Student Jolene Finn Guides Participants in First MOOC Offered by iSchool

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Student Jolene Finn serves as a “participatory learning guide” in the first massive open online course (MOOC) offered by the San José State University School of Information. Finn is one of 11 guides who act as liaisons between the 400 MOOC participants and its instructors.

The Hyperlinked Library MOOC (#hyperlibMOOC on Twitter), which started on September 3, is taught by Assistant Professor Michael Stephens and Lecturer Kyle Jones. It parallels much of the content in Stephens’ INFO 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 is offered free to the public. MOOC students can earn a certificate of completion at the end of the course, but no college credit.

Finn took Stephens’ Hyperlinked Library course in spring 2013, and with her background as a technology instructor and school librarian, she was drawn to the opportunity to help out with the MOOC. It’s not a paid position, but she will earn course credit for LIBR 298 Special Studies.

Each MOOC guide is responsible for a group of about 35 participants. Guides don’t grade assignments, but do respond to questions about them and let the instructors know when participants have completed assignments.

The guides started preparing for the MOOC before the fall 2013 term began. They met in web conferencing sessions, and Stephens and Jones set up a blog so the guides could more easily communicate with one another, sharing their questions, problems and successes.

Finn said she is “really enjoying the sense of community” that Stephens and Jones created for the guides. “We feel like we’re all here for a purpose and everyone works together as a team. I see the interaction between the guides, teachers and MOOC participants as overwhelmingly positive.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in American studies from California State University-Fullerton, Finn worked as a computer teacher in an elementary school from 1998 to 2010. In May 2010, she got her current job as head librarian at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. Her role there includes training students and faculty in information technologies.

She decided to earn an MLIS degree because she enjoys teaching, technology and information. “It was perfect for the way my brain is wired,” she said. She was also inspired by her mother, a retired librarian.

But before enrolling in our school’s fully online MLIS program in January 2011, Finn earned an associate degree in library technology at Santa Ana College “to test it out and make sure it’s what I wanted to do,” she said. 

“I definitely want to stay in something related to education,” Finn said. “I don’t know at what level, but it’s something that’s very rewarding to me.”

It’s a Small World

“One of my first jobs was working as a ride operator at Disneyland. I actually worked with Joyce Monsees there, on the whale in Storybook Land. So it’s funny that our paths crossed again. Now here we are in the MLIS program together. It’s just strange the way things work out.”

Influential Classes

“It should almost be required for people to take Dr. Stephens’ Hyperlinked Library course. He’s constantly updating the coursework. I’ve noticed changes just from taking it last spring. It’s so relevant, and he’s a great teacher who creates a really nurturing learning environment.”

Career Tip

“Get involved in professional organizations, whether it’s virtually or in person, and go to conferences where you can get a sense of the field. And take an internship if you can. I did an internship at Santa Margarita High School when I was getting my library tech degree, and several years later when they had an opening, they called me and asked me to apply. I definitely think internships are good in that respect, but they also let you learn about areas you might be interested in working in.”

Tech Tip

“Give yourself time to experiment with technology, to learn. Be patient with yourself, and patient with others.”

Professional Affiliations

American Library Association, California Library Association, Catholic Library Association, California School Library Association (CSLA), International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Computer Using Educators (CUE), National Catholic Educators Association (NCEA)

Best Conferences

Internet Librarian, ALA. “If there’s any opportunity, definitely go to an SJSU SLIS reception. It’s great to be able to meet people face to face.”

Favorite Blogs/Websites,, (“You’ve got to have a balance of humor.”)