1-Unit Courses Offer Financial Solutions, Further Flexibility and Finding Career Opportunities

iStudent Blog

SJSU’s School of Information is now making it even easier to customize your coursework and benefit from a highly flexible approach to earning your master’s degree. Starting in spring 2015, the school is offering more 1-unit courses.

The briefer 1-unit courses, which last about a month, allow students to take a class in an area they might not otherwise delve into, because 1-unit courses involve a shorter time commitment than a 3-unit course covering the full semester.

I think 1-unit classes are great for several reasons. I work from home and wrangle children through school carpools and dentist appointments, so I can’t take more than one 3-unit class at a time—there are only so many hours in a day. But with a little extra nibble, like a 1-unit class entitled Graphic Novels (offered this spring; I’ve got my eyeballs on it already) I can add another unit to my course load without sacrificing my sanity. If you’re like me, juggling many responsibilities while earning a master’s degree, you may find that the option to add just one more unit in a semester is a tantalizing one.

Financial Aid
For me, the ability to add a 1-unit course to my workload each semester will also decrease my stress levels because I will become eligible for financial aid. Master’s students at SJSU must take at least 4 units per semester in order to qualify for federal student loans. I usually limit myself to just one 3-unit course at a time, since I have so much else going on in my life, but with the added 1-unit course, it tips the balance and allows me to qualify for a student loan.

In the past, with few options for taking less than 3 units per course, most iSchool students had to take two 3-unit courses to qualify for a student loan.  For me, it is not possible to take 6 units in a semester due to my work and family commitments. Many students find it just too difficult to work their way through graduate school if they have to keep working full time and take 6 units in a single semester. Yet, if you take only one 3-unit class at a time, it’s financially challenging without the ability to obtain a student loan. This stressed me out a bit in the past, and why now, I am elated with these expanded 1-unit course options.

Another bonus to taking a 1-unit course is that because they are only four weeks long, you can pick a course offered in the beginning, middle or end of the semester—something to think about if you need to plan around your kids’ spring break or a long business trip.

If you’re working your way through your degree at a more leisurely pace, you could add a 1-unit course here and there, supplementing your 3-unit courses. If you’d like to pack in some extra units and get your degree faster, then adding one or two 1-unit courses can make that happen for you even sooner, especially if you just want an overview of a subject you may already have some experience with.

Finding Career Opportunities
I plan to work with kids in public libraries, so taking a course on graphic novels is something I should probably add to my list. Plus, I really want to take a course on graphic novels, and I’m thrilled I can complete the course in just four weeks this spring. 1-unit classes give you the ability to sample a variety of different subjects with only a month or so commitment. You may find a new career direction by taking a 1-unit course, or you may be able to add a key skill to your resume.

Examples of 1-unit class topics for fall 2014 include LIBR 282 seminars in Leadership, and Marketing, and a LIBR 287 seminar in Open Source Software. Other topics offered for spring 2015 include Financial Management, Human Resources Management, Information Privacy, Consumer Health Librarianship, and Music Librarianship—a topic I might be tempted to take, simply because it sounds like fun.

A 1-unit course can also help you gain new perspectives and expand your professional network by taking courses from a broader range of instructors as well as letting you sample a wider variety of subjects with less of a time commitment than a 3-unit course. Perhaps it’s a little like coursework speed-dating: Take a few shorter courses that look interesting before settling down with a career path or committing to a full semester with a specific faculty member.

Other Options to Earn the Units You Need to Graduate
In addition to trying out some 1-unit courses, you have other options to create a more flexible schedule and earn the total number of units you need to graduate. For example, if you are considering an internship, they can provide a lot of flexibility, as you have options regarding the number of units you can earn. As an intern, you can earn just 2 units or as many as 4 units in a single semester. You can even do a second internship, for a total of 8 maximum units to count towards your degree.

Another option to help you customize your course work is to check out opportunities to complete an independent research project, through LIBR 298, for 1, 2 or 3 units per semester. And as with internships, you can take a second LIBR 298 course, earning a maximum of 6 units towards your master’s degree.

One other option to create a more flexible schedule is to consider a 3-unit intensive formatted course, giving you the opportunity to earn 3 units in half the time it usually takes. However, note that you’ll still need to do the same amount of work that is typically spread over the whole semester.

Take a look at the spring 2015 course schedule and scope out what looks good to you. Sign up early for your 1-unit course and have fun with it, even while you’re adding more flexibility to your course work.

Check out the spring course schedule and tell us which 1-unit classes look interesting to you!

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image courtesy of Stuart Miles


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