Athabasca University

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Dustin, Dec 21, 2020.

  1. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    I just read a post by Rich Douglas where he discusses his experience at the University of Leicester's Doctorate of Social Sciences ( Thanks for writing that.

    It was pointed out in that thread there that few people describe their experience inside a program in detail.

    Since I haven't run into anyone else on DI who has attended Athabasca, I thought I'd make my contribution for future readers. I enrolled in Athabasca after graduating from a 2-year Social Service Worker diploma program. At most Ontario universities they'll give you a maximum of one year transfer credit towards your Bachelor's degree but AU has a degree-completion program where they'll give you 2 years (60 credits out of the 120 credit program.)

    At this point I had completed my 2 year Social Service Worker, 1.5 semesters of Accounting (I left to take a full time job in the social services field, getting a Business Fundamentals certificate.) I also had one aborted semester at Trent University for Psychology. So I had credits littered around.

    The application was very simple and cost $100 (it's now $118 CAD). I sent them my transcripts and they admitted me within a couple weeks. They have open admission so the longest wait time is to get your transcripts and do the Transfer Credit Evaluation (TCE).

    I was assessed my original 60 credits from my SSW diploma plus an additional 12 from my other coursework. So I had to do 16 courses (48 credits) to get my degree.

    Courses start monthly. If using financial aid, you're stuck on their system (12 week courses, often two semesters per year of a maximum of 5 courses) but if you're self-funded you have up to 6 months and can take as many courses at a time as you would like.

    I started with one course, then "laddered" them, registering for 2 at a time and then having a third start in the same month or the month before a previous one ended. This helped me proceed more quickly through the courses.

    Athabasca uses an Instructor model where course content is developed by Professors who may or may not be the same ones delivering the content. Each course is made up of a study guide that includes Learning Outcomes, a reading selection or selections, study questions, and a "Commentary" that is written material to replace the lecture.

    You basically do the readings, take the notes, write the papers as they tell you to, and submit them. Most of my courses I had virtually no contact with the instructor outside of grading, but they deliberately include two reflection courses (one when you start the program and one as your capstone) where you must communicate at length with your instructor about what your goals and plans are, to help you "integrate the knowledge" of the other courses.

    Exams were a mix of multiple choice and short/long answers. I had no exams that were solely multiple choice. A few courses had no exams at all.

    All of the Instructors had a minimum of a Master's degree. In fact, all but two had their PhDs (one was a Criminal Intelligence Analyst working for the Calgary PD and I can't recall the other one.)

    The cost of your textbook is included in tuition, and they ship them to you. You can also rent material (ebooks or print books) from the university library and they'll ship them to you with a box to ship the material back. Because they participate in the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) system, I was able to write a paper on the SLEIPNIR assessment tool used by the RCMP after the ILL system helped me gett the relevant manual off the shelf of the Public Safety Canada Library and Information Centre in Ottawa so that was pretty neat.

    They use an up-to-date Moodle platform and I never had any technical issues. I only used ProctorU for exams once. I much preferred to write them at my local college. Exams were graded within 2 weeks but usually much quicker (once, much longer and when I wrote to confirm that paper exam had been received a 50% showed up the next day so I never was sure if that was retaliation.)

    Assignments are marked within 8 business days. You get access to the course as soon as you register so I did complete one course in a month just by doing the content before the class started (basically I registered for September but it was only July so in the meantime I worked through everything and submitted it all for grading on September 1. On September 20 or so I got my credit.)

    They're also RA (Middle States) in addition to having Canadian degree-granting authorization through the Act of Parliament that created the University.

    Athabasca offers degree-completion Bachelor of Professional Arts and Bachelor of Commerce, as well as regular undergraduate and graduate degrees (BA, BSc, MA, MSc) in fields you might expect (Applied Mathematics, Computer and Information Science, French, Human Science, History, Psychology, etc.) They also offer a Master of Counseling (MC) degree and a few certificates.

    Tuition is steep.

