Athabaska University: A Flexible, Open Education

Some people tend to get suspicious if an online university program seems too good to be true. Alberta’s Athabaska University is one of the most well-known Canadian universities for distance learning. While it is easy to fall prey to online degree scams, the feedback for Athabaska is undeniable – the education is real, the school is scam-free, and the degree is recognized.

Though Athabasca is free from deception, the experience of the education itself is not for everyone.

A university experience that takes place almost entirely online is ideal for adult distance learning – individuals who already have full-time jobs, took time away from school or have families to commit to tend to be one of Athabasca’s most popular demographics. Others take classes from Athabasca to attain courses required for their degrees which they could not take at their own university.

Those seeking a social experience should look elsewhere according to various reviewers (for obvious reasons!). Where the school rises above others, however, is in its wide range of programs – online bachelor degree programs, online diploma programs, and online master’s degrees, to name a few.
The programs are especially accommodating for transfer students. Most students transferring to a new Canadian university will find themselves losing so many credits that they lose over a year’s worth of courses. Athabasca’s alumni have stated that credit transfer was simple to ensure that their degrees were completed as quickly as possible.

One popular programs that Athabasca lacks, however, is a Bachelor of Education (BEd) program. Due to the nature of BEd degrees, which almost always involve a practicum/placement component, a Bachelor Education degree online is harder to come by. However, many of Athabasca’s undergraduate programs provide a solid undergraduate background for those in pursuit of a BEd.

Additionally, Athabasca lacks a wide range of doctoral degree programs. Unfortunately, online PhD programs in Canada are even harder to come by than online education degrees. However, there is still a rich number of online Master’s programs at Athabasca including a Master’s of Science in nursing, an online MBA program (as well as a DBA program). Medical doctor degrees online are simply harder to come by at any online university.

Reviews of Athabasca University tend to be quite polarized. In online reviews, most alumni have highly positive words for Athabasca and its programs. However, those with criticism for the school have been quite harsh, giving Athabasca one-star ratings and urging applicants away from the university.

Where Athabasca seems to fall short is mainly on the administrative side of things. Reviewers who were critical had harsh words for the school’s financial aid offices, academic advisors and tutors.

A general consensus throughout the reviews is that Athabasca University is best suited for mature learners who are motivated and focused enough to get through courses without much outside guidance. With the courses and other administrative fees such as course extensions and exam rescheduling being quite expensive (a new student registering for a single three-credit course would pay a base of $877 Canadian, and extension or rescheduling fees run around $100 each), it is best to not take the decision to register at Athabasca (or any distance learning university) lightly.

Since Athabasca does not schedule or post online lectures, the learning process is left largely up to the student and their course pack and textbook. A great amount of self-discipline must be applied in order to one to get the most of their money.

Despite its shortcomings which vary from student to student, it is important to acknowledge that Athabasca University is not an online university scam and does provides its students with very real degrees that are recognized across Canada.

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