Innovation and Athabasca University
A rich history of innovation
Do you remember dial-up internet? In 1994, as the world-wide web was still in its infancy, Athabasca University (AU) launched the world’s first online master of business administration (MBA) program. Today, it seems like a no-brainer. But back then it completely disrupted the traditional bricks-and-mortar delivery model by enabling working professionals to take their careers to the next level without having to take a leave from their job or being forced to move.
It was game-changing that students were able to study anytime, from anywhere in the world – without sacrificing academic rigour or peer-to-peer interaction. AU’s online MBA program made it feasible and practical to work on top-quality MBA, while still meeting work, family, and life commitments.
And it’s not just AU’s MBA. With almost 50 years of history as Canada’s premier distance and distributed learning provider, AU has a long tradition of innovation. As one of the world’s fastest growing digital education institutions, AU serves over 40,000 students globally. AU was the first Canadian university to formally partner with Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Not only does this collaboration with AWS modernize AU’s IT infrastructure, the two organizations will also be designing, implementing, and managing cloud education programs, artificial intelligence and machine learning initiatives, and research-based applications for the education sector. It is an innovative step forward for learners, faculty, and staff across the world.
And it isn’t just confined to our delivery model or our IT infrastructure. Research at AU is thriving and finding real-world solutions for critical issues facing our world. Not only does AU have the Athabasca River Basin Research Institute, which is an innovative interdisciplinary research centre studying the Athabasca River Basin and its people from a broad range of perspectives, but the research that they’re carrying out has implications for the academy, community members, industry, and government decision makers.
Take for example, Dr. Scott Ketcheson’s work with innovative wireless sensor technology to gather regular measurements and environmental variables in remote or difficult-to-access locations. This research enables effective environmental monitoring that typically would require regular measurements of environmental variables under different conditions, such as wet versus dry and throughout the different seasons. Difficult-to-access sites can make data retrieval problematic if the physical or weather conditions are not ideal – until now.
This innovative technology removes the inaccessibility factor by allowing Ketcheson’s team to gather information at many of these remote locations simultaneously without having to physically visit them.
Ultimately, the outcomes of this project will improve environmental measurement and monitoring capabilities for environmental science researchers and practitioners across academia, government, and private industry.
Innovation - yesterday and today
From the world’s first online MBA to maximizing IT technologies in our infrastructure and innovative research – innovation is woven into all AU has done and is doing. Focusing on real-world solutions for our learners, businesses, and communities, backed by powerful research – AU is boldly looking to future innovative solutions for our institution and beyond.