    1. If you live outside Canada, you pay $1840.25 CAD or $1434.53 USD per course, or about $448 USD a credit, regardless of citizenship.
    2. Live inside Canada, but not a citizen or permanent resident: $1432.25 CAD ($477 CAD per credit)
    3. Live inside Canada, Canadian citizen/PR, outside Alberta: $922.25 CAD ($307.42 CAD per credit)
    4. Live inside Canada, Canadian citizen/PR, inside Alberta: $713.25 CAD ($237.75 CAD per credit)

    When I attended (I graduated Sep 2018) the fees were lower. I paid $794 a course for #3 above.

    Did I miss anything?
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  2. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

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  3. GregWatts

    GregWatts Active Member

    IMO, Canada has had few DI offerings in the past... not much if anything past Athabasca and Waterloo. If you were in Canada, you may have had a healthy skepticism of US offerings and the UoL were 3-year degrees (i.e. Canada follows the US in that their undergrads are typically 4 years). Hence, Athabasca offered a well-known, quality, 4 year degree. My sister started a program years ago but washed out.

    I agree though, the price is pretty outrageous.
  4. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    There were plenty. Even more now, of course. And it's been around a long while, in some cases. I remember people comparing various Canadian distance operations on this and other boards years ago. Back then, there was some interest in U. of Manitoba's distance program, as it was voted least expensive. The newer Unis in BC do a roaring trade - Thompson-Rivers an' them. There were some spectacular failures in NB. American-owned distance outfits with DEAC (then DETC) accreditation. e.g. Lansbridge U. and Meritus U. (More MBAs - yawn.) Their degrees were "separate and somehow not quite equal" here, but they had permission to operate alongside the traditional NB schools. Didn't go well. Lansbridge operated in BC as well ... for a while.

    I took "traditional" distance courses (envelope & stamp) for three years, administered by U. of Toronto back in the early 70s! Wrote proctored exams (evening) at a high school in St. Catharines, close to home. C'mon. It's always been there! This site will help you, maybe.

    I think there are something like 3200 University and College programs available in Canada completely by distance. The Canadian Virtual University-Université Virtuelle Canadienne (CVU-UVC) consortium has a list of them ALL, IIRC. I'm sure you can find their list. I was on it a few days ago.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2020
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  5. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    I think the difference was - you could get all kinds of distance courses, years ago at some Canadian Universities - but you couldn't get enough - or the right combo - to earn a complete degree. Certainly, that was a catch with U. Manitoba. That's changing but yes - for years, Athabasca was the only place in town you could do that. And definitely the only place you could put together a complete degree (BGS I think), from courses, all of which you took elsewhere. They're still the only place for that... but I believe there's a capstone on that degree now, that you have to do at Athabasca.

    Distance courses: quite a few - always.
    Distance degrees: First Athabasca - now everybody (almost).
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  6. GregWatts

    GregWatts Active Member

    Perhaps I am showing my age :) I was speaking of a time before the "newer Unis".
  7. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    U. of Toronto, from which I took pen-and-paper distance courses in the early 70s, was established in 1827. U. of Manitoba was founded in 1877. :)
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2020
  8. smartdegree

    smartdegree Active Member

    Athabasca has a pretty good reputation where i live (GTA).

    One Canadian university that offers a lot of affordable distance learning programs is Memorial U.

    I don't know if it's because they don't advertise enough, but Memorial is a good university that I think is overlooked because of its location. They have online masters (like the master of technology management) that go for only C$9,666 (around 7,500 USD) for international students. For Canadians, it's even cheaper at C$7,434.
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  9. GregWatts

    GregWatts Active Member

    No one in Calgary would know what you speak of in the 70's but glad you enjoyed the courses...ROTFLMFAO
  10. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Some of the sharpest -and most talented - people I have ever met (or heard, or read) are Memorial grads. I was listening to one such person talk, very articulately, on my favorite jazz station, the other day; I thought (once again) "Memorial must be a really good school! :)
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  11. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    OK it was a long time ago. I know. Have fun laughing at the old folks.... your turn in the barrel someday.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2020
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  12. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    One hopes, at least!
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  13. GregWatts

    GregWatts Active Member

    Not so young myself, my point was that whatever UoT did in the 7os wasn’t relevant to a aspiring cowboy in Alberta.
  14. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    If you're saying that everyone in Alberta is a cowboy and/or nobody (cowboy or other) there would ever have taken distance courses --- you'll probably have to move, if word gets out. If that happens, don't come to Ontario - please. They have some pretty good schools in Alberta. Maybe you should enrol, if you're not too busy ROTFLYFAO.

