February 18, 2020 at 4:06 pm MST #193891AUSU OfficeParticipant
Question for Candidates: From your perspective, what is the most important change you would like to see at Athabasca University?
We would love to get feedback from any AU student, so feel free to join the conversation!
February 18, 2020 at 4:43 pm MST #193892reganjohnsyParticipant
Access to peer support! Hands down. I love the flexibility of studying at AU, but I miss having a sense of community. A place where students in varying programs have the opportunity to connect and support each other. I do realize that AUSU has the app, and Facebook has a few dedicated AU groups, but not everyone has access/accounts to those outlets (or if you’re like me and social media distracts you but you want to connect with students, there’s really no other choice than to keep Facebook alive). I would also love the ability to connect with alumni students that are already working in their career of choice/graduate students navigating their new educational experience as a sort of mentorship program.
February 18, 2020 at 7:59 pm MST #193893Natasha DonahueParticipant
Thank you for this question!
In my opinion, the most important change at Athabasca University to make is better progress toward reconciliation within the institution, and the creation of programs that help access issues for Indigenous peoples. I firmly believe that we must create equity within post-secondary education for Indigenous Peoples in Canada in order to move forward successfully with all other aspects of Athabasca University. This issue exists within our society at large and has created many barriers to access that we all must work together to remedy. If we cannot do this, we are leaving these students behind and failing to role-model reconciliatory behaviour for other institutions and organizations.
February 19, 2020 at 12:49 am MST #193894AlekGolijaninParticipant
From a learning perspective, I would like to see Athabasca University introduce co-op education opportunities for 3rd and 4th year students. Co-op education opportunities would help students develop and perfect their professional skills, so they can leverage their on-the-job experience as they pursue their careers. Other universities across Canada have agreements for placements, the most common example would be nursing programs with hospitals. There are also many grants that are provided by the public/private sector which cover an employers cost to hire students and pay them a living wage. I feel extremely confident that we can have co-op programs up and running by 2022, and that will be one of my big priorities as your AUSU councillor.
February 19, 2020 at 9:51 am MST #193896KatyLoweParticipant
Alek I love that idea! That isn’t something I’d considered before, and I know it is used at the graduate level – I honestly hadn’t thought of it at the undergrad level but what a great opportunity that would be for students and employers alike to source future workers!
I have detailed my objectives regarding facilitating networking opportunities through AUGSA for AUSU students to connect with and learn from as I think this can be a very beneficial route for students to forge meaningful relationships, have their questions answered, and increase awareness of next steps available to AU students. I also think that providing an in-person or through Skype study group/tool would be revolutionary for the student experience creating a more open learning environment and would enhance the student experience.
I am going to pivot a bit in this response and talk about an important change I would like to see at AU, and I think that AUSU is critical in progress and driving change at the university. A very specific change that I think AUSU has been working hard on advocacy efforts in the past, and is ongoing and requires continuous efforts is the response times and communication for students requiring access to financial aid. This is an issue we see frequently through student frustration on social media that requires significant change from the university to meed student need.
Another specific change at the university level that I feel would have a meaningful impact on the student experience is increased presence and use of advisor services. Currently this service is available through degree works to approve a student’s planned course work as well as through email to ask specific questions. I think these resources are great, however, I emphasize that despite their advantages, there are still many barriers to accessing this essential student guidance service. I think that Athabasca University should adopt a prophylactic approach, and implement resources with FAQ, a step by step process detailing what kinds of questions they can answer, and how to initiate that, as well as should encourage faculty heads to reach out to the student population through pre-determined times and ask about next steps, career goals, and so on so that they could assist students in both understanding the process as well as provide advice on which particular steps will further that student towards their goals.
A specific example I will use from my own personal experience includes determining which graduate programs best align with my career goals, as well as what pre-requisites I should fulfill at the undergraduate level to ensure I meet admission requirements. Further, facilitating relationships with neighbouring institutions, in which AU students may have a more understood and easier transition to institutions they may work with following their AU designation. I would argue that these services are lacking within AU for the transition to an AU graduate program also and a prophylactic approach may facilitate an increased student transition to AU graduate programs, work experience, or whatever is that specific student’s plans and goals for their post-AU undergraduate experience.
