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Athabasca University

Instruction and Learning Materials

Course Professor

The course professor is very important to the learning experience, as she or he is the student's immediate contact with the University. As well as being available to answer questions about the course content or procedures, the professor will evaluate and discuss the student's assignments. The course professor moderates online conference discussions, commenting on and providing guidelines for discussions as required. He or she will also help students decide whether they are ready to write their major essays and projects, or ready to write final exams in those courses that include exams.

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Student ID Number

In contacts with your professor, on assignments, or in any correspondence or other contact with the University, you are asked to provide your student ID number. Record this number in a convenient spot. Having your student ID number will help University staff to process requests, grades, and administrative matters more quickly.

For more information on how to obtain an AU Student ID card, please go to the Registrar's Website

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Course Materials

At Athabasca University, course materials (textbooks, reading files, audio and video tape-recordings, and more) are included in the tuition fees. Course materials are mailed to students shortly after they have registered for a course. If you find that any items are missing from your course package, please contact the MA-IS Office

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Course Guide

The Course Guide sets out course specific information and assignment instructions. It includes overall course objectives, the course materials list, the study schedule for required and recommended readings, the learning objectives for each portion of the course, discussion questions and commentary, instructions for online discussion, and recommended supplemental or further readings. The Course Guide may also include an "Assignment File" section, which provides instructions for completing the assignments and the evaluation criteria. Some of the courses require students to take a final examination. Instructions for requesting and scheduling examinations are provided in the Course Guides for those courses, and more detailed information is included in the current Athabasca University Calendar.

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Online Discussion or Conference Board

Online discussions or Web conference boards are used for debate and interrogation of ideas and readings in most MA-IS courses. The course professor moderates online conference discussions. In some cases, the students lead weekly discussions, either in a group or independently.

The MA-IS is a new kind of program, using new technologies in new ways. At Athabasca University we are trying to weave together our years of knowledge and experience in distance education with Internet teaching tools being developed by web programmers and campus-based educators. Moodle is the delivery system that Athabasca University has chosen for its online courses. Moodle is a highly flexible system, so while many of your MA-IS online courses will share a similar look and feel, they will not all use precisely the same selection of features, components, or activities.

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Hints for Studying Effectively

Learning at a distance requires you to take a systematic approach to your studies and to anticipate the demands on your time and energies that your course will make. Over a six-month period you should be prepared to spend fifteen to twenty-five hours on the course each week. Students in a group-paced version of a course or those receiving financial assistance may face more stringent timelines, and must be prepared to adjust their study schedules accordingly. You may find the following steps helpful in working through your course:

  • Begin each unit or week by reading the learning objectives. These will be located in the Course Guide and/or on the course Moodle site. The objectives indicate what you should be looking for in the readings and provide a guide for taking notes.
  • Complete the unit or week's assigned readings. In some instances the Course Guide will provide material that is introductory to the assigned readings, in other instances commentary is designed to supplement the readings.
  • In a group-paced course you will be expected to participate in online discussions with classmates and to respond to the reflective questions posted either by the professor or by a fellow student in the class. Make notes to yourself on the assigned readings. Identify key quotations. You may wish to type these into your computer. Later you will be able to copy and paste these and your overall responses to the reading into the online discussions.
  • At the end of the unit or week, review the learning objectives to be certain that you have achieved them, and that you are ready to proceed. If you are experiencing difficulty understanding any of the week's readings, contact your course professor.

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The Writing Coach Process

The MA-IS English Language Assessment (ELA) alerts students to weaknesses in their academic writing/composition skills, deficiencies that may compromise their success in the Program. Some students, because of the nature of their undergraduate studies, may not have had an opportunity to develop those skills; others may have had an opportunity to develop their composition/writing skills, but had no reason to refine them to the level required by graduate work.

Upon completing the ELA, students who need to develop and refine their academic writing and composition skills will be contacted and informed of how best to proceed. Some may be required to complete a writing/composition course, others to work with the MA-IS Writing Coach. Those required to work with the Writing Coach will have to plan their studies so assignments can be submitted to the Writing Coach 10 business days before the assignments are due. Due dates should be clearly marked on all submitted assignments. Promptly submitted assignments will be returned within 48 hours. At the discretion of the Writing Coach, and if the situation warrants, students may be allowed to submit more than one revision of a given assignment. Students who wish to undertake more than one revision should contact the Writing Coach in advance.

The Writing Coach will provide students with the specific, formative feedback they need to correct their writing/composition deficiencies, but errors will not be corrected, and poorly constructed sentences/paragraphs will not be rewritten. The Writing Coach process is NOT an editing service. Students are expected to incorporate the changes the Writing Coach suggests into future assignments.

The Writing Coach will normally direct students to consult the writing handbook they received when they were admitted into the program (The Writer’s Handbook), but some students may also be directed to consult online resources.

Students are responsible for rewriting their assignments based on the Writing Coach's comments and are required to submit their original drafts (including the Writing Coach's comments) and the final version of their assignments to their course instructor.

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Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy

The personal information and records collected and maintained by the University as a result of a student's registration in courses, such as completed assignments and examinations, electronic communications, and correspondence, are subject to University policies and the privacy and access provisions of the Alberta Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

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Ethical Research Guidelines

Athabasca University students are required to abide by the University guidelines for Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans. The policy, guidelines, and application forms can be found at http://research.athabascau.ca/ethics/ .

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Essay Writing Guidelines and Style

The MA-IS program is multidisciplinary and does not require one documentation style over others; however, individual professors may specify a particular style for their courses. Students are advised to discuss the required documentation style with their course professor or project supervisor. Browse the MA-IS website for links to tips on writing assignments and documentation techniques using the APA, MLA, and Chicago styles.

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Intellectual Indebtedness and Plagiarism

Students enrolled in Athabasca University's MA-IS program are considered to be responsible scholars, and are therefore expected to adhere rigorously to the principles of intellectual integrity.

Plagiarism is a form of intellectual dishonesty in which another's work is presented as one's own. Students sometimes commit plagiarism inadvertently. To avoid doing so, make certain that you acknowledge all your sources—both primary and secondary—in a full and consistent manner. All direct quotes (quotations from the original work) and indirect quotes (paraphrases of ideas presented in the original work) must be acknowledged. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism and, as is the case with any form of academic misconduct, will be penalized. Depending on the circumstances, penalties may involve rejection of the submitted work; expulsion from the course, or the program; or legal action. Dutiful citation of quotations and paraphrased materials does not mean you can write an essay assignment by stringing together a series of quotes. You should always try to summarize or describe someone else's ideas in your own words. If you present your own ideas or opinions in a paper, provide evidence or arguments to substantiate your position.

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Course Evaluation

The MA-IS uses formative evaluation during the course, and summative evaluation following completion of the course. Online summative evaluation forms, which students may use to evaluate their course experience anonymously, are accessible via each course conference board.

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Updated February 25 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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