It All Makes Sense Now (Mostly)

April 18, 2008

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).


What To Say?

April 16, 2008

This afternoon when I got home from work, a large envelope from SCSU was waiting for me in my mailbox. In it was the Noel-Levitz exit survey which the graduate school gives to all degree recipients and graduate candidates. Well, I’ve been thinking for quite a while about my entire graduate experience, trying to come up with what I would consider to be a fair assessment of my experience. Do I want to share how dissatisfied I am about many aspects of the distance program? If so, with whom? I am starting to be able to look back at those experiences that have bothered me with a little less emotion. But ultimately, I think it is important to voice my opinions in some way.

So, then came the survey. I filled it out this afternoon and have it ready to be mailed back to the school. Now, I know that the Noel-Levitz survey is standardized and that is not tailored to specific institutions. However, it is in no way geared to distance students. There were absolutely no questions about the online/distance experience. A piece of paper was included, and we were invited to write comments on it. I furiously scribbled all sorts of comments in my No. 2 pencil about the need to do some type of assessment targeted at distance students. I hope that others have done the same thing. I’m debating whether I should write a letter with some of my thoughts about my experiences and include it with the survey. I haven’t decided yet. I still need to concentrate on finishing my schoolwork – and making sure that all of my graduation requirements are met.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 . . . It’s Coming

April 16, 2008

Within the next 10 days my last class will be over, and I will officially be done with the program. I’m surprised by how excited I am. Although, why this surprises me is mystery. Overall, I somewhat feel as if I am coming out of a two and a half year hibernation – everything seems bright, shiny and new. The fact that spring seems to have arrived is definitely adding my lighthearted and happy mood. Today, the sky was blue, the grass was green and the temperature was quite nice.

While I certainly have done non-school-related things since I started the program back in the fall of 2005, I do feel as if I have put a good portion of my life on hold. My husband has long grown tired of hearing my stock responses to almost every major question – “Let’s wait until I finish school,” “Please, just let me finish school,” “No, I can’t because I have homework that I need to do.” I have lost count of how many things I have put off because of school. Partly, this is because of money. Paying for tuition has had a huge impact on our lives. I actually just finished paying off the credit card bill for this last semester. Yeah, no more tuition!!!!!

So, I’m starting to feel human again. I wasn’t entirely aware of how much of myself I was repressing. But, I’m ready to feel less constrained and less constricted. I’m willing to bet that I will probably have some adjusting to do and will probably feel like I am at loose ends for a while. But, it will be good. I will have my life back – maybe I can get back to gym, maybe I can clean my house, maybe I can detach this laptop from my hip. Wow, it all sounds incredibly wonderful!

Wow! This Might Be Real

April 7, 2008

I am deeply engrossed in writing the first draft of my paper for ILS680-Evaluation & Research. While I don’t necessarily feel terribly good about my project in its entirety, I am starting to believe that I will actually be able to finish sometime this month. Due to the fact that I was recently very sick with the nastiest sore throat/swollen glands ever, I got seriously behind in my project. Fortunately, I have recovered, but have been incredibly worried/nervous/petrified that I would not be able to finish this class – and as such, complete the graduation requirements this semester. But now, I am making progress. I should have an entire first draft ready to post to the course site sometime tomorrow. Once I have done that, I need to work on two critques of classmates’ papers, do extensive rewrites of my own, finish my capstone portfolio and do a self-critique of my own finished paper. All of this needs to be done by April 26th.

Despite this all, tonight I have made enough progress on my paper to actually believe that within a couple of weeks I will be done with school. How exciting is that?? I find it very difficult to believe – especially since I am not going to Connecticut for graduation. I’m pretty sure that finishing won’t seem very real. However, I am looking for to be done – very much so. Anyway, it all seems to be happening. Yeah!