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Athabasca University

Course Load

The information presented below is very generalized and does not address specific details of how credit value and course loads are calculated. General questions on full-time or part-time student status can be asked through the Ask AU link on the Athabasca University home page. Students should also consult the online calendar.

Course Load refers to...

The number of course credits that a student is enrolled in during a specific time period, usually a term or semester of four months in a traditional university where you attend classes OR a four month contract period at Athabasca University.

Students choose to enrol in a full-time or part-time course load based on a number of considerations such as goals, family, employment and resources available. The last point is particularly relevant to students who are funded through student loans or other types of sponsorship, as course load often affects eligibility. For further information on requirements for full-time and part-time students consult the ASD website regarding funding, and section 7.3 Financial Assistance in the Athabasca University Calender. You should also review the eligibility requirements and definition of full-time student within the policies and guidelines prepared by the funding agency or sponsor.

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What is the difference between full-time and part-time?

The number of course credits one is enrolled in during the contract period determines whether a student is full-time or part-time. The course load is generally represented with a number based on the calculation of the credits assigned to each course that the student is enrolled in within a contract period, or is reflected through a percentage based on a full program load. Please refer to the online calendar definition of a full-time student. 

A full program course load is considered to be 15 credits during one term or contract period. This figure is based on the number of credits in a program (e.g. 120 for a 4 year degree) divided by the number of years in a program (e.g. 120 ÷ 4 = 30) and, divided by the traditional number of terms a student would complete in a year (e.g. 30 ÷ 2 = 15).

The percentages used to indicate the proportion of the course load a student is enrolled in during a contract period are calculated on the basis of 15 credits per term. Hence, if a student is enrolled in three, 3 credit courses during a contract period they are registered in 9/15 or a 60% course load.

A full-time student is required to be enrolled in a 60 - 100% course load during a contract period.

A student is considered part-time if they are enrolled in anything less than a 60% course load during a contract period.

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Course Load for Students with Disabilities

Some students with disabilities may be eligible to be granted full-time student status with a reduced course load of 40%. This designation will be considered for individuals who can provide documentation to verify that the differences that result from the disablement would indicate that a 40% load would be equivalent to a 60% load for other students.

Please Note: The number of credits required to constitute a full-time course load may vary for individual graduate programs. Please consult with the program.

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Important Facts about Course Load

Affects eligibility for student funding:

  • types of funding that can be applied for upon enrollment
  • on an ongoing basis if a student is unable to meet performance requirements for academic success or withdrawls
  • indebtedness may increase dramatically by increasing the number of course terms needed to complete a program
    • the maximum amount that can be borrowed may be reached before the program is completed.

Has an impact on academic performance or grade point average (e.g. enrollment in too many courses may result in lower grades or unnecessary withdrawals):

  • may affect eligibility for further study (e.g. graduate programs).

For further information see Cautions on Course Load.

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What Should I Consider?

Assess how much time you have available for study in consideration of factors such as family, work, living environment, and so forth. For further information see the Am I Ready for AU application and other resources provided through the AU Counselling and Advising Services.

Students with disabilities/medical conditions should also consider how their functional differences, symptoms, treatment, and other related factors may impact upon the number of hours they have available to study or on how long it may take to complete certain types of academic activities. For example:

  • How long can you work or study before becoming fatigued?
  • Do you need to read assigned materials several times to be able to recall the information?
  • Do you have scheduled activities (e.g. therapy) that require a certain amount of time each week?
  • Do you have any side effects from treatments that interfere with study activities? How often does this occur?

ASD staff members will work with students to assist with the determination of course load requirements as part the assessment process and development of an Individualized Education Plan. Please contact the ASD office for further assistance.

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Updated August 06 2015 by Student & Academic Services

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