Solid foundation courses for undergraduate studies

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This illustration for foundation courses comes courtesy of iStock. Purchased for use in this context.

Foundation courses get you started on building skills that you’ll need throughout your entire university education.

Foundation courses help you make sure you start off your university education right. Sometimes these are courses you have to take to meet the requirements for a program; sometimes they’re optional. Either way, foundation courses help you develop the learning skills you’ll need for university. And Athabasca University has many great foundation courses that you can take whether or not you’re enrolled in a program. These courses also transfer to many programs at other post-secondary institutions.

Below is a helpful article that AU student Barbara Lehtiniemi wrote about her experiences with foundation courses at AU. Read on for her first-hand review of the foundation courses she took. (This article originally appeared in The Voice Magazine, an online magazine for undergraduate AU students published by the Athabasca University Students’ Union. Republished with permission.)

Are you new to AU?

You might be waiting for your first course to begin, or perhaps you’ve taken a few and are ready to immerse yourself in a program. With many courses ahead of you and years of study, it’s sometimes overwhelming to decide where to begin. If you’ve never taken university courses before, or you’ve been away from formal education for many years, you may benefit from a few foundation courses. Foundation courses allow you earn undergraduate credits while building a solid base on which to build the rest of your studies.

Here are a few courses I took early on — and I’m glad I did.

Philosophy (PHIL) 252: Critical Thinking

A good place to start. Especially helpful if you’ve been away from formal education for a while, PHIL 252: Critical Thinking is a solid introduction to university studies. This course covers reasoning, analyzing arguments and spotting logical fallacies. In addition to honing your thinking ability, you’ll learn how to structure an effective essay, a skill you’ll make much use of.

This was my first AU course; I learned how to read academic texts effectively and how to organize my thoughts for writing. No prerequisites. There are two assignments of 15% and 20% each, a critical essay worth 25% and final exam of 40%. Here’s the PHIL 252 course syllabus.

English (ENGL) 255: Introductory Composition

You won’t believe how much English grammar you’ve lost since high school! A required course in some programs, ENGL 255: Introductory Composition is an essential review of English grammar and structure. You’ll also learn the essential elements of the paragraph as well as how to compose several types of essays. The text contains examples of essays and a section on the citation styles (e.g., MLA, APA) that you will come to know so well over your university career.

For me, Introductory Composition was a much-needed review of English syntax. And although I still dislike writing essays, I can compose reasonably good ones thanks to the practice here. No prerequisites, unless your basic English skills are rusty. Marks are spread among a number of writing assignments, including three essays, and a final exam of only 20%. See the ENGL 255 course syllabus.

History (HIST) / Humanities (HUMN) 201: Western Thought and Culture I: Before the Scientific Revolution

If your prior education missed classical studies altogether, you can begin to catch up with this course. Traipse though western civilization from its beginning stirrings circa 3,000 BC right through to the late 16th century. Western Thought & Culture I examines history, art, literature and philosophical thought through the ages. The course syllabus describes this course as “a good starting place for new students” with “little or no previous university experience.”

For myself, I would have been discouraged if I’d taken this as my first course. It was the most intensive of my early courses — we’re talking 46 centuries here — and requires more finely honed study practices than a new student might possess. Definitely worthwhile, however, especially if you intend to take further courses in philosophy or history. No prerequisites. Two essays of 25% and 35% each and then a final exam of 40%. And now, last but not least, here’s the HIST/HUMN 201 course syllabus.

Picking your own foundation courses at AU

If you’re enrolled in an AU undergraduate program, be sure to check your program requirements first. Then browse the AU undergraduate course listings to find your educational building blocks. If you’d like to get help from a real live human, get in touch with AU’s Advising Services.

What foundation courses would you recommend?

Are you an experienced AU student who’s taken other great foundation courses? Tell us about them! Share your comments below.