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Athabasca University

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How are SCIS courses delivered to students?
  2. What are the entrance requirements for the BSc CIS degree program?
  3. Do I need to wait until September to enroll in the BSc CIS and UCCIS programs offered by SCIS ?
  4. How long can I take to complete the BSc CIS, BSc CIS PD or the UCCIS programs?
  5. How many course (credits) are needed to complete the BSc CIS degree? The UCCIS certificate?
  6. Can the courses I take in the UCCIS program be used towards the BSc CIS degree?
  7. Should I start with the UCCIS certificate or just enroll in the BSc CIS degree program?
  8. What is the difference between the BSc CIS degree and the BSc CIS PD degree?
  9. What kind of careers options can I have once I complete the Certificate? The BSc CIS degree?
  10. What are the computer and software requirements for SCIS courses?
  11. How much will it cost to complete BSc CIS degree?
  12. How many credits will I receive for my diploma towards the BSc CIS PD program?
  13. I am just starting the BSc CIS degree, where should I start?
  14. Can I register in an course at any time?
  15. How do I challenge a COMP course?
  16. Are there any sample courses I can preview for SCIS programs?
  17. How long do I have to complete a course?
  18. If I do not have the pre-requisite for a course can I request that the course coordinator waive the pre-requisite?
  19. What is SCIS?
  20. What is MSCIS?
  21. How much programming is in MSc IS program?
  22. How many courses/credits do I have to take for MSCIS?
  23. What is the GPA requirement?
  24. What is the difference between MSc IS program students and non-program students?
  25. How do I apply to become a MSc IS student?
  26. Can I register for a MSc IS course via mail or internet?
  27. How are MSc IS courses delivered to students?
  28. What sort of Internet connection will I need?
  29. What are the browser requirements for SCIS courses?
  30. Will Athabasca University supply me with any hardware and software?
  31. How do I contact MSCIS?
  32. How long has SCIS been in existence?
  33. What type of accreditation does SCIS and/or AU have?
  34. What are the specific courses available for MSc IS?
  35. How do I access the online course materials?
  36. What do I do if I have a problem with accessing course materials?
  37. What else should I do to get setup for the course?
  38. Can I work on the course offline as well as online?
  39. Where do I write my final exam?
  40. Where can I get help with technical problems?
  41. What is the Virtual Helpdesk?
  42. What is PLAR?
  43. What is Transfer Credit?
  44. What types of support do students receive from Athabasca University?
  45. What is Individualized Study?
  46. Do I need permission to take a course with Athabasca from my college or university?
  47. How do I get pre-requisite approval for an undergraduate course?
  48. Can I take a course if I am not enrolled in a degree program?

1. How are SCIS courses delivered to students?

Students will receive their textbook and an information package through the mail for most courses. (more and more of our courses are starting to use an online textbook, so one will not be mailed in that case.) The remainder of the SCIS course materials, including study guides, assignments, quizzes, and other course-related materials are accessed through the online Learning Management System (Moodle). The study guides can be viewed online, and are also formatted in PDF or as standard HTML pages and can be downloaded to student's home or office computers. An internet connection is required to access SCIS course materials.

2. What are the entrance requirements for the BSc CIS degree program?

Anyone 16 years of age or older is eligible for admission to Athabasca University, regardless of previous educational experience, with or without a high school diploma.

Students may not enrol in an Athabasca University undergraduate or graduate program while they are enrolled in a program at another post-secondary institution. Those students may take courses as unclassified students until they have either completed or withdrawn from the other program.

3. Do I need to wait until September to enroll in the BSc CIS and UCCIS programs offered by SCIS ?

No, we have monthly enrolment in our BSc CIS and UCCIS programs.

4. How long can I take to complete the BSc CIS, BSc CIS PD or the UCCIS programs?

Our programs are "open-ended," meaning there is no time limit for the completion of the undergraduate degree or certificate.

5. How many course (credits) are needed to complete the BSc CIS degree? The UCCIS certificate?

The number of credits that the student needs to successfully complete the degree is equivalent to 4 years in a traditional University for the BSc CIS and the BSc CIS PD programs.
  • 40 courses = 120 credits for the BSc. CIS
  • 11 courses = 33 credits for the UCCIS

6. Can the courses I take in the UCCIS program be used towards the BSc CIS degree?

Yes, all courses taken in the UCCIS certificate can be then transferred to the BSc CIS degree.

