Survive, Thrive and Feel Alive as You Learn Online at the iSchool

iStudent Blog

Published: July 8, 2015

You’re starting graduate school. You’re doing it online. You’re also juggling a life on top of that. Nervous? Excited? Looking for answers? Here are a few tips and helpful insights from iSchool Director of Online Learning Debbie Faires to help you navigate those first few months of your program.

If it’s not your first semester, but you’re looking for better ways to stay organized and informed, this can apply to you, too.

Your First Class—INFO 203
First of all, you’ll be enrolled in INFO 203, which will give you many of the tools you need to navigate the world of online learning and introduce you to the Canvas learning site and other technologies needed to be successful in your classes. INFO 203 is opened up before the regular semester begins, and you must complete this introductory course within the first four weeks of the semester. You’ll want to, because it will give you so many great resources to use throughout your graduate education.

Faires says, “I encourage new students to check out the advice other students have shared about how to manage time in this program. Each semester, peer mentors conduct meet-up sessions in which they talk with new students about topics of interest.” The recordings entitled “Time Management and Technology Tools to Stay Organized” and “Succeed in an Online Learning Environment” are good ones to listen to as you start a new semester, especially if it is your very first semester in an online graduate program. Further down, you might note and check out “Course Selection and Planning” (ahem, note to self), which is good for all iSchool students. These recordings are protected by a login, but you’ll get that once you start INFO 203.

Checklists and Frequently Asked Questions
When you need more resources or want to look at a what-to-do list (I personally am a huge fan of writing and following lists—a useful trait in grad school), then be sure to bookmark, follow and use (you can actually really check off the stuff!) the New Student Checklist. The checklist will remind you to keep up with your messages on MySJSU, order your textbooks (believe me, such essentials can sometimes slip through the cracks), and help you keep track of technology requirements, including the vital tech mantra—back up, back up, back up. Seriously. You’ll need all the stuff you’ve ever done in every class (and trust me, you won’t remember all of it) for your e-portfolio at the end of your coursework.

Faires also recommends utilizing the introduction to Canvas and the advising site in Canvas. FAQ pages, such as the Advising FAQs and the Registration FAQs, are also really helpful as you navigate your graduate coursework. On Monday, August 17, 2015 at 5pm PDT, the iSchool will also hold its next virtual new student orientation. The link to the Collaborate session will be sent to all new students, so make sure your email is current and that you check everything the school sends your way. The session will go over many of the school’s resources in detail and it’s a great way to connect with and meet some of the faculty, staff and students. You can read an overview of a recent orientation and access a link to the recording here.

If You Just Need to Talk to a Person
“Students also have some fabulous personal resource people they can reach out to,” says Faires. “Vicki Robison, our student services coordinator, and Sheila Gurtu, our online student advisor, are ready to help with any question or concern.”

INFO 203 is also a great place for new students to connect with other students and with your instructor. The classes are small and discussion is encouraged. “All new students will also have a peer mentor in INFO 203 who is ready to help with all sorts of questions that come up in the first semester,” Faires points out. Peer mentors are current students who are like teaching assistants in 203 and are there to answer any and all questions and concerns you may have—from time management and course load concerns to technology issues. They are there to help you.

Mapping Out Your Coursework and Career Planning
Along with INFO 203, all students must complete their core courses first—INFO 200 Information Communities, INFO 202 Information Retrieval System Design, and INFO 204 Information Professions. “These courses,” says Faires, “will provide exposure to a variety of different areas for future study.”

It’s never too early to map out your coursework and figure out what courses you need to take as foundations for further study, but do you need to start planning for your career at the beginning of grad school? Not necessarily. “Many students begin the program not knowing which career direction they will pursue,” says Faires, “but that’s one of the marvelous things about an MLIS degree—it opens many different types of opportunities.” The iSchool’s MLIS degree is the same no matter what focus or career pathway you take, but you will have many options for electives. It’s a good idea to look ahead at what your interests are and what skills you may need for your dream job of the future.

Related Content:
Be sure to check out the posts below as you’re starting your program (or even if you’re continuing and you want to know more).
Resources and Information from the iSchool’s Student Services Coordinator
Get Off to a Successful Start with the New Student Checklist
Life + Work + School—How Can I Get it All Done?
Tips From Peer Mentors: What to Expect in Your First Course

*If you’re a new or newly admitted student, you’ll find the iSchool 101 page at the top of the iStudent Blog (see it there, between Funding and Online Learning?) to be very helpful as you dive into grad school.

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