    Man, you're starting to sound like Jolly Old Saint Levicoff. Not a good look for you!
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2020
  15. Stanislav

    Stanislav Well-Known Member

    I worked for Meritus U. as an adjunct, and do not remember them being DEAC. I think they relied on their NB degree granting authority, and some intra-provincial Maritimes accreditation authority. Yes, since they weren't AUCC member, "not quite equal" is apt. They were owned by Apollo Group, and basically operated as "University of Phoenix North". Folded very quickly, possibly not graduated anyone. At the time the word was that the students were able to transfer their credit, and many went to some of these "newer BC universities".

    There are a few of this ilk still alive, most prominently Yorkville U. I adjuncted for them too, for a little bit; all I can say that their math class in BBA program was better designed than Meritus' College Algebra. I vaguely remember that Yorkville's founders had some link to Argosy; the signature program is their Master's in Counselling Psychology. I think they bought up some operations and got approvals for face-to-face programs in Toronto and BC.
  16. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    I stand corrected, Stanislav. Meritus was indeed never DEAC accredited. It relied on exactly what you said it did. New Brunswick made some deals with Meritus and other schools, giving them permission to operate and grant degrees in NB. It was a well-intentioned attempt by a have-not province, to raise badly-needed money from businesses which wanted to set up operations in NB. As I mentioned, it did not go well overall. Meritus page here:

    Both the Lansbridge Universities (New Brunswick and British Columbia) were DETC (now DEAC) schools. They also had Provincial permission of course. The Provice of New Brunswick rescinded Lansbridge's permission, at one point, to award several advanced degrees. Apparently, those programs didn't meet Provincial Standards.
    Lansbridge page here:

    I have not seen anything on Yorkville for a while, except an ad somewhere that let me know they were still alive. I often thought they should be located in a fashionable shopping district - the one that starts around Bloor St. and Avenue Rd. in Toronto. I remember THAT Yorkville well, from hippie days - when I still had at least some hair. I met quite a few musicians there - some famous then, some who became famous later. The University - I plumb forgot about -- sorry.

    Thanks for the correction - and thanks for weighing in. Good to hear from someone who "was there," so to speak.
  17. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Since Universities Canada (formerly AUCC) categorically excludes proprietary institutions from membership, one can't reasonably draw that conclusion.
  18. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    On the subject of Yorkville, I'm still mighty suspicious of private Canadian universities (the other one being University Canada West that at one time had an enrollment of 95+ percent Indian students who were overpaying for their average quality education.)

    Yorkville's Counselling program has a good reputation among therapists and counsellors whose graduates they've hired, though, and I know several from my crisis line days who are now Registered Psychotherapists.

    There's still a bias among those who went to a traditional program but the proof is in tbe pudding and they seem to graduate qualified, competent counsellors.
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  19. GregWatts

    GregWatts Active Member


    My wife was involved in post-secondary in the 90's. Granted, these students were largely interested in degree completion with an AUCC type credential (as Steve accurately noted, there was a difference). If there were options other than Athabasca and Waterloo, they weren't discussed or recommended. You could become a professional accountant around that time via a hybrid DI model through CGA. By hybrid, I mean that you study at home but need to show up at a non-negotiable place and time to write your 100% exam.

    BTW, if Gavin Crawford and Andrew Phung...both Alberta boys...can make fun of Alberta... so can I.
  20. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Indeed you can . But I'll allow neither Mr. Crawford, nor Mr. Phung, and especially not Mr. Watts to ROTFLTFAO at me for being old enough to have a long memory - which I still insist you were doing. Unless I grant them permission, and that's still under consideration. Might be a while....maybe when I turn 80.

    As far as those courses go - Calgarians took them. I know they did. The courses were for a professional association, that required three years of courses and five years of experience, for membership. The association has local chapters all over Canada, including Calgary and back then, at least, everybody got their course materials from U. of Toronto, sent their work there and wrote (locally) yearly examinations, set and marked by U. of T.

    Johann, Baron von Biersaufen und Wurstburg

    PS Yes. people from Calgary took those distance courses. And they were rigorous enough to be no laughing matter. So am I, still.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2020

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