and having been involved with some of the planning in the last "Strategic University Plan" and on university committees relating to "the future", their focus on accreditation was amusing, given that they failed to show any figures to back up the reason for striving for it.

    Perhaps if the PTB at AU Central were to provide facts and figures for their initiatives, rather than just say "a ha, this will solve our problems", I'd be more likely to take them seriously. As far as I can tell so far, their big US push has not resulted in even a marginal return on investment. It might have been prudent to look at other markets first, as well as pushing fundraising, but then, these are just my opinions...

    ...and as for the CLEP and DSST comments that I made, they still stand until somebody else in Registry says otherwise.
  7. Sindaena

    Sindaena New Member

    Athabasca's unique offerings

    I don't know that I would call Athabasca Big Four, but they have some unique offerings that are attractive to certain types of nontraditional students such as those looking to meet pre-reqs for medical school. Those offerings include on-site laboratory courses in general and organic chemistry and some biology topics, and home labs in physics. I took their organic chemistry labs and field ecology workshops last summer because as much of a pain as traveling was, I needed those labs and doing 6 hours of class (3 lecture/3 lab) for 15 weeks was inpossible whereas a few days straight was doable. I needed the organic chemistry as a grad school pre-req and teh ecology to meet my upper division biology lab requirement. I will still need either summer research which is a long shot or a Master's degree to get into a PhD program in neuroscience, but without Athabasca classes I don't know how I would even complete the Biology major through Excelsior. I am still stuck on finding a course in developmental biology and may have to GRE around that, but the upper level lab can't be gotten around that way.

    I will do my graduate work traditionally, after all, neuroscience in a lab field, but I have been able to do my undergraduate work while my kids are small thanks to Excelsior. I am looking at either getting into summer research this summer and graduating next december or doing the GRE biology in the spring and graduating then depending on the fate of my summer research applications.

    In any case... Athabasca's lab science programs are pretty unique. While they require on-site, it's only 3-4 days which can be expensive and use vacation time, but is often more doable for nontrads than 15 weeks of lab science. :)

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