iSchool Best Practices with Vicki Steiner

iStudent Blog

Published: February 5, 2019 by Havilah Steinman

The first few weeks of the semester are crucial to gear up for what’s ahead in your classes. Whether you’re a new student taking one core class or a continuing student with a couple semesters under your belt, these words of wisdom from Vicki Steiner are sure to help you get prepared! Steiner is not just a faculty advisor and lecturer here at the iSchool, she is also an alumni and completed her MLIS in 2010! I have shared our conversation regarding iSchool best practices with you below. 

Havilah: Students are inundated with material in their emails, in the beginning of their education experience and throughout their time at the iSchool. What organizational tools do you recommend to stay on top of of those materials?

Vicki: In a entirely online program, it is easy to feel inundated with information, be that in the form of program announcements, class discussions and notifications, and email. For the latter, I strongly encourage students to create folders to organize mail. For instance, each semester, I create a new folder for each course (e.g., INFO 244 SP19). Then, as I read my mail, I save important messages to the applicable folder. This enables me to locate important email quickly by folder, and to keep my inbox less cluttered. 

I also create a folder system for saving bookmarks in my browser that correspond to specific courses. I use Chrome, and with its Bookmark Manager, I create subsets of bookmarks that I can access easily when I’m working in a specific class. Included among links for a course is the syllabus for each course, which is helpful to have saved for when you start working on your e-Portfolio. I save my bookmark bar for sites I visit daily, such as SJSU email, Canvas, Zoom, King Library, OneSJSU, and so forth. 

Havilah: What online tools are available to help students stay organized?

Vicki: Students should take time to review and experiment with the notification setting options in Canvas. It can take time to determine which option works best for you. This is a helpful Canvas Guide that illustrates some of the options and explains how they work. (Havilah here- also check out this Instructional Screencast entitled How to Set your Notification Preferences in Canvas.)

And last, throughout your time in the program, make good use of the fantastic Student Success Planner you all learned about in INFO 203, which is available in the Student Services Advising Toolkit. The Planner is invaluable in mapping out competencies, organizing evidence in support of competencies, and planning coursework in a chosen pathway. One of the most important keys to success in completing your e-Portfolio is entering the process organized. The more you organize during the program, the more time you will have to set about the actual task of the e-Portfolio—writing—by the time you are nearing the finish line. 

Havilah: Being a remote student can seem daunting and isolating; how do you recommend to connect with faculty and students early on? 

Vicki: Attend office hours when offered by your instructors! Many faculty members host regular office hours during a semester. Attendance at office hours not only provides you with an opportunity to ask questions, but it also gives you an opportunity to make a personal connection with your instructors. Personal connections lead to a more enjoyable course experience, and are invaluable in cultivating relationships that can inform meaningful letters of recommendations. 

I also encourage students not to shy away from courses that have teamwork components. Teamwork experience is valued in all occupations, and working in teams provides a fantastic way for students to connect and network with each other. Make good use of discussion forums in class as well. Don’t just focus on task completion—writing your own response to a prompt—but take time to read others’ contributions, learn from your peers and engage in substantive dialogue. There are also many student associations here at iSchool.

Havilah: Can you speak to the importance of faculty advisors and steps for choosing/reaching out to them?

Vicki: iSchool faculty advisors serve an important role for our students in providing guidance on course planning as well as on preparing to enter the job market. I encourage students to reach out to faculty early in their tenure as a student at iSchool. We are here to help you succeed, both during and after your time in the program. Faculty advisors can help you target courses that will serve you well in your desired career path. There are faculty advisors, pathway advisors, and general advisors. 

Havilah: Work/life balance and wellness are hot topics right now. Could you specifically speak to tools you use to stay focused, and also creating an environment that encourages productivity?

Vicki: I am an advocate of the paper calendar. A paper calendar can help visualize deadlines and tasks in a given period, and being able to cross off items on a to-do list is always gratifying. To succeed in a fully online program, time management and multitasking are essential skills. Consider devoting a set amount of time to each course, each day, as much as you would calendar a part time job. Hold yourself accountable to that schedule. Also maintain a quiet, separate work space that you can devote to your studies. It is equally important to practice self-care. Reward yourself by celebrating milestones and take time to maintain your physical and mental health. 

And there you have it! If you would like anymore information on having a successful semester, check out the resources below. 

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