Over the last few years, I’ve undertaken a number of changes. It started with simple stuff and has since moved on to larger, system-wide changes, if you will. Maybe I’ll write a blog post on that in a few days or something. One of the largest changes I made by far was the decision to pursue a degree from a university based in Alberta – AU. I’m enrolled in the BA – Information Systems program.
My thinking, when trying to decide if the program was worth the thousands of dollars I was bound to spend on it, was twofold. For one, here’s my take on the marketplace in IT; it’s changing, fast. Right now, I sell services and devices to a generation that largely accepts the ‘go-getter’ story. I quit my career in mental health to find a new home in IT. I’m self taught with no official accreditation. I can still swing my axe, so to speak, and I can hold my own in technical conversation. Some folks who are shot callers for the moment, baby boomers largely, actually like that story and the struggle associated with it. I feel like the future might be different. I can see a world where everyone has a degree. I hope it’s not the case, but I feel like I may be judged, in the future, based on my paperwork, not my handiwork.
Second, if I’m being honest with myself – there are critical aspects of computer networking, programming and hardware design that I just don’t know. Specific stuff, sure, but taking Coursera courses or the free stuff from MIT doesn’t hold me down – because I’m not paying for it.
So, I signed up for AU and the process could not have been easier. A little paperwork, a little more money and I was in, able to start courses. I will say that there is not a whole lot of content out there to digest about AU. A few reviews here and there, largely from unmotivated or otherwise failed attempts at self study, so it’s difficult to measure how accurate these write ups actually are. I’m going to attempt to document my journey as best I can to try to put a little bit more out there, in long form, for anyone who might be considering signing up for AU like I was.
I’m enrolled in a basic philosophy course right now and working on my PLAR application at the same time. The PLAR program will assess my work experience in the field to determine my eligibility for any credits to be rewarded on that premise. I have already gotten a healthy handful of credits for my diploma program from Mohawk College, which got me off to a great head start. The course I’m working in now is a little dry, but it’s to be expected – it’s about critical thinking and reading with purpose. I just submitted my first actual assignment, or at least, I’m trying to. The submission form only accepts 4 files and of course, I have 5 to submit. Waiting to hear back from my tutor (AU’s way of saying online-professor) about the best way to move forward. He’s been nothing if available and friendly since day one, really couldn’t be happier.
AU obviously lacks a fundamental part of the post-secondary experience in that there is no facility for me to visit, no group work and no common areas to catch that collective study-stress bug that floats around during exam times. It’s good though, that the structure of the online courses does not mean you participate in traditional terms. Courses start every first of the month and you have 6 months to finish them with self-directed study. I’m a part of a few Facebook groups and the /r/AthabascaUniversity subreddit. I’ve also started a Facebook group for students involved in any Infosys / CompSci Courses, which is gaining a little momentum every day.
In all, I’m excited to keep going, keep learning and keep pushing. It’s all about progress, these changes I’ve made, and flipping through pages in a textbook is a physical, real way to experience that progress.