My Library School Experience: The Ugly

Writing these wrap-up posts on my educational experience has been much harder than I anticipated. All in all, I tend to be a person that actively tries to find the best in every situation and tries to forget about anything bad or contentious. A big part of me wanted to stop after I wrote My Library School Experience: The Good. I didn’t want to relive some of the more difficult moments; I didn’t want to get bogged down in the negativity; and I wasn’t sure if I could write about some of these things without being too emotional. Ultimately, I decided that I’d already written about most of the ugly experiences in earlier posts – and that some serious reflection on these experiences could be a good thing. Hopefully, this post doesn’t make me sound whiny, bitter and/or pissy. I’m trying to be fair. However, these Ugly experiences are ones that I found to be truly unacceptable in a graduate program that cost me a significant amount of money – regardless of the mode of instruction.

The Ugly Classes:

I consider 3 out of the 12 classes that I took to be not in any way worth the money that I spent on them. I think it is important to note that 2 of these classes were required or core courses (reference and cataloging). In my second semester, I took the first of the three classes. I was horrified by the class. It seemed to me that the professor was barely present. She did not participate in any discussions (which seems to be somewhat normal in distance education – and I don’t get it). She was slow in responding to emails and even very slower in returning work. I know that professors might not think this way, but it was vitally important to me that my first assignment with a new professor be graded (with helpful feedback) prior to the due date of the second assignment. In a distance class, there is no opportunity to “read” the teacher. There is no way to glean what the professor might be looking for by listening to him/her or by interacting in face-to-face discussions.

When there are only 4 graded assignments which make up one’sfinal grade, I think that students must receive some type of feedback before successive assignments are due. When assignments were returned, there was very little feedback. With no feedback and no teacher participation in discussions, it didn’t seem as if there was any personality in the class. Where was the expertise of the professor? I never saw it. I remember talking to my Mom about this class at one point, and I know that I told her that this was the worst class I had ever had the misfortune to take. I wasn’t kidding. Little did I know that it would get worse.

During the next two semesters, I had two more classes with another professor that seemed as if they were self-taught tutorials. During the summer session class, which began on the Tuesday after Memorial Day Weekend, the professor sent us all an email on the first day of class asking us to let him know that we were able to get into the course site. Each week, lecture notes and assorted information for that unit were made available in the course site. I, personally, did not hear from the again professor until he returned the first graded assignment on July 29th (which as due roughly a month before).

Essentially, there were two months without any type of direct contact from the professor. Several students mentioned that they had sent the professor emails, and did not hear back from him until weeks later. I was blown away by this. I never specifically received a grade on the other three assignments or the final exam – only a final course grade. I didn’t know what to think. I could only hope that no school would think this is acceptable behavior on the part of a faculty member. Certainly when I wrote a letter to the ILS department chair, she seemed to take my complaints seriously. Of course, I’m not sure that there is anything a chairperson can do other than simply talk to a tenured faculty member.

Regardless, I had the same professor for a class that fall. While his grading time frame was a slightly better, he was still a non-existent entity in the class. All three of these classes were a waste of my time and roughly $4000.00 of my money. These are definitely examples of the worst that distance education has to offer.

The ILS Administration:

I hate to taint the entire ILS administration here, but when the dean of the school blatantly ignores a letter that a student sends (twice), it sends a rather negative message. As part of an effort to put together some concerns and problems that were specific to distance students, I worked with a fairly decent size group of students and recent graduates (as many as 60 at one point). As a result, I wrote a letter and emailed it to the professor who was the chair of the ILS department. She was quite receptive to the letter, and it seemed to be a good starting point for a discussion.

Things, however, went quickly downhill and some serious us vs. them vibes sprung up with angry students and some defensive professors. I felt awful about the entire situation. However, I believed (and still do) that there were some serious problems that really needed to be aired. With that in mind, I emailed the dean asking if I could send him a letter with some of my concerns and those from other students. He responded quite quickly in a positive manner. I emailed him the letter that I had written with absolutely no reply, not even an acknowledgement.

With the understanding that people could have busy schedules, vacations, email problems and other freak things happen, I emailed him at least a month later with the same result. I discovered from another source that he had received my email. To me, this was the low point of my entire time at SCSU. Whether this was intentional or not, this experience was the one that truly made me believe that concerns of distance students were not even on the radar screen of the administration. This was a huge blow that made me feel as if I was not even an insignificant part of the SCSU community. This is where I decided that I needed to remove myself from the effort to get the voices of distant students heard. I will admit that this failure to offer any type of response to my letter will always color my view of my time at SCSU in a negative way. Sometimes, I still can’t believe it.

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4 Responses to My Library School Experience: The Ugly

  1. […] the past few months, Scruffy Nerf (Jennifer) over at “Life as I Know It” blog scribed a most informative series describing her experiences in the online MLS program through Southern Connecticut State […]

  2. Kristine says:

    Wow, I just read this. I am currently going through this with some of my classmates. This is my third class and it was truly the most horrific experience I have ever had in college. I’ve been seriously considering transferring. I know I had the same professor and he’s tenured and suing the University. They’re afraid of him.

    Did you ever get anywhere?

  3. Jennifer says:

    Hi Kristine, No I never did get anywhere. I can still only wonder about some of things that went on while I was at SCSU – they were horrific. I did stay mostly because I had a great advisor. There were some other great teachers as well. But, nothing can make up for professors who just don’t seem to care. I was very tempted to transfer once I was blatantly ignored by the dean. However, at that point, I was only 9 credits shy of graduating.

    Best of luck with everything. I can more than understand your frustration. I am very sad to hear that things haven’t improved.

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