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Athabasca University

Glossary of Terms used in Graduate Studies

Academic integrity – Honest academic work where:

  1. ideas, results, and words of others are properly cited;
  2. academic work is completed without unauthorized assistance;
  3. students do not provide unauthorized assistance to others; and
  4. students report their research and/or accomplishments accurately.

(see also Academic honesty)

Academic honesty – The acknowledgement of the scholarly contributions of others. Failure to do so may result in an academic misconduct charge.
(see also Academic integrity)

Academic violations  Intellectual dishonesty includes such offences as falsifying information, plagiarism, cheating, collusion, bribery, unauthorized use of AU materials, misrepresentation of facts and fraud, and participating in an offense.

Active status and continuation In some graduate programs, in order to maintain active student status, students must successfully complete at least one course or comprehensive examination in their program within a 12-month period (if a student has been inactive for six months, he or she has only six more months to remain active). Students who do not maintain active status will be deemed to have withdrawn from the program.

Advance standing – At the time of admission, the student may be awarded exemption from specific courses in the AU program, depending upon successful completion of previous coursework, certification, or training.

Comprehensive examination Normally held after completion of all required coursework, a comprehensive exam is intended to test the student’s grasp of the chosen field of study as a whole.

Candidacy examination – A requirement in the doctoral programs after completion of coursework. It consists of an oral examination at which the student must demonstrate adequate knowledge of the subject matter relevant to their doctoral research and an ability to pursue and complete original research at an advanced level.

Cohort based program – When students start the program with other students at the same time  and advance through either part or all of the program together (i.e. those students starting a cohort-based graduate program in 2020 belong to the 2020 cohort group).

Concurrent course – A course that must be taken at the same time (registered at the same time) with another course.

Core/Required course – A course that is a mandatory requirement for the completion of the program according to the program regulations in effect at the time of admission.

Corequisite course – A course required to be taken concurrently with, or passed prior to registration in, another course which lists it as a corequisite.

Course completion date – The course end date or the date that the student completes the course if earlier than the contract end date.

Course extension – The process of lengthening the time allowed for the completion of a course(s) is called an extension. This is not available for all courses.

Credit – The numerical value assigned to the course by a post-secondary institution, normally based upon the number of contact or classroom hours per week.

Cross-listed course – A course that is listed under two or more disciplines at the graduate level. Credit cannot be received for both courses.

Deferral - When a student encounters extraordinary circumstances (e.g., medical issues, pregnancy, adoption), he/she may request a "time out" from the program.  Deferrals are typically for a period of up to one year. The time of the deferral does not count towards the maximum time allowed for completion of the program.

Dissertation  The final requirement in the doctoral program. It is original research that provides a substantial contribution of new knowledge to the field of study.

Electives – Courses from a specified list from which  the student must select in order to fulfill the program requirements.

E-portfolio -- A collection of artefacts developed by students to demonstrate knowledge and abilities in a discipline.

Equivalent course / course equivalent – A course for which credit is given by the receiving institution.

Exemption – An exemption for a course in a program may be granted when the student has successfully completed a specific course, training, and work experience prior to the application for admission to the program.

Extra-to-degree course – A successfully completed course that is not included in the program requirements may be transferred, but that course is not included in the calculation of the GPA.

Focus area –  A subject concentration within a graduate degree program.

Foundation course – A course that introduces students to a subject and prepares them for studying the subject at a higher level.

Grade point – A number between 0 and 4.00 that is assigned to a grade (alpha or percentage) and then used to calculate a grade point average (GPA).

Grade point average (GPA) – The Grade Point Average is a weighted average calculated as follows:  Sum of (grade point x credit hours)/(sum of credit hours).  Please see the GPA calculator at AU.

Grouped study course – A course where students study as a group with common deadlines for completion of course activities.
(see also Paced study course)

Independent study course  A course taken for credit, which is arranged, planned and managed by a supervising professor in conjunction with the goals that are proposed by the student, and then refined and approved by the supervising professor and the program director. 
(see also Reading course)

Individualized study delivery Students set their own schedule within the course contract period allowed to complete the course.

Intellectual honesty – The acknowledgement of the scholarly contributions of others. Failure to do so may result in an academic misconduct charge.
(see also Academic honesty)

Letter of certification – An official confirmation of information extracted from a student’s record that is not available on a transcript.

