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Athabasca University

Master of Science in Information Systems
Course Regulations and Procedures

Core Courses

The core curriculum is a combination of five, three-credit courses that cover the field of computing and information systems. These courses review current knowledge, theory, and practice in computing and information systems. The core provides students with the minimum skills and knowledge that will facilitate their understanding and ability to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, create, and implement information systems. Generally students should complete all IS foundations courses before proceeding to the IS core courses. See individual course descriptions for specific prerequisites.

Foundation Courses

The IS foundations reflect a minimum level of prerequisite IS knowledge, and are required to prepare students for the IS core.

Elective Courses

Elective courses are designed to complement the core curriculum and expand basic knowledge, theory, and practice into areas and issues of individual interest or concern. They allow students to specialize in a particular topic or learn a new set of skills necessary for research and/or practice in information systems. Some elective courses may not be available every year and a growing list of electives will emerge as student and faculty interests change and develop.

Elective courses may be selected from the following areas: IS Technology, IS Management, Information Systems Development, Intelligent Information Systems, e-Services, and Theory of Computing and Information Systems.

Students with specific interests not covered by current course offerings may also work with individual faculty members as a way to fulfill elective requirements. To facilitate this involvement with faculty, students may register in independent study courses. No more than three credits may be earned through independent study.

External Electives

With program approval, additional courses may be taken from other Athabasca University graduate programs, space permitting.

Delivery Modes

MSc IS courses are delivered via online grouped study or online individualized study using distance education instructional design principles and enabling web-based technologies:

  • Some course materials—textbook(s), CD-ROM, etc.—are sent through the mail.
  • Other course materials—study guides, assignments, links to online resources, etc.—are made available through the SCIS servers.
  • Courses may have required online components.
  • Students work their way through the learning materials and complete assignments at their own pace, and communicate with the instructor, the university, or with other students through the internet.
  • Students have access to an instructor, who may be contacted by email. The instructor gives subject matter assistance and discusses scholarly issues, marks assignments, provides feedback, and helps prepare for examinations.
  • Concluding examinations (where applicable) can be taken at many post-secondary institutions across Canada and overseas.
  • Students are expected to use computer-mediated communications for the following purposes:
    • Instructor and student-to-student interactions in computer conferences,
    • Electronic mail, both within and outside of the course structure,
    • File transfer or file attachment of assignments and feedback between instructor and students and between students on joint projects, and
    • Accessing web-based resources such as electronic databases (the Athabasca University library maintains subscriptions to ACM and IEEE digital libraries).

Online Grouped Study

A mode of learning involving online study as part of a group, with specific start and end dates. Synchronous communication requirements are generally more central to the learning process than in individualized study courses. In the MSc IS program this delivery mode will be used primarily for courses which have elements of professional practice requiring that students work in various group configurations to complete assignments.

Online grouped study courses in the MSc IS ` program will be offered during three sessions each year. Refer to Academics Schedule for each session start date. All course work should be completed during the semester periods. Extensions to these timelines may be granted if circumstances warrant.

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.

Online Individualized Study

Online Individualized study courses begin on the first day of every month. Course registration form and fees must be received at least one month in advance of your intended start date.

Online Individualized study courses comprise a self-directed learning environment. Typically, learners are required to:

  • follow an outline provided in a Study Guide
  • schedule study time to achieve course objectives and complete assignments
  • prepare for and complete assignments on time

Online Individualized study delivery has the following characteristics:

  • Students communicate with their instructor via e-mail, and assignments are submitted via the course website.
  • Sessions start the beginning of every month.
  • Exams, where applicable, are written on or before the contract end date.
  • The course-contract period for individualized study courses is six months.

Course Registration Procedures

Registration in courses is subject to prerequisite requirements or professor permission. Elective courses may be taken on completion of the core courses or concurrently with the core courses offered in any term.

Course Extensions

The following MSc IS courses are eligible for extensions:

COMP 501
COMP 503
COMP 504
COMP 602
COMP 617
COMP 667
COMP 676-680
COMP 682
COMP 696
COMP 697-699

Students who cannot complete their course on or before their contract date may apply for an extension by submitting an Extension Request Form and the Extension Fee.

Students may apply for one extension only per course. Requests to extend the contract must be submitted no later than the original contract date. The extension starts on the first day following the original contract date. An extension provides students an additional two months with full instructor support. The schedule for completing the course within the extension period is the responsibility of the student. If the required course work has not been submitted by the end of the extension period, a failing grade will be assigned.


Students are allowed only one re-registration in each course. Both the initial registration and the re-registration will appear on the student’s academic record.

Students may re-register in a course only if they have received more than one final grade of less than B- in a course, or have withdrawn from the course in good standing. In re-registering, students must complete all course requirements and pay the full course fee.

Course Withdrawal and Refunds

Early Withdrawal

(Within 30 Days of Course Start Date)

Students may withdraw within 30 days from their course start date for a refund of the full course fee less the withdrawal processing fee. The registration will not appear on the transcript and will be deleted from the official record. Please refer to the refund policy below for further details. Learning resources should not be returned to Athabasca University.


(After 30 Days of Course Start Date)

Students may withdraw from a course before the course end date without academic penalty. A "W" (Withdrawal) will appear on the transcript, which means the student has withdrawn without credit and without penalty. There is no refund, and learning resources should not be returned to Athabasca University. Students will not be able to withdraw from a course without academic penalty in any of the following cases:

  • The course has no final exam and all coursework is deemed to have been submitted for marking.
  • The course has a final exam and the student has completed the final exam.

Late Course Withdrawal

If a student does not formally withdraw by the course end date, and does not complete the course, the official record will reflect an "F" (Failure). A grade will be assigned and calculated into the cumulative average. There is no refund, and learning resources should not be returned to Athabasca University.

The course end date is the scheduled end of an independent paced session for grouped study courses and the expiry date of the course contract period for individualized study courses.

We also do not automatically withdraw students and we handle re-enrolment on a case-by-case basis.


Students will receive a refund of the full course fees minus the course withdrawal processing fee (refer to MSc IS Fees) if they withdraw from the course within the first month. Students should not return their learning resources. Students wishing to withdraw from a course(s) before the first day of class will receive a full refund providing all materials are returned completely unmarked and able to be reissued to another student.

Grading System

With the exception of the thesis or project, which will be graded on a pass/fail basis, all courses will be graded using the Alpha/4.0 grading scale (effective September 1, 2004).

Please review the Graduate Grading Policy and Academic Records FAQ for more information on grading scales.

Projects, breadth essays, courses taken on Letters of Permission, courses for which credit was awarded through Prior Learning Assessment, and courses for which advanced standing was awarded, will be graded on a pass/fail basis.

Information effective September 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021.

Updated August 19 2021 by laurab

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