03/02/2012 § 17 Comments
Disclaimer: This post contains opinions and statements that are mine and may not be representative of other students and faculty within this program.
The School of Information Sciences (SIS) at the University of Tennessee is ranked 17th in the U.S. News rankings of library science programs. The School has roots as far back as 1928 and has been accredited by the American Library Association since 1972. It is a housed within the College of Communication and Information (CCI). With twelve full time faculty members and over 200 students in the program, SIS offers a Master’s of Science in Information Science and, through CCI, a doctoral degree.
01/02/2012 § 31 Comments
This semester I’m taking ‘Distributed Learning Librarianship’ online at the University of North Texas. Needless to say online learning is on my mind. In August of last year Rose L. Chou contributed a great HLS post In Defense of Online LIS Education, and Laura Sanders’ recent post on Teaching Methods Used in Library School generated some good discussion that included comments about online coursework. I’d like to build on some of the ideas presented in these post and in my class. I feel like every other day I have a conversation with someone about online courses that includes a statement like, “How does that even work?” or “I can’t imagine what a class would be like online.” This weekend it dawned on me–maybe you can’t imagine what an online class is like until you take one. Sometimes I feel like I’m describing driving to someone who hasn’t ridden in a car.
There is a growing population of online students in the United States. According to the 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning online enrollment experienced an average annual growth rate of 20% from 2002 to 2009. From fall 2008 to fall 2009 there was an online enrollment increase of nearly one million students for a total of 5.6 million students. Many areas of librarianship are affected by these online learners. As one would expect, online students turn to their University libraries for support–but they also use their local public libraries for school-related needs. Additionally, school librarians may be called on by K-12 students taking online classes. As more people choose to learn online, do we need more librarians who know how to serve them? There are many different ways to approach needs assessment—in the case of online learners I’m beginning to think needs assessment should come, in part, from firsthand experience.
I understand that online learning isn’t a great fit for every library school student and many people still resist the idea of online courses and degrees. 5.6 million online learners are proceeding anyway. How are we going to educate ourselves to meet their information needs?
I want to know what you think. Do we need to do more to anticipate the needs of online learners in our coursework? How does your school’s curriculum address online learning? Should library school students be taking more online courses? Let’s discuss.
30/11/2011 § 6 Comments
It’s nearing the end of the term—and that means course evaluations are looming. To be honest, I start thinking about course evaluations on the first day of class. I like to keep mental notes on my classes throughout the semester so that I have coherent comments to offer up at the end of each term. I’ve been mentally grading my teachers and classes since junior high. Lately, I’ve been spending a good deal of time thinking on the evaluations themselves to try to understand their purpose and what I can do to make the most of them.
What do professors want?
In thinking about this post, my biggest question was—what do professors want from our evaluations? I reached out to a few professors that I know (across many different fields) and posted this question to them. The breakout theme? Specific comments. Professors want specific feedback on the negative AND positive elements of their class. If you didn’t like the syllabus—tell them exactly why. If a paper led to an epiphany about your career goals—say so. In many cases, the comments section of an evaluation form is preceded by a tedious list of ranking and fill in the blank questions. Don’t fizzle out and turn in the evaluation until you write something personal and specific to the professor. « Read the rest of this entry »
14/10/2011 § 1 Comment
For graduate students, ‘practical experience’ can mean a lot of
different things. For some of us this means traveling to foreign
countries for digs and research, volunteering in labs, internships at
potential employers, or simply participation in conferences and
papers. Regardless, practical participation in our fields is extremely
important to our future success.
These days it seems like even “entry-level” jobs are asking for
candidates with experience. It’s a little tricky, but not impossible,
to round out your resume and skill set while you’re in school. This
semester, I have been working as an intern for a marketing/design
firm. I’m not paid, but was able to get some credits toward my
Master’s for my work while I’m there. The work I do for my internship
is invaluable and is giving me experience in lots of areas I’m
interested in pursuing for my career. Many places take interns, and
many more would probably be willing to make an internship if you ask.
It’s also definitely worth doing the legwork to find out how to get
school credit for the position! Although a little clichéd, volunteer
work is another way to get experience while in school — especially if
you can be involved with the organization for a longer term than just
a semester. Work your way into a position that can be applicable to
your career, and always look for opportunities to take leadership
positions. Finally, it is relatively quick, easy, and non-committal to
job shadow someone in your field. You can see what the day to day of
the job is like and hopefully learn a few tips or skills that will
help you in the future!
As a graduate student (or as my partner likes to call me, a “lifelong
learner”) I soon realized early in my career that in order to be
successful, I had to leave my classroom comfort zone. I had that part
down pat. But in order to gain professional experience, I needed to
learn how to write, present, and research outside the classroom.
Ultimately, this means presenting at conferences, submitting articles
to journals, and doing multi-disciplinary research.
A vital aspect that underlies all these out-of-classroom experiences
is collaboration. The professional experience that you will need to
accumulate derives from the ability to work and do research with your
peers, faculty, and advisors. Collaboration is essential to the
process of becoming a professional in your field, and it is vital to
the learning experience. By collaborating with someone on, lets say a
journal manuscript, it
not only gives you experience in research, writing, editing, and
ultimately getting your name in print, but also shows that you work
well with others. And this isn’t limited to multi-authored papers.
