The Hub Robyn Hanson: How online learning allowed this communicator to flourish
Transforming Lives: Learners at AU

Robyn Hanson: How online learning allowed this communicator to flourish

By: Robyn Hanson

Transforming Lives: Learners at AU is a testimonial series written by AU learners and alumni who want to share how AU helped shape their lives.

It’s a space for the people who have provided support and encouragement throughout their journey. It’s also a forum for sharing how AU is helping them achieve their educational goals and realize their future potential. Their stories are worth shouting from the rooftops! Have an inspiring story of your own to share? Email us! We’d love to hear it.

Following high school graduation, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study.  

I tried working in dental assisting technology. I also took courses in commerce and general arts, but did poorly in traditional, lecture-based classes. I was later accepted to a fast-paced public relations program, and I was fortunate to gain employment thanks to the diploma I gained from that. I always wished I had completed my degree but lacked the confidence that I was smart enough to complete a bachelor’s program because of my struggles with in-person lectures.  

When my two children were very young, and I was working full-time, I began studying at AU. I learned very quickly that I excelled at online learning. It seemed that the busier I was, the better I did. At times I juggled work and up to three courses at a time simultaneously. I loved it and thrived with the sometimes-frenetic pace. 

After completing my Bachelor of Professional Arts in Communication Studies through AU, I began a master of education program that was also online. Through this process I learned I had undiagnosed attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which explained the challenges I had following lectures. Those with ADHD often lose focus during lectures, which can be discouraging as they feel like they are always trying to catch up. Or, even when those with ADHD do manage to follow a lecture, they can become overwhelmed trying to understand what information is most important. 

AU’s format and completing courses at my own pace and timelines helped me realize that I am smart, but that traditional models of learning do not work for me. Completing my undergraduate degree fuelled my love of learning and gave me confidence to not only complete my master’s, but also find my passion for speaking about ADHD and how the human brain processes and learn information differently.

“Those with ADHD often lose focus during lectures, which can be discouraging as they feel like they are always trying to catch up.”

– Robyn Hanson
Robyn. Hanson Athabasca University

The successes I have achieved and the challenges I have overcome began with the confidence I gained from being a student at AU. Since graduating, I have challenged myself to speak publicly, to publish articles with Canadian Equality Consulting, and to even start a podcast. And I’m constantly looking at programs of interest because I know I can do it. 

My children are now 10 and 12, and they watched their mom finish both her undergraduate and master’s degrees online. Because of this, they know that there are many ways to learn. They know that if they are struggling to understand a concept, they just need to approach it differently. And they know that the journey of learning sometimes teaches you more than only the end result. 

Robyn Hanson is an Alberta born and raised communications professional who graduated with a Bachelor of Professional Arts in Communication Studies degree from Athabasca University in 2015. She is passionate about reducing the stigma of ADHD and invisible disabilities through her weekly podcast, Living Life Squirrel, which is focused on sharing what ADHD feels like for her and looks like to her family and friends. She lives in Sherwood Park, Alberta, with her husband Dan and two daughters, Juliana and Libby.

  • September 17, 2021
Guest Blog from:
Robyn Hanson