Tips from Peer Mentors: What to Expect in Your First Course

iStudent Blog

Getting ready for INFO 203?  Have a question?  Have a ton of questions?  Peer mentors are here to help!  Every section of INFO 203 has a peer mentor to assist the professor and to help students. Mentors help make the class an informative and smooth transition into our school.

If you are a new MLIS student, INFO 203 is the first class you will take, and you start it even before the semester officially begins.  It is basically the class you take to learn how to take fully online classes at our school.  (MARA students take a similar, not-for-credit technology workshop.)

INFO 203 will help familiarize you with the Canvas online learning environment and other tools.  The class will also cover the use of social networking platforms, web conferencing, blogs, and other social computing trends. Your peer mentor is there to help you navigate the online environment and become proficient in these areas.

A peer mentor is a current student who has been at the beginning, where you are now, and has had enough experience in school since then to help guide new students in the right direction.  Whether it’s telling you where to find downloads and resources, or encouraging you if you feel overwhelmed by the workload at the beginning of the semester, peer mentors are there to help.

Peer mentor Amy Cote, who is finishing up her degree this summer, says peer mentors provide “an open and easy line of communication to respond to all the questions a new student has.”  Understanding an online learning environment can generate a lot of questions, and knowing how to use the various communication tools is essential.

Eddy Hamelin, a peer mentor and former teacher, advises his students “to communicate – not just with their classmates via the online discussion boards, but with their instructors, and in various forms like emails, blog posts, instant messaging, and yes, even phone calls if needed. Hamelin also suggests that students “communicate early and often, so if a problem arises a rapport has been established and the solution to the problem can be the focus instead of learning how to communicate online.”

Because of their experience as students, peer mentors are able to offer plenty of helpful advice about time management.  Amy says that it was sometimes hard to watch new students struggle to manage their time, but that “it is a really important lesson to learn early on in the program.”  With his teaching background and busy family, Eddy recommends having a calendar central in the household to remind oneself and the family when important projects are due.

Peer mentors not only understand the pressure of going to school, but also the pressure of work and family responsibilities.  Jennifer Maine, a recent information school graduate, says that when she was a peer mentor last spring, one of the biggest concerns new students had was “how hard the classes were and how hard it was to do coursework while working.”  Amy too, found that “students had (a lot of) questions about courses available, workload and managing being a student and working.”

Any and all school questions are acceptable to ask your peer mentors.  They do their best to make themselves available, by Blackboard Instant Messaging, email and discussion boards.  They are available to help make your school transition an easier and informed one.  If they can’t answer your questions, then they will find someone who can.

Communication is vital as you continue on through your coursework, especially as you try to clarify the professor’s instructions for an assignment.  Eddy points students back to the course syllabus and encourages them to contact the instructor. “I remind them to always know what the instructor is looking for in an assignment before starting it, otherwise you will be wasting time and a lot of hard work.”

These seasoned information school veterans have been through many courses and know a few tricks to navigate the sometimes challenging waters of attending an online program.  When you begin INFO 203, be sure to identify your peer mentor in the classlist for the course, and get to know them.  They will help answer your questions, ease your anxiety and encourage you to succeed here at SJSU’s information school.

And maybe one day you’ll decide to serve as a peer mentor.

What are you looking forward to in INFO 203?

For more information beginning graduate school, check out:

What is LIBR 203? by Kari Van Baalen

Tips for a Smooth Transition to Grad School by Kari Van Baalen

5 Things Every New Library and Information School Should Know by Kari Van Baalen

Leaders and Students Share First Semester Tips  by Julia Chambers

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