7. Should I start with the UCCIS certificate or just enroll in the BSc CIS degree program?

Our UCCIS program is specially designed for students who want to quickly get a credential in Information Technology in order to find a job in the IT industry, or just to have a taste of the computing and information systems discipline before embarking on their study for a full university degree. So, if you think you are in either of the cases mentioned above, UCCIS may be the program for you; otherwise, you may want to choose the BSc-CIS program.

8. What is the difference between the BSc CIS degree and the BSc CIS PD degree?

The Bachelor of Science in Computing and Information Systems (Post Diploma) program (BScCIS (PD)) is designed especially for students holding a computing-related diploma who wish to pursue a university degree to further their career and/or academic studies.

9. What kind of careers options can I have once I complete the Certificate? The BSc CIS degree?

The Certificate provides you with many of the necessary skills for helpdesk, user support, documentation, and some entry level programming/analysis or user support positions. The Degree would do more to assist in obtaining a position as a Computer and Network Operator, Computer Programmer, Customer Support Analyst, Data Administrator, Systems Quality Assurance Analyst, Information Systems Consultant, Software Support Specialist, Systems Auditor, Systems Security Analyst, Web Technician, Web Designer and a Webmaster in large or small centres all over the world. In Alberta, two-thirds of entry level positions are filled with 2 year college diplomas. For programming, analysis and design you are better off pursuing the 4 year BSc. CIS, since our program in many ways caps a diploma, our graduates should compete successfully.

10. What are the computer and software requirements for SCIS courses?

Students should have access to a computer, printer, and a connection to the Internet. All SCIS courses are delivered through a web-based Learning Management System (LMS) called Moodle (training site). As such the major piece of software used to access SCIS course materials is the web browser you are using now. It is important to ensure that your web browser is kept up to date.

Athabasca University’s standard computing platform is a computer running Microsoft Windows with Microsoft Office. PCs are the primary equipment supported by AU’s Computing Services Help Desk and as such limited assistance for other hardware and software platforms is offered.

SCIS is also a member on the DreamSpark Premium Program which provides students registered in SCIS courses access to free-of-charge Microsoft software. AU also offers student software discounts from approximately ten different companies.

Some of the SCIS courses may have other software or hardware requirements which should be noted in the syllabi for Undergraduate or Graduate program.

Please note that the majority of SCIS courses should be able to be completed on a Windows PC, Linux workstation, Mac, or Tablet. If you have any questions regarding whether your existing computer equipment is sufficient please submit a request via the SCIS Programmers Request Form.

11. How much will it cost to complete BSc CIS degree?

Since the total cost can vary depending on where you are located, if you purchased extensions, supplemental exams we tell students the cost per course.

Use the fee calculator to determine the cost per course.

Undergraduate course fees are a combination of tuition fees, learning resources fees (course material fee), and mandatory Students' Association and Alumni Relations fees. Payment of learning resource fees entitles students to receive most course materials and support services required to complete the course during the period of active registration.

12. How many credits will I receive for my diploma towards the BSc CIS PD program?

Transcripts from other institutions must be submitted for evaluation to determine if the coursework is acceptable for credit transfer. Your transcripts will be officially evaluated once you are enrolled in the program. However, to find out how your course credits might transfer to the degree, use AU's online transfer credit assessment tool.

13. I am just starting the BSc CIS degree, where should I start?

We recommend that students start with COMP200 then COMP268 then COMP272. As well, we encourage students to register in ENGL255 and ADMN233 early in their program. If you have any questions, contact the SCIS Advisor

14. Can I register in an course at any time?

Undergraduate

Athabasca University's individualized study courses begin the first day of the month, and are offered year-round. You must register before the tenth day of the month in order to start your course the following month. The Office of the Registrar will process completed registration forms that are received by 4:30 p.m. MT on the tenth day of the month. Remember to consider postal, courier, and processing times when a particular start date is desired.

