The Hub Discovering a flexible graduate experience

Athabasca University grad researchers appreciate flexibility of an online university

Doing research at an online university is something prospective grad students may not have considered, or even known was possible. But the research experience at Athabasca University (AU) is a flexible and rewarding one, say recent graduate students.

“Working full-time, able to do my graduate studies, I could not have asked for a better option that fit; fit for myself and my family,” says David Cloutier, (Master of Arts – Interdisciplinary Studies,’22) who researched teacher leadership. AU provided him with the flexibility to connect his work in a Calgary school with his research interest, all while balancing the demands of his career and family.

“Working full-time, able to do my graduate studies, I could not have asked for a better option that fit for myself and my family.”

– David Cloutier (Master of Arts – Interdisciplinary Studies '22)

For Melissa Stevenson, a Master of Nursing student, and Jiun-yi Zullo (Master of Nursing ’21), AU’s program also enabled them to do on-the-job research, combining their careers as registered nurses with their study.

“The research really utilized Indigenous research methodology, which really, as an Indigenous person myself, helped me ground myself in the work that I was doing,” says Stevenson.

Zullo, who studied occupational disappointment in emergency nurses, says her experience at AU was wonderful. “I always advocate for AU because my experience was so positive,’ she says.

RELATED: AU learner a shining star in the nursing community

Online support and mentoring

While researcher and supervisor primarily connect online, they form a strong and supportive bond, says Dr. Aga Palalas, associate professor and director of the Doctor of Distance Education program.

“It’s like a partnership, where the supervisor is the student’s mentor, advocate, expert, leader, facilitator, and, when needed, a friend,” she says. Technology is a big part of it, but so is the flexibility AU provides to learners, which often isn’t available at a place-based university, she adds.

Graduate students collaborate with Dr. Scott Ketcheson

Read more stories in our Research with Reach series or watch the videos.