Equipping Your Home Learning Environment for Success in the SJSU iSchool Online Graduate Program

iStudent Blog

Published: April 5, 2017

The SJSU School of Information is an exclusively online program, which means you can go to class anywhere with a properly equipped computer and a little know-how. You can go to school at your favorite café! You can catch up on coursework during your lunch hour and read discussion posts from your smartphone while waiting in line at the post office/bus stop/line at Starbucks (fill in the proverbial blank). So what does it mean exactly to have a computing environment properly equipped for grad school? Read on to learn how to proceed and succeed in the iSchool’s online program.

If you’d like to be an information professional, then you will need the skills and tools to work within the digital information landscape. While the SJSU iSchool offers courses in computer technology, such as INFO 240 Information Technology Tools and Applications and Info 246 topics like content management systems (Drupal), Information Architecture, Information Visualization, Big Data Analytics and Management and Web/Text/Data Mining, new students will need a few really basic skills to be able to navigate their first course—Info 203 for MLIS students and the required workshop in online social networking MARA students.

The Technical Details of Your Classroom
In going through the home computing requirements.  In reading for this post, I looked back at what I started with (this same laptop after six years!) and I am amazed at the flexibility of my home computing environment and the ability to stay on top of my schoolwork. I have a Mac and have not updated to MacOS Sierra because it’s not yet supported by the iSchool and the tech support team will not be able to assist students with any issues until they have tested and verified the operating system’s compatibility. For PC users, the iSchool offers up Windows10 details and specifications as well as the details on Macs. Several operating systems later, and a couple backup hard drives later, I am putting together my e-Portfolio and going through all my course assignments.

I compile and save information in two mismatched backup forms—to my Google Drive as part of my Gmail account, and a smartphone-sized portable hard drive that also contains all the movies and television series we’ve collected for the children. Hopefully I won’t accidentally turn in an episode of Sesame Street for my eportfolio. I’ve invested the time into this double backup system partly because the school told me so and partly because my geriatric MacBook Pro is ancient in computer years. I backup my coursework mostly because the idea of losing all my hard work to a blip of the computer hardware gives me a monstrous case of the heebie-jeebies.

If you’re a little behind on a few of these requirements, don’t feel as if you don’t make the cut. Truthfully, I haven’t owned a printer for much of my tenure at the iSchool and it’s worked out okay. If I need to print something, I send it off to a friend and they print up a copy for me. The local copy shop or the local library works just as well. Since the coursework is all online there has rarely been a time when I need to print course materials. I do however, save or bookmark all course readings, not just for references while putting together my final assignment (the e-Portfolio) but because I genuinely find most course readings interesting. If I need suggestions for STEM activities for early elementary age kids, then I’ve got masses of resources at my fingertips.

There’s some technology that you can do away with and some you should invest in the best you can afford. For example, I have a telemarketer-style headset, but don’t use it very often because it hurts after wearing it for more than about 20 minutes. I usually just rely my computer’s microphone and speakers which seem to work just fine. I do, however, spend well on internet service. Our internet connection is always the best money can buy because of school, work and my family’s music download obsession. We’ve lived in four different places since I began this journey called grad school and rarely had an issue, this winter’s flooding being an exception. Good, reliable, fast and dependable internet is absolutely essential to keep up with the demands of the online learning environment.

Keeping Your Classroom Productive
With the proper home computing environment, or even a mobile one with the proper devices, you can do your coursework anywhere any time. Therein however, lies the rub. Even without scheduled classroom time for most courses at the SJSU iSchool (a few classes do require synchronous sessions) you’ll still need to map out specific times to do your reading, research and write your assignments and participate in course discussions. A to-do list is good, but a schedule is better—know when you need to do something, not just what you need to get done.

It further helps to plan schoolwork time within the rhythms of your existing life—around current jobs and family responsibilities. I use my morning time while the kids are at school to do my most intense work and studying. At the end of the day, I may check discussion boards and send a few emails, or perhaps write up an outline for an assignment or a blog post but I don’t use this time for heavy brainwork. By eight o’clock I don’t have much a brain left, and this is important to know about myself. I know some people who are such early birds that they wake up and write papers before their normal workday, and that’s when they function best. Identify when you work best and plan accordingly.

Wherever your classroom may be, make sure it’s well-equipped with the right technology, and give yourself both the physical and mental space to be able to concentrate and engage your best thinking skills. Planning, preparing and being organized will be your best tools at the iSchool, as well as in your information career!

For further reading about learning at the SJSU iSchool, check out:
Resources for Success for New iSchool Students

Continue to Learn Beyond the SJSU iSchool by Creating a Personal Learning Network

Life+Work+School– How Can I Get it All Done?

image courtesy of renjith krishnan