Overseas Students

Overseas students are usually assigned course start dates one month later than students living in Canada or the US. This policy has been set up so that AU can ensure that the course package arrives before the course contract start date.

Graduate

Online grouped study courses in the MSc IS program will be offered during three sessions each year. Refer to Important Dates for each session start date.

15. How do I challenge a COMP course?

Undergraduate

Please read the general information regarding challenging a course.

Visit the SCIS challenge for credit website for more detailed information.

Graduate

MSc IS courses are currently not challengeable.

16. Are there any sample courses I can preview for SCIS programs?

Sorry, not at this time.

 

 

 

17. How long do I have to complete a course?

Undergraduate

For undergraduate courses, students have 6 months to complete a course. If more time is required a student may apply for a 2 month extension up to three times. The length of time required to complete a course varies significantly and depends on many factors such as amount of time devoted to studying, the complexity of a course, previous knowledge, etc. Generally, most students do not have a problem completing a course within the original six month time period.

 

Graduate

MSc IS graduate courses are online grouped study courses and are offered during three sessions each year for a thirteen week timetable. Refer to Important Dates for each session start date. All course work should be completed during the semester periods. Extensions are permitted in courses that have the extension option.

Online grouped study delivery has the following characteristics:

  • Students work with fellow students and instructors on a 13-week timetable.
  • Sessions start three times each year: September, January, or April/May.
  • Exams, where applicable, are written in the last scheduled week of classes.

18. If I do not have the pre-requisite for a course can I request that the course coordinator waive the pre-requisite?

Yes you can. Please e-mail the course coordinator explaining why you wish to take the course, why the prerequisite should be waived, and that you will take responsibility for any problems that arise from not having the formal prerequisite. Please be prepared to discuss your prior education and experience. On the subject line of the e-mail include the course id, your student id, and "approval required". The course coordinator will make the final decision and email registry with approval if it is granted.

As well please use the "Are You Ready?" questions.

19. What is SCIS?

SCIS is an acronym for Athabasca University's School of Computing and Information Systems. The school offers relevant and up-to-date computing and information systems education at the time and place convenient for every student. SCIS faculty integrate research in distance education technology with course development and delivery.

20. What is MSCIS?

Masters of Science (specialization in Information Systems)

AU's Master of Science (specialization in Information Systems) program is based on the MSIS 2006 Model Curriculum, with the additional rigour of a technology specialization within a broader context of changing IT industry needs and leverage the rich and diverse resources within the School of Computing and Information Systems at Athabasca University. In particular, our curriculum emphasizes the tie between Information Systems and other disciplines such as Computer Science and Software Engineering.

21. How much programming is in MSc IS program?

MSc IS program makes extensive use of Java programming. Therefore, students entering in the program are expected to have basic Java programming ability and skills. An expertise in Java programming is not required to start the program, but students should have the ability to use Java to develop object-oriented applications by using simple and basic GUI components. They are expected to (1) have ability to create custom classes and class members (member variables and member functions); (2) reuse pre-built classes; (3) do exception control; (4) use basic Java GUI components; and, (5) develop program with threads.

Those students who do not have abovementioned abilities and skills are strongly recommended to take some basic Java course prior to entering in the program. At Athabasca University, COMP 268 course would provide such abilities and skills.

22. How many courses/credits do I have to take for MSCIS?

Depending on the incoming student's credentials, the MSc IS program may be completed in as few as thirty credits (ten courses), or may require a maximum of thirty-nine credits (thirteen courses). As part of the admissions process, the program admissions committee reviews each applicant's credentials to determine whether the student should be exempted from any or all of the following IS Foundation courses: COMP501, 503, 504, 505, 506. Exemptions from IS Foundation courses are based on appropriate undergraduate or graduate academic credentials supported by relevant professional-level work experience. Student should review the course syllabi and Advanced Standing to determine if they may qualify.

