It’s that Time of Year—Back to School!

iStudent Blog Allison-Randall-Gatt

Back to school! And at this point in your education, you’re probably a lot more excited about it than you were when you were younger, whether you are just starting the MLIS or MARA program or recently applied for admission in spring 2015.

If you’re just getting started with learning in this exclusively online environment, you’ll probably recognize some of the back-to-school routines of getting organized and meeting people, but it’s a little different in the online environment. Wearing pajamas to class is totally okay, but no one will see you, and if you need to step away to answer the phone, it won’t disrupt the class.   You can still get to know your fellow classmates and enjoy that beginning of class feeling here.

I had a quick turnaround from my summer class, but I’m eager to dig deep into this semester’s coursework. I’ve scanned the class ‘Modules’ page in Canvas, and made my to-do list for this week. I ordered my textbooks online when I enrolled in the class, so that I wouldn’t be scrambling for copies at the last minute. This is kind of fun, too, because scanning the texts before you begin your class can get you excited for the assignments and discussions.

I’ve posted to my class’ first discussion, which is always my favorite—the introductions. I love ‘em! I get to see everyone’s adorable kids and pets and the selfies with partners and spouses. I take a look at where everyone is from (Arizona seems to be a popular spot this semester) and where they are working. I’ve been in classes with people who are living in Northern California and United Arab Emirates, and those who’ve been teachers for twenty years and people whose only library experience is that of an enthusiastic patron.

In an exclusively online environment, you get to know your professors and fellow classmates using a different approach than you would for face-to-face classes, which is why I love the introduction posts. It’s so fun to get to read about everyone—who has a dry wit and who is really passionate about do-it-yourself home remodeling. It’s great to greet people and compare notes about teenage kids getting their license or the love for stubby-legged corgis. These introduction posts in many classes are often the ones with the most comments. People want to get to know each other. Sure, we’re here to learn, but we have to exercise our human need to mingle, too. And because it’s online, nobody will notice if you have spinach in your teeth. Typically, this discussion thread stays up the entire semester, so that you can go back and read about someone’s work and life experience after they share their views on a certain topic.

Before I get to know my classmates, I also like to get to know my professor, which is why I love the faculty pages. Before I enroll in a class, I check out the teacher’s profile, see what other classes they teach, what their professional interests are, and even what state they live in. The faculty as well as the students hail from all over the world. Sometimes a teacher will even post a bit about their personal life—it’s amazing what interests you might share.

So after I let out my inner chatterbox in the introduction post thread, I make sure I get really familiar with the course outline, modules, syllabus, and the schedule of assignments. I mean really familiar. I don’t like anything to sneak up on me.

It also helps to be well acquainted with the open discussion thread where you can ask questions about the class and how it’s organized. I check this almost daily, because I either have a question of my own, or I find answers to questions asked by other students in the class that I would inevitably have tomorrow. There’s almost as much information in the questions and answers as there is in the course outline. And don’t be afraid to ask a question of your own. If you don’t ask, you won’t know, and somebody else may need the answer, too. Frequently, students are able to answer each other’s questions as well.

At the beginning of the semester, it is also necessary to brush up on my technical skills (ahem, PowerPoint) and the professors frequently have lists of resources that you can use so that your work will be on par with their standards. This is where it’s a good idea to hold onto your LIBR 203 resources and links.

A thorough look at the teacher’s grading rubric for every assignment is also essential to give you the feeling that you know what you’re doing when it comes time to do the assignment. I read and reread the grading standards and the assignment directions until they begin to filter into my dreams. And if you don’t understand the directions, ask your instructor for clarification. As I’ve said, someone else is probably also in need of clarification.

So, welcome back to school! Perhaps you didn’t get to cash in on the department store clothing sales or get a new Disney Princess lunchbox, but back-to-school at SJSU’s School of Information is still exciting and even a lot of fun. If you’re waiting to start back-to-school in January, then rest assured that we do it all over again in the spring!

What’s your favorite part of going back-to-school? Meeting people? Learning new subjects? Sharing your experiences? Let’s chat!


For related stories, read on:

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

Online Learning—How do I Talk to People?

Tips for a Smooth Transition to Grad School

image courtesy of digital art


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