I’m So Far Out Of My Comfort Zone

Life has been crazy, crazy, crazy. Without quite knowing how this happened, I got myself involved with many MLS students at SCSU who have serious issues and complaints about some of the online classes. Last week, there was a rash of emails on the student listserv with various complaints – most of which were well thought out emails rather than diatribes. I participated in the discussion and tried to promote the group that I created on Facebook in order to find some way for students to openly discuss these issues in a forum without faculty or administrators. Several people joined the group. We had all sorts of issues with people who couldn’t join the group, and it became apparent that this isn’t the best avenue for such an online community.

A bit later, one of my current professors mentioned (in both a class discussion and on the student listserv) that there would be an ILS department faculty meeting coming up – and that the issues raised on the listserv by the students were on the agenda. She suggested that someone might want to email the department chair to ask about avenues for student participation. So, I felt compelled to do something. Without a doubt, the online classes need some improvement (not so much in terms of academic rigor, in my opinion). Complaining about this is easy. Taking a step forward to try and effect change in a positive and constructive manner isn’t so easy. However, this seemed to be an opportunity to get our voices heard – one that shouldn’t be passed up.

So, I stepped forward and emailed the department chair. The chair responded quite quickly and asked for a list of concerns and suggestions that she could distribute to the faculty. I was pleasantly surprised by the email – and really thought that this was something that I could easily do. Of course, I think that the document that I send to the faculty should come from as many students as possible. In the spirit of trying to get input and cooperation from other interested parties, I set up a wiki. I added the list of issues that students had emailed both to the listserv and to me personally. I then emailed the student listserv inviting students to participate. I sent the wiki url and password to students individually who expressed interest. Some students were concerned about faculty and administrators having access. Of course, the wiki is publicly available, but I figured if I didn’t advertise the url access would be somewhat limited.

Response has been great – better than I expected. I have about 25 students who are interested in being a part of this (some anonymously). Several have already edited the wiki and added to the list of concerns, commented, etc. Meanwhile, I’m continuing to monitor the site, add concerns and make other changes. I’ve found some good web sites about support services for distance students and some good historical information about SCSU’s online program that I have added. I’m not entirely sure that I wanted to unofficially head this mission. However, here I am doing it – and ultimately, it is important that distance student (and any taking online classes) feel like they are connected to program and that they have a voice. I hope that this is a good first start in that direction. But, I’m exhausted and I still have lots of work to do to actually put together a coherent and well-worded document.

 How did I become the point person on all of this?????

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5 Responses to I’m So Far Out Of My Comfort Zone

  1. Julian says:

    I’m guessing that among your fellow students, you were the first to “publish” something about the issues, and that within that group, you have the greatest number of eyes on your web presence. With great online presence comes great online responsibility.

  2. Mark says:

    Two words, Jennifer. “By caring.” Which is *very* important!

    I know how you feel and it can be scary. A while back two other students and myself spearheaded a campaign over an issue of supreme importance to our student body. Our initial foray got off on an awkward foot with our Dean, but we learned from that and moved forward. We also found out that there was a lot of faculty support on this issue, and although we couldn’t team up with them officially we were able to make the efforts sort of parallel. In the end it worked out, and much of our faculty gained a lot of respect for us for sticking up for what we believed. More importantly, current and future students were and are able to benefit from our efforts.

    We are now facing another issue that has much of our student body in an uproar. Unfortunately, as much as I agree with these students I cannot support them in their endeavors. That makes me sad, but this is a vastly different situation.

    Hold your head high, keep to the high road by focusing on the issues of utmost importance and which are possible to affect within the “game” that is academe, and try to enlist one or two other students to be the point persons with you.

    It is a scary and difficult row that you hoe, but know that you are doing your best to represent the interests of current and future students. I salute you for it, and I have no doubt that some of your faculty will too.

  3. cburell says:

    I’m glad Technorati brought me to your campaign. As a high school teacher interested in advocating for high school student voices, I’ll be interested to read your updates.

    You’re doing the right things, from what I see: being constructive, being respectful, aiming for improvement, exercising democracy.

    Who could blame you for that?

  4. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for reading. Having a voice as a student – or as part of a student body – is important to the educational experience. Being in a program where one doesn’t feel as if one has a voice is quite unfulfilling.

    Thanks for your comments!

  5. […] Ready To Throw In The Towel I’ve spent a bit of time detailing some efforts that I have made in order to get some type of discussion started at between […]

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