23. What is the GPA requirement?

MSc IS does not currently had a minimum GPA requirement. Please review the Admissions requirements

24. What is the difference between MSc IS program students and non-program students?

MSc IS program students intend on completing the entire degree and graduating with a Masters in Science (Information Systems). Program students will have priority with respect to course registrations. Non-program and visiting student intend on taking courses. MSc IS non-program students may be permitted to register in up to three MSc IS courses for which they have the appropriate prerequisites, space permitting and upon meeting minimum program entrance standards. Courses taken as a non-program student may be applied toward the degree requirements, if and when the student becomes a program student. If you are interested in registering as a non-program student, you will need to complete the Non-program Application submit transcripts (copies will suffice) indicating your undergraduate degree has been conferred and a up-to-date resume. Visiting students are advised to obtain a Letter of Permission from their home institution indicating that the course they intend to take will accept the Athabasca University course in the students' program. The Letter of Permission is for your own protection and is not a required by AU.

25. How do I apply to become a MSc IS student?

Students may not enrol in an MSc IS while they are enrolled in another program at at AU or another post-secondary institution. Individuals interested in registering as a MSc IS program student will be required to submit all documentation as outlined in the Program Application Procedures. There are two student intakes per year (Fall & Winter). The application deadline for Fall is March 1st for admission into the Program commencing in September, October 1st for admission to the program for Winter, commencing in January.

Please check MSc IS Admission site for degree requirements and the application procedure for admissions to the MSc IS program.

Unless you are enrolled in an Athabasca University program as part of a collaboration agreement with another educational institution or are in a program that requires you to attend (in person) classes longer than six month in duration, we cannot provide the letter you require for your study permit.

Individuals who are seeking entry to Canada for the purposes of study, need to apply to a traditional school that has on-campus classes. This is because Citizenship and Immigration Canada does not consider Athabasca University as an eligible school for study permits. This is because students can remain in their home country and study while enrolled in Athabasca University programs and courses. If you are seeking entry to Canada for the purposes of study, we strongly recommend you apply to one of the many traditional schools in Canada. Here is a URL to a listing of Canadian universities so that you can do some research on the schools in Canada and the programs they have available: http://www.aucc.ca/.

26. Can I register for a MSc IS course via mail or internet?

Graduate students are expected to register online during the course registration period per session. Please see Important Dates and Deadlines.

27. How are MSc IS courses delivered to students?

Students with limited access to traditional universities can pursue graduate studies at their own pace, and in their own home with support from some of Canada's most experienced distance educators.

MSc IS courses will be delivered via online grouped study using distance education instructional design principles and enabling Web based technologies. Students follow a week-by-week reading schedule and are expected to contribute to web-based discussion boards on a weekly basis.

Academic work at the graduate level is much more complex and demanding than at the undergraduate level and, in turn, so is the grading and feedback process. We ask that you do not get confused by the undergraduate service standard model.

You will receive your textbook and some information through the mail for almost all courses. (A few courses have an online textbook or do not use a textbook, so one will not be mailed in that case.) Refer to the course syllabi) The remainder of the MDc IS course materials, including study guides, assignments, forums, quizzes, and other course-related materials are accessed through the online Learning Management System (Moodle). The study guides can be viewed online, and are also formatted in PDF or as standard HTML pages and are downloadable to student's home or office computers. An internet connection is required to access MSc IS course materials.

Online grouped study delivery has the following characteristics:

  • Students work with fellow students and instructors on a 13-week timetable.
  • Sessions start three times each year: September, January, or April/May.
  • Exams, where applicable, are written in the last scheduled week of classes.
  • Students will be able to access their online courses materials about two weeks prior to the course opening.

 

28. What sort of Internet connection will I need?

To participate in the program, each student must own or have access to a minimum computer hardware and software configuration.

It is also highly desirable for students to own, or have access to, a printer and word-processing software that can read and write Microsoft Word documents.

Students are responsible for all computer communication charges in the form of long distance telephone charges, subscription to an Internet node, or any other communications service requirement.

Applications for program admissions will be considered only if the applicant has full and unrestricted access to the World Wide Web.

29. What are the browser requirements for SCIS courses?

The most current browser version is the recommended. Either Mozilla 5.0 or higher, or Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher, is required for use with all SCIS course materials.

30. Will Athabasca University supply me with any hardware and software?

AU supplies no hardware, but provides conferencing, e-mail, chat and Web services. You must provide your own connection to the Internet.

