Advocacy for COVID-19 Supports
Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, AUSU has been actively advocating on behalf of AU students to Athabasca University, as well as to external stakeholders such as the provincial and federal government.
AUSU is aware that many students have been struggling with their studies due to COVID-19, for a variety of reasons, and we want students to know that we hear you!
AUSU has been compiling student feedback from online forums, social media, our mobile app, personal experience, and hundreds of emails received by our team members. We also sent out a COVID-19 Impact Survey in May 2020 to compile feedback from AU undergraduate students about the impacts of the pandemic on their studies, and had over 1,600 responses. We found that 80% of students surveyed indicated the pandemic had an impact on their studies,
AUSU was able to use all of the feedback collected from students to help us develop our advocacy initiatives on behalf of AU students, and the survey results were shared with Athabasca University administration.
Our executive team and staff have been meeting regularly with administrators at AU, including the President, Provost, VP Academic, Registrar, Info Centre Coordinator, Deans, and others to bring student concerns forward.
Some of the difficulties students have faced include:
- Barriers getting assistance from AU
- Lack of phone lines and long email response times
- Lack of communications about support available
- Lack of available funding at the provincial or federal level
- Additional fees associated with studies due to COVID-19
- Barriers to writing exams and using ProctorU
- Lack of resources to complete studies at home
- Barriers to using electronic texts (etexts)
- Mental health impacts on studies
There is also an added financial burden due to COVID-19, and many other struggles that students are currently facing.
We have made sure Athabasca University is aware of the struggles students are experiencing and have been working to implement systems to support students during a difficult time for staff and students alike. Some of these initiatives have included hiring more staff, transitioning their digital infrastructure to the cloud, offering additional assessment methods, offering free course extensions for several months, and increasing communications to students.
We also recognize that AU has experienced a massive increase in the volume of student inquiries and requests due to COVID-19, as well as a large enrollment increase all while adjusting to their staff working from home due to the pandemic. AUSU applauds the efforts of the front-line staff during a difficult time. We have particularly appreciated the staff who have been assisting students on the AUSU app and social media platforms, while the University works to implement the phone lines in their new virtual working environment. We know this has not been an easy time for everyone.
We also want to thank the Athabasca University community for delivering 134 emergency bursaries of $1,000 each over the course of the summer in response to the pandemic. AUSU was proud to have partnered with the University, AUGSA, and community donors for this initiative.
However, AUSU has been and will continue to advocate to the University about the struggles students are facing and to work with the University to develop more supports for students and open the phone lines back up!
We hear the voices of our AUSU members, and we want to assure AU students that we are advocating for you!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at [email protected].