iSchool Open Classes Program Celebrates Decade of Educational Excellence
‘Vital Resource for Information Professionals,’ says Program Creator Dr. Hirsh

Open Classes 10th Anniversary

The Open Classes program at San José State University School of Information, initiated in 2014 by Dr. Sandy Hirsh, former iSchool director and current associate dean of academics, marks its 10th anniversary in 2024. This innovative program was designed to offer master’s-level courses for college credit, providing a unique opportunity for students to “try before they apply,” advance their degree program before officially enrolling, and enhance their skills at their own pace as a continuing education option.

Sheila Gurtu, iSchool student outreach specialist who administers the Open Classes program, said, “A notable benefit of the program is its flexibility for students who have paused their degree without filing a Leave of Absence. These students can catch up by taking up to nine units in Open Classes while they wait to resubmit their application to restart their degree.” Additionally, the program provides a valuable option for prospective students who miss the Cal State Apply application deadline by a few days, allowing them to take courses through the Open Classes program while they wait to apply for the upcoming admission cycle and then transfer the units to their degree program when admitted.

The program began in the summer session of 2014, offering 44 class topics to a diverse group of alumni, working professionals, prospective students, and newly admitted students to the Master of Library and Information Science and Master of Archives and Records Administration programs. Eager to get a head start on their master’s degree program or sharpen their skill set with the new curriculum, 32 students enrolled in the first session.

Substitute teacher Andrew Chae began taking courses in the Open Classes program in the spring of 2018 and then applied to the MLIS program in the fall of 2018. “I knew that I wanted to do the MLIS program eventually, but the Open Classes program was a nice way to get my feet wet and get some credits in the process,” said Chae.

As the school’s elective options have expanded, including courses offered in its Master of Science in Informatics degree program, the Open Classes program has become popular among information professionals seeking to stay competitive. During the pandemic, the program saw significant growth, with 88 requestors in the summer of 2021, and 66 students enrolling in that session. More than 1,400 students have participated in the Open Classes program since its inception.

For Anne Chernaik, a librarian for College of Lake County in Illinois, the Open Classes program helped to invigorate her career. “The classes give me the opportunity to keep up on subjects that I want and need to keep learning about, such as health informatics, scholarly publishing and open access education. I feel excited about the subjects that I am studying,” said Chernaik.

Furthermore, the program supports prospective students hired by California school districts on an emergency Teacher Librarian Services Credential, enabling them to take courses offered in the Open Classes program while progressing toward their unit requirements for maintaining their credential requirements.

Reflecting on the program’s success, Hirsh said, “In today’s rapidly changing workplace, reskilling and upskilling are more important than ever. Open Classes serve as a vital resource for information professionals seeking learning opportunities to stay current with the latest skills and knowledge.”

The Open Classes program is open to individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher and mirrors the diversity of the iSchool’s student body, with students hailing from locations, such as Estonia, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Korea, China, and Singapore. Courses are offered on a space available basis during the fall, spring, and summer sessions.

The iSchool is proud to celebrate a decade of the Open Classes program, which continues to empower students and professionals by offering a pathway to academic and career advancement.