31. How do I contact MSCIS?

School of Computing and Information Systems
Athabasca University
1 University Drive
Athabasca, AB T9S 3A3
Canada

Phone: 1-800-788-9041 option 1, then 3 and ext. 6415
Fax: 780-675-6148
Email: fst_grad_success@athabascau.ca

SCIS Home Page

32. How long has SCIS been in existence?

Athabasca University has offered selected computer science courses since the 1970s.

In 1988, the Faculty of Arts and Science started offering a B.A. in Information Systems, which included about 12 computer science courses.

In 1994, the Faculty of Science began offering the Certificate in Information Systems.

In 1994, the Faculty of Science began offering the BSc. in Computing and Information Systems.

In 1995, CCIS (Centre for Computing and Information Systems) was formed.

In 2001, the Centre for Computing and Information Systems began offering the MSc in Information Systems.

At the end of 2004, the name was changed to SCIS (School of Computing and Information Systems).

33. What type of accreditation does SCIS and/or AU have?

Athabasca University (AU) is a publicly funded institution of the Province of Alberta and reports to the government through the Minister of Advanced Education. Through the Post-secondary Learning Act, the government authorizes Athabasca University Governing Council to grant degrees and govern our own affairs. Members of Athabasca University Governing Council are appointed under orders in council of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.

Please see AU's accreditation page for more information on Athabasca University's accreditation.

34. What are the specific courses available for MSc IS?

35. How do I access the online course materials?

The preferred method of course access is through the central AU web portal known as myAU. The course link in myAU leads to the online course materials in the SCIS Moodle Learning Management System.

Read the Moodle Training Site information for a more detailed description of this process.

36. What do I do if I have a problem with accessing course materials?

If you are unable to successfully access the course materials, send a request for assistance through the FST Student Success Centre.

37. What else should I do to get setup for the course?

As soon as possible after accessing the course materials, you should also read the Using Moodle documentation. From there, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with study outline for the course and the linked study guide. If you need more help in getting started, post a message to your fellow students in the course general forum.

38. Can I work on the course offline as well as online?

All SCIS course materials are accessed online. There are two options to downloading the study guide for viewing and printing offline. The first option is to download the PDF version of the study guide and print the entire study guide. This version is linked to the Study Guide Contents page of every study guide. You will need to have Adobe Reader installed to view this file. The second option is to download the study guide in HTML format, which is suitable for printing. This file is in zip format and is also linked to the Study Guide Contents page of every study guide. Unzipping this file creates a course directory of HTML pages on your computer. You can choose which units and sections you wish to print by viewing the various links. Select the browser print function, or go to File -> Print to print the desired pages.

Generally speaking, you will read through the textbook as directed by the Study Guide, completing the various assignments, quizzes, and projects as you come to them. You will need to be online to complete these, as well as to participate in the forums. If you are working offline, you should refer to the study schedule suggested in the Topics format of the SCIS Moodle Learning Management System.

39. Where do I write my final exam?

If your course has a supervised/invigilated final exam Athabasca University (AU) has established a network of approved exam invigilation centres within Canada. Whenever possible, Athabasca University representatives invigilate exams. Students who live within 100 km of an exam centre must write their exam at one of the centres. Students are not required to use the centre closest to them. Examinations may be invigilated at AU Offices located in Edmonton, Calgary, and Athabasca.

Students who live more than 100 km from an exam centre may write their exam closer to home provided they arrange for an invigilator to supervise their exam. An invigilator is an individual authorized by AU to oversee the writing of an exam by an AU Student. This person must meet specific guidelines set by the Office of the Registrar. It is the students' responsibility to locate and provide the name of an appropriate invigilator who is willing to supervise their exam at a mutually agreed upon time, date, and place. Contact the MSc IS Office if you require assistance.

For more information, see the AU Exam FAQs.

40. Where can I get help with technical problems?

Depending on the nature of your problem or question, these are the resources you might access:

  • For SCIS student technical assistance, go to the SCIS Technical Request Form for Students.
  • For problems with the course files (downloading, installing or using), or will any problems you suspect are related to the AU network or servers, you can send a query to the FST Student Success Centre.
  • If you suspect the problem has to do with your own Internet Service Provider or with the set up of your basic Internet Software (Firefox etc.) you should contact the service representatives at your ISP.

