We’ve long been told there’s just one way to get a post-secondary education: Sitting in a lecture hall, taking notes from a professor, in person. Rinse and repeat, for about four years. Sure, it’s a great fit for some, but what about the people who don’t want that one-size-fits-all approach? Those who want to take a program at their own pace, for example, or who don’t want to uproot their life to move to another city to study, or who prefer to make their education work around them, not the other way around.
That’s where online schools, like Athabasca University (AU), come in. “The AU experience is as diverse as the learners who choose to study with us,” says Matthew Prineas, the university’s provost and vice-president, academic. “We have learners who are working full-time during the day and learning in the evenings or on weekends. We have learners who are raising a family, caring for a loved one, living in remote communities. We have learners who are serving in the Canadian Forces and others who are competing in amateur and professional sports.” In short: If you don’t fit the traditional mould of a post-secondary student, you’ll fit right in.
Here are a few of the reasons why this could be the path for you.
1. You don’t have to put your life on hold while you study
When you’re studying the traditional way—fixed-class schedule, commuting to a campus—it’s challenging to work a full-time job or raise a family. With programs that are designed specifically for online delivery, you fit your education into the life you already have. And because many undergraduate courses at AU start monthly, you have more flexibility throughout the year to pursue your education goals. “You don’t have to move to a new city to pursue a degree or upgrade your skills,” says Prineas. “You don’t have to quit your job or rearrange your personal life.”
2. You can learn where you want, when you want
“Flexible course delivery, meaning students can learn online during evenings, on weekends, and from anywhere, is a key factor for applicants in choosing AU,” says Prineas. “They want a high-quality, fully accredited credential in a flexible format that fits their life.” Here’s how that works: Because you set the schedule, you can achieve your academic goals on your own timeline. With most undergraduate courses, you have six months to complete the work, with an option to extend if needed. That means you can take courses as your time and budget allow, reducing stress and student debt. Another plus? If you decide to pursue a full undergraduate program, you can transfer credits from other institutions.
3. Learning online doesn’t mean learning alone
Contrary to what some might think, online learning can offer you better access to support than in-person, says Prineas. At AU, every learner has access to a tutor for support, whether that’s exam prep or just some scholarly conversation. (Think traditional office hours, but without the line-up outside a prof’s office.) There are even opportunities to get on-the-job training without ever leaving home, thanks to the Faculty of Business’ world-first virtual co-op program. “Learners work in an artificial intelligence environment interacting with simulated team members, clients, subordinates, and organizational leaders to complete projects,” explains Prineas.” It is an incredible opportunity for experiential learning, while still getting the flexibility and open educational experience that attracts students to AU in the first place.”