Student Jessica Berger Explores Online Learning through iSchool’s Open Classes Program

Community Profile

Taking a few courses through the iSchool Open Classes program at SJSU gave student Jessica Berger a chance to dip her toes into the library and information science field and try out the school’s online format before committing to a degree program.

Berger took her first course through the Open Classes program in summer 2014, and is currently taking two more. She started with INFO 248 Beginning Cataloging and Classification, “because if librarians are the heart of the library, then the catalog is its soul,” she said. She didn’t realize she would learn to write computer code for a MARC record.

“The course challenged me beyond my expectations,” she said. “I loved the online format, found the student discussions stimulating, and relished the sense of accomplishment.”

Currently Berger is taking INFO 244 Online Searching and INFO 287 Cybersecurity. She said cybersecurity appealed to her because of reading Harriet the Spy as a child, but she also notes a serious need for cybersecurity professionals.

“In fact, as soon as I mentioned that I was taking this course, the director of the Council on Aging where I teach yoga invited me to teach a cybersecurity class for seniors,” Berger said. “After just one and a half semesters at SJSU, new opportunities are already landing at my feet. I just began cataloging and archiving the S. White Dickinson collection as a volunteer at the Whately [Mass.] Public Library.”

The foray into online learning was a bit of a stretch for Berger, who avoids social media and “has reservations” about online communications. She decided to start with the Open Classes to make sure an online learning format would work for her.

“The online learning experience is not at all what I had expected — it is infinitely better,” Berger said. “I am actually surprised at how much more I like it than the traditional classroom. Because the professors are so responsive, I receive more individualized attention than I did at nursing school or as an undergraduate.” She added that, being “a bit of an introvert,” she enjoys having conversations with people throughout the world while still being able to take time to choose her words carefully.

Berger also needed to find out if the information field was the right career direction for her. Besides teaching yoga, the former registered nurse also works as a stress-reduction consultant, and as a translator for a French cartoonist. Berger has recorded two relaxation CDs.

In taking the Open Classes, Berger said, “the combination of user-friendly interface, person-centered approach, rigor, and flexibility convinced me to apply for admission to the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program.” She and her husband hope to relocate in a year or two, so the fully online program perfectly fits their plans.

The course credits Berger earns in the Open Classes program will count toward her master’s degree when she starts the MLIS program in January 2015.

Berger chose the information field as a career path because “the profession brings out the best qualities in people,” she said. “The librarians I’ve met exhibit compassion, creativity, intelligence, and perseverance. They treat people well, and help all members of the community to reach their potential. … Librarianship captured my attention as a way to help others cultivate their best selves, while doing the same myself.”

The many career options available in the information profession also appealed to Berger. Although she has taken just a few courses so far, she is already interested in exploring careers in cybersecurity, archiving, cataloging, international librarianship, digital asset management, and research.

Favorite Thing about the SJSU iSchool

“The instructors are absolutely topnotch. They go out of their way to answer questions in a timely fashion, and have been extremely patient with someone so new to technology. Dr. Tonia San Nicolas-Rocca, who teaches the cybersecurity course, not only answered my questions, she created a special PowerPoint presentation and an online lecture specifically to help students who were confused. She really went above and beyond. All the professors have been supportive, professional, and challenging in the best way.”