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Athabasca University

Project Courses: A Tutorial

The Saga Begins

ObstacleI've been working with youth for the last 15 years in a variety of settings; residential work, youth work, street work and outdoor education. By the late 1990's I had reached a place in my working life where I was unable to move beyond frontline youth without a university degree.

The field of youth work has professionalized. Increasingly a university degree is required for positions in youth work. I wasn't even getting calls for interviews because I didn't have a degree.

I have a diploma in Journalism that I earned in the mid-eighties. My interest and experience in youth work came later. Once employed as a youth worker I had taken lots of workshops as well as a certificate course. But this work related professional development was no longer seen by employers as equivalent to a degree.

When I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get a degree, I wanted to find a way to pull all my previous education together and have it count towards a degree. I researched my options in several different educational institutions.

I am a mature student. In my research about different programs I was often frustrated by other Institutions' insistence on considering me a blank slate. I'm a 40-year-old woman with years of varied experience. I'm certainly no blank slate. What I wanted was new ways to reframe my knowledge and experience to set a fresh career path for myself. My goal in going back to school was to integrate my past experiences into a recognizable credential.

Eventually I settled on Athabasca University for three reasons. First, I've found AU especially dynamic in its orientation toward mature students. The University understood my needs.

Second, the Bachelor of Professional Arts Degree accepted my Journalism Diploma for block credit transfer. I got credit for my first two years of study based on my college diploma. I didn't lose any of that earlier education in my efforts to move forward toward completing an undergraduate degree.

Third, I was very pleased with the Prior Learning Assessment process and staff. Before I started the Bachelor of Professional Arts, Communications Program, I created and submitted for evaluation a Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) Portfolio. The Portfolio was an eighty-page document that was assessed at 21 credits. The process of creating the Portfolio was very helpful in identifying my past learning experiences and was a good exercise in self-assessment. If you are interested in Prior Learning Assessment you can contact the PLA Center at 780-675-6348 or 1-800-788-9041, ext. 6348 (Canada/U.S.), or visit their website."

PLAR varies from program to program. Which program you want to use the credits toward determines what skills and knowledge you have to demonstrate. So, having a firm idea of the program you plan to complete is crucial. Otherwise, the effort may produce less than an optimal result. Check out the skill sets for various programs.

Updated February 18 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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