As a volunteer with the first massive open online course (MOOC) offered by SJSU SLIS, student Lissette Gonzalez enjoyed connecting with information professionals worldwide
Gonzalez served as a “participatory learning guide” for the MOOC, which was offered for 12 weeks in fall 2013. She was one of 11 guides who acted as liaisons between the 400 MOOC participants and its instructors.
The Hyperlinked Library MOOC (#hyperlibMOOC on Twitter), which started in September 2013, was taught by Assistant Professor Michael Stephens and Lecturer Kyle Jones. It paralleled much of the content in Stephens’ LIBR 287 Hyperlinked Library course, offered to students enrolled in the school’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program. Intended for professional development, the MOOC was offered free to the public. MOOC students could earn a certificate of completion at the end of the course, but no college credit.
While some MOOC guides opted to earn course credit through LIBR 298 Special Studies, Gonzalez took part on a volunteer basis.
During spring 2013, Gonzalez was serving as a student assistant to Stephens, helping facilitate use of Web conferencing technology in his courses, when the opportunity to help with the MOOC came up.
“I saw it as a phenomenal opportunity to assist the MOOC instructors in delivering a great learning experience to course participants,” Gonzalez said. “Also, there’s so much discussion in the library and information science field about MOOCs and the many new things made possible by technology. This was something I couldn’t pass up.”
MOOC participants were assigned to one of 10 “homerooms” to encourage people to interact with each other and exchange ideas. As a MOOC guide, Gonzalez was responsible for the 35 participants assigned to her homeroom.
Early in the MOOC, she functioned as a facilitator for participants who needed orientation to the course site. As they became more accustomed to navigating the MOOC site, her role entailed relaying their accomplishments to instructors so they could get credit for their work.
During the MOOC, Gonzalez met information professionals from all over the globe. There was a large contingent from Australia and New Zealand, as well as participants from countries in Europe and Asia. This gave her a sense of connectedness with other information professionals, who brought diverse perspectives on the issues explored during the MOOC.
“That was a tangible, positive experience for me,” she said. “It was also an opportunity to serve others and help them meet their goals, which is important to me. Overall, it was a great experience.
By serving as a MOOC guide, Gonzalez also gained knowledge that will help her pursue her future career goals. “Having been part of the MOOC behind the scenes for its duration, I walked away with a strong sense of how to present content for learners so it’s useful and usable,” Gonzalez said. “I also got a sense of how to improve experiences for course site users, specifically how to tailor information to their needs. I definitely connected that with my ongoing interest in user experience and my long-term professional goals, as well as with several courses I’ve already taken at SLIS.”
Gonzalez earned a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature at Princeton University, and initially worked as a communications professional for a public school system, acting as a liaison between families and the school district. She later went into publishing, starting out as a self-taught graphic artist and working her way up to editor.
Her last job in the publishing field was designing and editing books and learning materials for children, so she has lots of experience curating and shaping information to address the unique needs of a specific group of users.
“Connecting users with information, broadly speaking, is exactly what drew me to the work of information professionals,” Gonzalez said. “At SLIS, it’s been very easy for me to expand on my understanding of these topics, including how to organize information so people can grasp it and use it.”
Gonzalez, who expects to complete her MLIS in spring 2015, hopes to work in an academic library, perhaps in special collections or archives. “An academic library would be ideal, and an ideal job would be designing and managing digital archives or special collections, something that touches on both poles – the past and the future.”
She is currently taking LIBR 282 Digital Asset Management, and hopes the course will prepare her to meet her career goals. For example, she’s excited to learn more about working in digital environments, dealing with digital rights management, and working with metadata.
Influential Classes and Instructors
“Last semester, I took LIBR 285 Research Methods with Debra Hansen. She’s a fantastic professor; I can’t say enough good things about her. The LIBR 287 User Experience seminar with Aaron Schmidt was also a great class. I walked away feeling like I had this toolkit of user experience design methods, and it’s really had a lot of influence on how I picked the rest of my courses.”
“For me, as someone who is working on a career transformation, it’s important to stay open and flexible, and not discount potential opportunities that come my way. I almost didn’t apply to assist with the MOOC because I felt like I may not have the right set of experiences to make me the ideal candidate. You feel like there’s a mold that you may not fit, but that wasn’t the case at all. I would have been missing out if I’d not talked myself into applying. So don’t discount opportunities that at first glance don’t look like they’re ideal for you.”
“WordPress is probably universally something that most anyone with an online presence can learn, especially those of us who do information work. It’s very easy to start by signing up for a free WordPress site online; or you can experiment in more depth, at your own pace, by downloading a copy of the software and installing it on your own server. I also like Twitter right now. There can be a lot of noise on Twitter, but the opportunities to connect with all these really optimistic, very knowledgeable, very professionally active people are amazing.”