This post is part of the Hack Library School’s Library Student Day in the Life week. For those of you who are here because of that, thanks for visiting! I’m an online University of Maryland MLS student, the social media manager for UMD’s iDiversity organization and a library clerk on a public library’s reference desk. Come back every day this week to learn more about what it’s like to be a MLS student. And be sure to visit the LSDITL page for a list of everyone participating this week. And read all of my HLSDITL posts here.
Sorry for the late post, friends. Affordable Care Act training, that special project I mentioned at work and schoolwork have conspired to leave me scrambling today. Speaking of schoolwork, I figured I might share what a week in grad school usually looks like for me. Like most online students, I take two classes per semester. This semester I’m taking Ethics and Evaluating and Planning Library Programs. All of my classes have the same general format: Read the readings, respond thoughtfully in discussion posts that should include citations and a few long papers/assignments sprinkled throughout the semester which are meant to evaluate the students grasp on the subject. Discussion are what set online classes apart from on-campus ones. Discussions are what make online classes great, even if they are also what makes them so difficult and time-consuming (read more in this post). In the past year I’ve found that splitting work over the course of a week works best for me:
- Monday is generally spent looking through the modules (which hold links to readings, discussion posts and assignments for the week) to discover what readings I need to get through to prepare for the week. Each class generally requires reading at least one chapter from a textbook and several other articles or webpages (these include videos, blog posts or program FAQ pages). I usually get through the textbook first, taking notes either by pen or in a Google doc.
- Tuesdays are the days that I usually put my first discussion posts up. Generally, discussions involve several postings over the rest of the week where we respond to each other. However, most teachers put some sort of prompt on the board and I use Tuesdays to respond to that prompt. Today, for example, I post on three separate boards which required an analysis of three articles chosen by classmates (three classmates each week offer their article critiques for us to read and respond to), a response to two articles on metadata assigned by the professor and a discussion of Google Books and the HathiTrust project.
- Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are spent reading my classmates’ posts and responding to the one’s that pique my interest. This means that I check in four or five times a day and write 5 to 10 (or more) posts in those three days. There are 35 people in the class and somewhere around 30 -40 new (and often lengthy) posts to read for each class. It can be a huge task just sifting through all the back and forth and finding time to jump in with an in-depth post of my own (i.e. “I agree with you” is not an option for posts).
- Saturday is usually spent double-checking to make sure I didn’t miss a discussion (there are usually 2 to 3 separate boards per week in my planning class, though only one in ethics) and preparing for the in-person small-group discussion for my ethics class. Discussion posts tend to die down by the end of the week so there isn’t much to respond to by this time.
- Sunday is as much my break day as I can give myself. My ethics small group can only meet on Sundays, so I do meet with them via Skype for an hour. But generally I try not to do much so I can not do homework on at least one day a week. I usually spend this day trying to read what I want to read (currently I’m re-reading all the Harry Potters, cause I’m that librarian).
Keep in mind that all this happens while I work my part-time job, spend several hours a week hunting and applying for a second job, and reading books I plan to review on this blog. It can be difficult to juggle, but setting and sticking to a schedule for yourself really helps. Poor organization skills are the downfall of many a student. But treating schoolwork like a job makes it easier to hold myself accountable. This also means that when I get a good grade on my midterms or finals, I try to “pay” myself, even if it’s only with a pint of beer at my favorite pub.