The Beginning Of The End . . .

My last class officially starts tomorrow. However, I have logged into the class and posted my introduction. I also started writing my first journal entry in which the professor requests that we discuss our opinions of online classes. It is due tomorrow. As I was working on the entry, I realized how much my overall thoughts about distance education have changed during my time at Southern and how mixed my emotions are on this subject. The bottom line? I seriously do not think that I would ever do an online program again. I might take an online class, but I would not enter a program unless a school had online tools to allow for student and professor interaction outside the classroom. There would need to be a good infrastructure dedicated to distance students – one that made them feel welcome and important. I found it very difficult to write the journal entry, to give form to my jumbled thoughts on this topic. I ended up saving it in draft form so that I can think more about it.

One of my biggest problems with my online program is the lack of community feeling. I know that I have been going to school. My stress levels can attest to that fact. Intellectually, I know that I am going to Southern Connecticut State University. I mean that is the school that is on my Visa bill – and the one that should be on my diploma. However, I feel no sense of belonging to any type of college community, feel no sense of connection the school and feel only limited connections to any peers or professors. While two years ago I probably would have said that this wouldn’t matter, I now believe that it is very important. I have missed this type of connection and do feel as if my degree program could have been so much more than it has been.

6 Responses to The Beginning Of The End . . .

  1. One point you might add that would bring this clearly to the attention of administrators is the fact that the lack of a sense of community will affect how much money you are likely to give to the school in the future. Because the lack of that sense means that you probably won’t give money — and hitting them in the pocketbook would hopefully make the point that they need to change this.

    By the way, I did get to watch the new Persuasion last week, and definitely enjoyed it, although it wasn’t as good as another version I have; I’ll have to look it up to be able to recommend it to you.

  2. Sharon says:

    I doubt that anyone cares about future giving, especially from a bunch of librarians.

    I agree with you 100% Jennifer, but consider the alternative. There are a limited number of schools offering MLS programs. Without the online option, someone who wanted to pursue an MLS would have to live near one of those schools. That would probably rule out a lot of us older students who are doing this as a second career. The total number of MLS students turned out probably wouldn’t change, so it wouldn’t have any impact one way or the other on salaries.

    Living in CT, I have been lucky to enjoy some face-to-face camaraderie with some of my classmates, and I feel a connection with some others who were co-sufferers in a particularly difficult class. But I, too, will never enroll in another online program, although I will most certainly take another online class someday after SCSU.

  3. librarytrainer says:

    I am also pursuing a degree online and I’ve had experiences similar to what you’ve described. The sad thing is…it does not have to be like this! I’ve had great online experiences in a few academic classes and also through corporate training. It seems that a lot of professors just do not “get” the online experience. You can’t just take a F2F class and copy and paste the content onto the Web or worse into a Word document that you link to on the Web. Online classes are more work–for everyone–instructors and participants. I don’t understand why professors don’t utilize instructional designers.

    Don’t let this bad experience taint your view of online learning in general. It can be a great experience and sometimes the only option for some learners.

    p.s. Congrats on being so close to finishing! Given the challenges you’ve described it sounds like you are a highly motivated learner!

  4. Jennifer says:

    bibliotecaria, I tried unsuccessfully to bring some of the issues that I (and others) have experienced to the ILS administration. My emails went unanswered. I had to remove myself a bit from my bad experiences and try to buckle down to finish the program. I am hoping to express some of my frustrations to the administration, but not until I finish my last class. Persuasion was good. I love the 1995 version starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. These are the only two versions that I have seen so far. I haven’t gotten a chance to watch Masterpiece’s Northanger Abbey yet. A coworker said she enjoyed it!

    Sharon, I have no idea whether MLS graduates are significant donors or not at Southern – although I doubt it. As I mentioned to bibliotecaria, I do intend to follow up with the graduate school officials – but not until I finish ILS680!! And, although I am saying that I wouldn’t do another online program like the one at Southern, I should have made it clear that despite the difficulties I have experienced, I would absolutely not have done a traditional MLS program. I needed/wanted to get my MLS, but going to Simmons or URI was simply not an option. I also realize that I am still way too close to my distance program to be able to think about it without prejudice.

    Thanks for the comment librarytrainer! I am SO excited to be close to the end. I actually have had three excellent online classes, but those three classes don’t make up for the bad ones – in terms of the program that I am enrolled in. I think maybe that my expectations were way too high – and that may be a major part of why I have such negative feelings about my online experience.

  5. Jonathon says:

    I am considering an online MLS, in part because where I live is in part determined by my fiancée and her career—she’s a graduate student in the life sciences, so we’ll probably go wherever she can get a job…. I’m new to your blog, so I may have missed some background, but what I wonder, based on your post, is whether the problems you had with your program are likely to be common to (many, most) online programs in general, or limited specifically to the one university and department you were dealing with.

    Certainly I hope it’s the latter, but I have very little way of knowing. . . . what do you think?

  6. Amy Ranger says:

    I graduated from SouthernCt in 2006 with an MLS and throughout the program considered it an exercise in “teach yourself librarianship for $20,000 and 50 hours a week”. The distance program was incredibly challenging, and lonely. I hated it.

    Having said that, I will also say that I had tremendous support from family and local friends (many of whom were librarians) and I lived very near 2 academic libraries, one of which had a phenomenal collection of librariana. That made a huge difference. I will also say that I worked very hard — probably harder than if I had been in a class. The result is that I alone was responsible for my learning, and I’m a better librarian for it.

    I’d never *ever* do it again, though.

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