Online education nothing new for 14-year-old AU student
While students across Canada have been thrust into online learning environments because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, for one 14-year-old British Columbian, this is nothing new.
Jonny Aloni, a Grade 9 student in Metro Vancouver, B.C., has already completed two online math courses with the Faculty of Science and Technology at Athabasca University (AU), which in 2020 is celebrating 50 years of providing distance learning.
He began two more courses on April 1, and said found online education is working well to give him an additional challenge.
“There weren’t any opportunities nearby, and it’s not very easy to physically be in a university course when you’re young, so online education seemed a bit easier,” he said.
Typically, AU’s open enrolment model means that any learners 16 years or older can begin work on undergraduate courses, regardless of prior education. But in Aloni’s case, he was granted early enrolment based on a letter of recommendation from his math teacher.
“Essentially, we treated Jonny as we would any other student, basing our support for his request to have the 16-year-old age minimum waived on academic merit,” said Dr. James Greenwood-Lee, Chair, Centre for Science. “From his previous achievements we felt he was strongly positioned to succeed.”
That thinking turned out to be correct. Having completed MATH 270: Linear Algebra I and MATH 265: Calculus I with excellent marks, Aloni is now beginning work on MATH 271: Linear Algebra II and MATH 266: Calculus II.
“I truly think it is amazing to have a student like this one,” said Gustavo Carrero, course coordinator for algebra mathematics.
It’s obviously not typical for a junior-high student to complete university courses, but Aloni has shown exceptional math abilities from an early age.
“It was really early on. I was five, according to my parents. When my sister was seven years old my parents were helping her with math homework, and I was sitting on the side and I started answering them myself,” he said. “Ever since I was little, it was just something that clicked.”
He had been involved in extra-curricular math activities in his school and his community, but ultimately there weren’t enough opportunities for him locally. While looking for other options, he discovered AU.
Learning online in general, and specifically the courses Aloni has taken, have in some ways been easier and in other ways been more difficult than the classroom-based learning he was used to.
One the one hand, he said he felt what he was learning in grade school was harder because they tell you what to do to solve problems, but not necessary why it works. With the university courses, on the other hand, he finds it can be challenging to adjust to a more self-directed learning style.
“In a sense it was easier, but it was also a bit more difficult because if you have questions it’s a bit easier in grade school,” he said. “In university they tell you how it works, but don’t teach you as well how to accomplish it.”
“When my sister was seven years old my parents were helping her with math homework, and I was sitting on the side and I started answering them myself. Ever since I was little, it was just something that clicked.”– Jonny Aloni, Athabasca University learner
While AU courses have provided Aloni with his first experience with post-secondary education, his educational journey will certainly not stop here.
Although he has yet to decide on a career trajectory, at this point he plans to pursue further education in the STEM fields.
“If you want to do math it’s all theoretical, and forms the building blocks for things like economics, physics,” he said. “Eventually you need to apply it. I’m not too sure I want to become a professor, or an engineer, or something else. I haven’t decided yet.”
You can learn more about Athabasca University’s open and flexible enrolment model and admission requirements on our website.