41. What is the Virtual Helpdesk?

The Virtual Helpdesk is a listing of online resources that will assist you in technical requests. If you want more information about either one, please visit this home page:

Virtual Helpdesk Page

42. What is PLAR?

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) is a process designed to award you credit towards your degree or certificate at Athabasca University and to open other doors to advancement.

PLAR is based on a tested process and set of mechanisms for the recognition of learning that you have acquired from life experience, job training, workshops, seminars or other experience.

More information regarding PLAR

43. What is Transfer Credit?

Undergraduate

If you have completed work at an accredited post secondary institution, have your official transcripts sent directly to the AU Registrar's Office for evaluation for possible transfer credit. PLAR is a separate process from the transfer credit process.

Transcripts from other institutions must be submitted for evaluation to determine if the coursework is acceptable for credit transfer. Your transcripts cannot be officially evaluated unless you are enrolled in a program at Athabasca University. However, to find out how your course credits might transfer to an AU degree, use our online transfer credit assessment tool.

In section D of the Undergraduate General Application Form, you can request an evaluation of your previous coursework. You will be required to pay a one-time non-refundable evaluation fee and submit official transcripts; course outlines might also be required.

More information on Evaluations and Transfer Credit can be found in Section 3.2 of the Calendar.

 

Graduate

MSc IS students may also be awarded credit for application to Career Track requirements on the basis of appropriate graduate level coursework completed at other post-secondary institutions.

  • The structure of the Career Track component of the program imposes practical limits on the number of credits that may be awarded through this process.
  • In no case will the number of credits awarded exceed three credits (one course).

 

44. What types of support do students receive from Athabasca University?

  • Academic

    Students receive academic guidance from tutor and course professors. Reference librarians are available, if needed.

  • Technical

    Each student receives free support from Athabasca University Help Desk Analysts who are available week days, evenings, and Sundays to assist with any technical problems related to the program.
    You can contact the helpdesk at: helpdesk@athabascau.ca

  • Administrative

    Upon admission to one of our Undergraduate programs, students are assigned to the School of Computing and Information Systems – Undergraduate Student Advisor who handles administrative matters involved in supporting completion of the program. The advisor can assist you in choosing your next course(s) for your program of studies, learning about university regulations, and more. fst_success@athabascau.ca

45. What is Individualized Study?

Individualized study (formerly "home-study") provides the greatest flexibility to set your own study schedule within a six-month time frame. Your classroom is where you want it to be –at home, at work, while traveling. You have up to six months to complete a 3-credit course. Within this time, you are free to set your own study schedule. Extensions are available upon payment of an Extension Fee.

All SCIS course materials are accessed online.

46. Do I need permission to take a course with Athabasca from my college or university?

If you wish to obtain credit for a course taken at Athabasca University to fulfill program requirements at your home college or university, you should request a Letter of Permission from your home institution to ensure that the AU course credits will be transferable. This is for your own protection and is not a requirement of AU.

The Letter of Permission can be included with your course request or sent directly to AU's Office of the Registrar.

47. How do I get pre-requisite approval for an undergraduate course?

Prerequisites ensure you have the required background to successfully complete a given course. You must successfully meet all course prerequisites before registering. Check the course syllabus for information on prerequisites and other requirements.

If you feel that you have completed the prerequisite at another institution, use the Prerequisite Waiver Declaration Form found on the back of the print version of the Undergraduate Course Registration Form or at the bottom of Athabasca University's online Undergraduate Course Registration page. Fill out and submit the form along with your registration.

Some courses require professor approval and other course-related prerequisites. Failure to obtain professor approval will result in the delay or refusal of your registration.

48. Can I take a course if I am not enrolled in a degree program?

Yes, you are welcome to enroll in any SCIS course:

  • for interest
  • to learn a new skill
  • to bank credit towards a program at Athabasca University or another university
  • to simply discover if university is right for you.
If you are not in the program then you are considered an "unclassified student".

Updated August 08 2017 by FST Technical Staff

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