February 19, 2020 at 1:34 pm MST #193899brittanydaigleParticipant
Thank you AUSU staff for the question!
There are a few changes I would like to see from Athabasca University. The first one that comes to mind is having the choice between physical textbooks and electronic textbooks. It’s no secret that some people absolutely love e-textbooks and some people who absolutely despise them. Personally, I think it’s important for students to be able to choose which type of textbook they would prefer to study with. Especially when dealing with specific courses, such as math courses, where some students (including myself), find it difficult to navigate between the math questions and the answers at the back of the textbook.
Another change I would like to see would be providing students with more research, job, or coop opportunities. These opportunities are so important, as they help students gain experience and sometimes money to help pay for their education. Having these opportunities could easily help a student get a job quicker or get into a better graduate program once they have completed their studies with AU!
The last one that I’ll mention is student engagement. I think AU really lacks engagement with their students. I think there is a really good opportunity for AU and AUSU to work together to create a fun, interactive learning environment for AU students. Students would feel less isolated and more connected with the AU community, which I think is really important! Some ideas that come to mind are virtual student socials, creating an environment for students interested in e-sports, and hosting more contests.
February 19, 2020 at 9:17 pm MST #193901Darcie Lynn FlemingParticipant
The most important change I would like to see at Athabasca University are classes that can adopt a more interactive approach to the learning environment. New approaches may include utilizing such forums as youtube and online lectures of the course content. Currently, the majority of courses only use a text format and is a disadvantage to those students who are verbal learners. Most often if concepts are explained visually, it is easier to understand than trying to comprehend a textbook, especially in courses such as Math215. Students are currently using other online forums to assist them with their courses, and it is a shame that they have to go outside the university for that support. Tutor access can be limiting, and for those who are like me do not have the time to wait for a response a few days later. A more visual medium also enables students to develop relationships with the professors, albeit in a minimal way, but it can improve the sense of community. Faculty needs to understand the learning experience of the student and the barriers and challenges that online learning presents. AU needs to make the course content more meaningful and engaging by utilizing current technology.
Another important area that AU needs to address is the lack of support for the student aid department. Students have remarked on the AUSU app the difficulties they encounter in accessing assistance and the slow response times. The caseloads are extremely high, and AU needs to provide more staffing. Applying for student aid can be a very stressful time as it can mean the difference between attending university or not, and many students require support in navigating the various provincial student aid requirements. AU should provide additional assistance to those requiring student aid to increase the opportunity for students to access a university education.
February 21, 2020 at 3:55 pm MST #193928Natalia IwanekParticipant
Thank you for the question!
I would like to see a greater focus on Indigenization and inclusivity at Athabasca University. For this to occur, AU needs to feature and listen to the voices of our Indigenous students and communities. Students need more knowledge about recent events, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the 1997 Delgamuukw decision, and many more, as well as Canadian history from a decolonized lens.
Peer support and a sense of community is another important topic. Recent political changes (and the current political climate) and budget cuts have disproportionately affected a great deal of communities, including recent immigrants, queer students, those who are chronically ill and disabled, BiPOC, the Sikh and Muslim communities, among others. Mental health struggles may increase; students may be forced to discontinue their education. I think that now more than ever, we need to reach out to students who may feel increasingly isolated.
Finally, access to increased research and co-op opportunities are so important, especially in online education.
– Natalia Iwanek
February 23, 2020 at 2:35 pm MST #193939StaceyHutchingsParticipant
February 25, 2020 at 11:35 am MST #193963MoniqueParticipant
I would like to see different options available for course content delivery, such as tutor/instructor videos and the ability to have video calls with tutors. AU provides a unique and innovative delivery system that, depending on the degree being pursued, can provide a student with all their educational needs from start to finish. Therefore, I feel it is important for AU to continue building on this innovation and the parts of their delivery platform that set them apart from other post-secondary educational institutions.
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