It All Makes Sense Now (Mostly)

I’m sure most people who have been reading my blog over the past couple of years will probably have noticed that I am the type of person who suffers great angst over school. I agonize over class selections, over whether I understand the assignment correctly, over whether I have been able to do justice to an assignment, etc. I admit that I am a compulsive rule follower and as such, also worry obsessively about dates, deadlines and graduation requirements. I’m the type that has nightmares that I get a call my from high school saying that my diploma is invalid (for some asinine reason) which, of course, invalidates my college degree – and I guess shortly these dreams will include my graduate school credentials as well. I’m pretty sure that I must have driven my advisor a bit crazy checking in with him to make sure that I understood what I needed to do as I started to approach the end of the program.

One of the most mysterious graduation requirements that I have somewhat struggled to understand at SCSU has been the capstone portfolio thing and how it relates to the special project. In all master’s degree programs, Southern requires that students complete (successfully, of course) a capstone experience. A capstone experience may be a thesis, a comprehensive exam or a special project.  The Graduate School defines a special project in the current graduate catalog as follows:

SPECIAL PROJECT. The special project requires the application or drawing together of knowledge and skills acquired in the graduate program. Projects are typically completed under a particular course designation and result in a written report or other product, such as a recording of a performance or photographs of an art exhibit, which will be kept on file for review by students, faculty, and accrediting agencies. The master’s degree is conferred after successful completion of a minimum of 36 credits including the special project.

The ILS Department requires that students in the MLS program complete a special project rather than take comps or do a thesis.  And, students needs to complete a portfolio that includes information about or links to their special project. There have been several mentions of the fact that the portfolio needs to be put on a CD and mailed to the ILS office. This part makes sense, but all along I’ve wondered why the school needs a CD, especially if the portfolio is web-based.

Additionally, I’ve been confused about the special project. There has been a great deal of conflicting information about the special project and how best to complete it. Initially, I thought I would take an independent study call ILS590 – Special Project. That seemed to be an obvious way to do the project. Then, I learned that many students used their Digital Libraries’ class project to fulfill the special project requirements. Later, I found out that most other students used their ILS680 – Evaluation & Research project. As I went on in the program, I became more confused. At first, it seemed that one needed to confer with one’s advisor who would be the one to sign off on the project. I was in contact with my advisor several times thinking of ideas, etc. for my project.

Then last spring, a professor mentioned that the ILS department was making some changes to the special project requirement that should be in place by the fall of 2007. This led me to believe that my best bet for a special project would be to use the research project that I would do in ILS680 – Evaluation & Research. I discussed this with my advisor and it seemed to be a good decision. I was a bit surprised when I emailed my advisor early this semester intending to keep him in the loop on my research project, and he replied that successful completion of the special project requirement was entirely up to the professor of ILS680. I wasn’t surprised in a bad way – this definitely seemed to simplify the entire process. However, I was a bit bewildered by all of the changes (minor though they might have been) to the requirements.

The good news is that as of this point, the entire system seems to make sense. The portfolio is intended to be a vehicle that provides documentation of the special project – including the knowledge and special skills learned in the program. Students are supposed to include information about core competencies learned, coursework that shows what they have learned, a resume and information about the special project. Beyond that, the requirement that the portfolio be on CD is mostly for auditing purposes. The ILS department keeps the CDs in each student’s file, and they are used by ALA for accrediting review and auditing purposes. Ok, it makes some weird sort of sense now – just in time, I suppose. And hopefully, I am well on my way to completing both my major research project for ILS680 (which will be my special project) and my capstone portfolio (which is all saved locally to my laptop ready to burned to CD).

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