Read any acknowledgement section in a book, article, or dissertation
and you will see successful collaboration at work. For me, the road to
experience starts with collaboration.
Practical experience for my discipline is a little different than other peoples. As an archaeologist we are expected to do field work. This means an extended excavation, potentially in a foreign country. We need to show that we can plan an excavation, know the steps for gathering primary data, and use our theories in a practical sense. Doing field work is extremely rewarding in that we gain a wide range of experience, deeply connect with a range of individuals in the profession, and work from the ground up on data and interpretation. However, the requirement to be away in the field for months at a time can be very draining and stressful. It is difficult to balance having a life here and be away for a large amount of time. Once in the field we are faced with uncommon languages, foreign cultures, and in general faced with an unknown world (See Charlotte’s post on fieldwork for more information on what we face). Right now I’m faced with the problem of deciding whether to have a library based dissertation, or one that will take me out of the country for a couple months but will give me both primary data and practical experience. Getting this experience is not necessarily part of our program, so its up to us to be proactive and gain that experience. I’ve been involved in fieldwork where I’ve paid to attend, been a volunteer teaching assistant for, and also been paid to conduct. It is often this range of experience that gets noticed on my CV. In the end, our discipline is known for getting in the dirt and doing field work, so its essential for us to get this practical experience however we can and to get a wide variety of it.
Gaining experience in your discipline is one of the most critical parts of being in graduate school. For PhD students, the obvious training comes in research: the majority of our time is spent on learning how to conduct, structure, and write about research. However, this is really only part of the battle: getting an advanced degree is also about learning how to be a professional. Included in this is how to teach, how to present your research, how to engage with the public (who likely supports your research), begin active in your professional societies, and how to work effectively with your colleagues. No matter how good you are at your research, these other components of becoming a professional will be critical to your success. Most graduate programs don’t work these elements into their programs, although the training can be found elsewhere. In some cases it comes through your advisor or another faculty mentor, through programming offered by your graduate school, or through your involvement with professional organizations. If your discipline is like mine (I’m in anthropology and archaeology), there may also be opportunities to work professionally in your field, or to gain additional experience through teaching at a community college, assisting in a lab, or getting an internship of some sort. Regardless, it is important to remember that getting an advanced degree is more than just learning about how to be an effective researcher, it’s about learning to be a professional, and that includes a wide array of experiences and skills.
12/10/2011 § 4 Comments
Zotero has become my favorite tech tool for three
reasons. I have had great success organizing my personal citations,
collaborating with my peers in coursework, and building group a group
library for my field. I use Zotero as a giant net to catch all of the
citations relevant to my courses and research. Every course has its
own folder with subfolders for the syllabus, seminar discussion, and
research paper citations. I have also used Zotero to organize my
dissertation research, which at this point consists mostly of archival
With a few fellow Zotero-using grads, I have also benefitted from
setting up a Zotero group library for directed readings. Without the
weekly presence of an instructor, the Zotero library has been a great
way to maintain some structure in sharing notes and reflections while
also allowing us to share readings in a digital format. Finally, I
have set up a group library for the Football Scholars Forum, an
organization I co-founded to discuss recent works in soccer
scholarship. Three semesters into the project, the Zotero library has
become an invaluable resource for sharing citations, syllabi, and
ideas for future sessions.
I have a good long list of tech tools that make my
life better as a graduate student. But my most favorite are the ones
that make collaborating with others a breeze. For this there is no
easier to access that Google’s tools: Google Docs, Spreadsheets,
Forms, and Presentations. With these now integrating with Google+
Hangouts, collaboration is made much, much easier.
On Google Docs, I can now share with a few people via email or via a link. I can restrict access to view only, comment only, or full-edit. It is even easier with the sharing via a link feature for others to edit: they don’t even need an account with Google to open up the document and experience the full-functionality or editing or commenting. With the Google+Hangouts with Extras, up to ten people can be synchronously interacting in a multi-party video chat, and in the middle will be the Google document. All members can see the editing in real-time andd iscuss it. Finding common time to collaborate has never been easier.If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at Google’s suite of collaboration tools, it is worth a look again.
Like Andrea, I also have a long list of tech tools that
help me out on a daily basis, especially Google tools and Twitter. But
if I narrow it down to the tool which has helped me out the most in my
professional life it would be WordPress. WordPress is a open source
publishing tool, and is specifically tailored to blogging. It comes in
two forms, the dot org version, which is downloaded to a server and is
more flexible, and there is the dot com version which is hosted by
Wordpress and allows for more basic blogging. Both are easy to use for
basic posting, although much more can be done with it if you work with
the plug-ins and know HTML or CSS.
I work with WordPress every single day. I use it in my job, for one ofmy classes and for non-academic blogging. Most importantly, I use it as a personal website. One of the most important things in my discipline, archaeology, is staying on top of current news and journal articles. I began the blog as a way to force myself to stay up to date with journal articles by writing short posts summarizing them. Now that I’m doing an independent study in mortuary archaeology, putting them on my blog not only keeps me on task but means that I have to do good work. My WordPress is more than a blog, its also where I put my CV, contact information, and professional work. More than anything else, my blog and website has been a major boon to my professional development.