Letter of permission –  A letter from a student’s home institution permitting  the student to  complete a course  at another institution  that will be counted by the home institution toward the student’s program of study.

Non-Academic misconduct – Non-academic offences attempted or committed by students on University premises or during University-sponsored activities shall be grounds for disciplinary action by the University under the Non-Academic Misconduct Policy.

Non program student – Individuals who have not been admitted to a graduate program, but who are permitted to register in select graduate level courses.

On-site course – A course that the student must physically attend  in person at a specified location to participate and complete course requirement.

Paced study course – Courses where students study as a group with common deadlines for completion of course activities.
(see also Grouped study course)

Pass-Fail course – A pass-fail course is a course graded only as pass or fail, and is not used in the calculation of the Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA).

Parchment (Official) – Document issued by Athabasca University that communicates the nature of the credential and date of conferral. This document is signed and sealed by AU officials.

Pilot course – A course that is being offered to test, measure and assess new educational technologies, methodologies, resources, and/or course delivery methods. A pilot course is a trial that is offered for a limited period of time and has a finite number of students registered.

Plagiarism – The use of another individual’s words, ideas, images, or results without giving that individual appropriate credit.

Practicum course –  A course based on the practical application of theory to field work or research.  These courses require a substantial amount of supervised, discipline-related time in actual work settings.

Precluded courses – Courses in which the curriculum overlaps the course being described to the extent that students would be duplicating course work if students completed both courses. Students cannot receive credit for both the course being described and the course listed. Precluded courses are usually the result of a course revision, course renumbering or cross-listing.

Prerequisite  – Prerequisites ensure that students have the required background and knowledge to complete a course successfully.

Proctor (also called invigilator): A person who supervises a student during an exam.

Professor approval – The term “Professor approval required “ is associated with prerequisites. It applies when students do not have credit in one or more of the prerequisites for a given course. In such cases, the professor has the discretion to waive the prerequisite requirement.

Program extension – An amount of time added to the maximum number of years permitted in a program to allow students to complete their studies and graduate.

Program time to completion – Programs have a maximum number of years in which students must fulfill the requirements of the degree.

Reading course – A reading course is a course taken for credit, which is arranged, planned and managed by a supervising professor in conjunction with the goals that are proposed by the student, and then refined and approved by the supervising professor and the program director. 
(see also Independent study course)

Residency requirement – The minimum number of AU credits that must be completed to fulfill a program’s requirement.

Seminar – A university course where the emphasis is on class discussion rather than lectures.

Specialization – The principal discipline or disciplines that constitute the program of study in a graduate degree program.

Stale dated courses – A course or program will not be accepted for credit if older than the stale date noted for the program.

Student, part-time – A student who is not considered full time.

Student, full-time – All graduate students are considered full time, unless they are taking one MA-IS individualized study course. Students registered in their final project, thesis courses, and doctoral students are normally considered to be enrolled in full-time studies.

Studio course – A studio course (in Architecture) is paced course in which the student is asked to undertake one or more design problems related to architecture.

Thesis – The final requirement for students in the thesis-route in a Master’s program. It is a substantive piece of scholarly writing that contains some original contribution to the research area and demonstrates that the student knows the background and principal works of the field of study.

Transcript – An official document prepared by the Office of the Registrar that records a student’s academic performance and bears the University’s seal.

Official student record – A file containing documents and data, regardless of their physical medium (paper, electronic), their format, type or characteristics, created to gather, to store and to preserve information regarding a student’s entire history of learning at a post-secondary institution. The file includes courses, grades, credits and degrees pertaining to the student.

Transfer agreement – An agreement between two institutions (a sender and a receiver) that specifies how the sending institution's course or program will be accepted for credit at the receiving institution.

Transfer credit – Credit granted for the successful completion of post-secondary level courses or programs completed at another recognized organization or institution.

Unspecified course – A course that will transfer towards satisfying requirements for a credential, but is not close enough in content to a receiving institution course to be given transfer credit for a specific AU course.

Visiting student – A non-program student who is taking courses for transfer of credit to another post-secondary institution.

Zero credit course – A required course in a graduate program that carries no credit in  the program.

Updated October 04 2017 by Student & Academic Services

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