At Athabasca University, the key word is flexibility. “We believe everyone should have equal, open access to education and lifelong learning,” says president Neil Fassina. “We have made it our mission to remove the barriers that restrict access to and success in university-level study for learners around the world.” More than 40,000 students worldwide log in to classes at Athabasca, one of North America’s first online universities. The school offers continuous enrolment; most of the 900 courses offered start the ﬁrst of every month. Textbooks, e-texts and internet-based courseware are provided. Although most students never set foot in tiny Athabasca, Alta., some science courses require students to complete labs in Athabasca, Edmonton or Calgary. A $30-million Academic and Research Centre opened in 2011, doubling the size of the campus, where many staff do research. AU is also home to Canada’s only UNESCO Chair in Open Educational Resources.
Following a 2017 third-party review that looked into financial pressures and long-term sustainability at the university, the government of Alberta gave AU a $4.9-million grant to upgrade its IT infrastructure and execute a new learning plan across the university. Athabasca is partnering with Amazon Web Services to design, implement and manage its cloud-based education programs, including such applications as artificial intelligence. On average, undergrads are 27 years old; 83 per cent of students work and nearly a third of graduates have dependents. Studying online does require discipline, but it’s perfect for those who are juggling school, work and family.
• Science (Architecture): The first program of its kind in Canada, it’s offered in partnership with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, offering a new pathway for students to become professional architects.
• Post-Masters Diploma: Nurse Practitioner: As health care needs change, this program prepares nurses to assume a broader role in the provision of health services to clients of all ages as family nurse practitioners within a community setting.
• Bachelor of Management in Indigenous Nations and Organizations: This business program focuses on principles of Indigenous business and governance, and the role of traditional knowledge, all while blending cultural relevance into the curriculum.
• Storyboard Development and Design: For students who love gaming, this course explores digital storytelling, drawing techniques and how to evoke both motion and emotion in the world of video games.
• Media Ethics: This course allows students to analyze and discuss contemporary journalism across a variety of media.
$6,692 ($8,473 out-of-province students)
Minimum Entering Grades
No grade specification; undergraduate students are not required to have a high school diploma
Undergraduates: Full-time and part-time: 35,611
Graduates: Full-time and part-time: 4,421
Male-Female Ratio: 34 to 66