Spring 2007 – A Wrap Up

May 6, 2007

Well, the semester has been over for a week, and I have been spending quite a bit ot time reflecting on it. It wasn’t a great semester in terms of my efforts at school work, or my attitude towards school in general. Yesterday, the professor for ILS656-Information Architecture posted our grades for our final projects as well as our overall class grade – along with excellent explanations of all. In all honesty, I think the grade that my partner and I got on our final project is actually generous (for me). The group project was a difficult one. We, the students in the class, suggested the website redesign projects that became our final projects. The professor picked the teams, assigned projects to the teams and assigned each of us specific tasks – project manager, content development, technical implementation, etc. I was the project manager – and was assigned a variety of specific IA tasks to do on the project. Initially, there were three members to my group. One of the students in my group, however, dropped the class. I didn’t understand at the time that one can’t really manage a group of two – that just doesn’t work well.

The other issue was that the person I was working with was the tech person at the library whose website we were tasked to redesign. This meant that in some ways she was way too close to the site – and I was way too removed from the it. I think this caused a huge inequity of work between the two of us – and I wasn’t on the good side of that equation. To me, it seemed as if my partner had given this redesign a huge amount thought prior to the start of the semester and had specific goals in mind from the beginning. None of this is bad – just difficult in terms of providing a good educational, group experience. I wasn’t sure how best to deal with the situation – and instead of rising to the occasion, I just let things go. The bottom line is that I didn’t get as much out of the class as I could have – and realistically, I can’t blame any one but myself. The real shame is that this was a great class – and an important one. It isn’t as if I wasted my time over the past several months, I just didn’t apply myself in the manner that I normally do.

Fortunately, things went better in ILS560-College & Academic Libraries. I was definitely more involved overall. I didn’t do the best job on the term paper that I wrote. However, in this case, it wasn’t so much lack of effort on my part as it was interference from life. In general, I found this class easier to take because it was the third time that I had taken a class with the professor who taught it. This professor is also my advisor – and I have a better idea of his style of teaching and of what type of work he expects from students.

So, I’m glad to see the end of this semester. It put me through the wringer several times over. The silver lining must be that I made it through – possibly a bit wearier, a bit less excited about school and a bit more anxious to be done. I’m clinging to the fact that I am 3/4 of the way done!

Another Semester Comes To An End

April 29, 2007

It is official – I am done with this semester! Overall, I’m not sure how to categorize this semester. It almost did me in several times. Of course, most of my biggest challenges were school related, but not course related. Actually, this was the first time that I took two classes that I actually liked (with professors that I respected) in one semester. Both were excellent classes in which I learned a great deal. Sure, they both required a great deal of work, and the work might have made me incredibly cranky and intractable at several points during this semester (feel free to ask my husband, if you don’t believe me). However, I now have a great sense of accomplishment that I made it through – and am fairly happy with the quality of work that I was able to produce. So, I am BEYOND happy to be done – to have about a month break from school – to be able to relax for a bit.

So, that was the good part of my mind set. As for the other, this semester gave me some serious ambivalence about SCSU’s MLS program. Online programs are tough, I think – both to participate in and to administer. It seems to be much easier for all people involved in them to give a half-hearted effort. I got involved in trying to get some clear vision of the problems that students feel exist – and this whole thing has weighed heavily upon me. I definitely need to get back to it because it certainly is much too important to just let slide. I find it ironic that in the semester that I had two of the best classes of my program, I came away feeling worse about the program than I have at any point thus far.

Regardless of this fact, I will press on. I am 3/4 of the way through the program. That is enough to help me overcome my feelings of ambivalence. I will make it through, I will make it through, I will make it though.

I Might Make It Through This Semester

April 21, 2007

I have finished my term paper for ILS560-College & University Libraries. Yeah!!! I’m not thrilled with it, but I think it will do (meaning, I don’t think I will fail the class). I decided to write about the impact of distance education upon academic libraries, and I found it difficult to get my thoughts neatly arranged in a coherent manner. I think part of the problem is that I am so consumed with my final project for ILS656-Information Architecture that my work on my term paper seems almost like it was an afterthought. I was so busy trying to get everything together for my other class, so I found it difficult to concentrate. I haven’t turned in the term paper yet. I figured that I owed it to myself to at least give it a read through tomorrow. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for this semester . . .

Crunch Time

April 17, 2007

This semester ends on April 28th – and I still have SO much work to do. For ILS560-College & University Libraries, I have a term paper due on April 22nd which needs to be between 10 and 12 pages long. I am doing my paper on the impact of distance education on the academic library. I also have a semester-long web site redesign project due for ILS656-Information Architecture. The web site redesign project is a group project on which I am working with one other person. We are redesigning a public library site. The site doesn’t have too much on it now – but needs a great deal of work. There is still a huge a amount of work that needs to be done – and it seems to be getting to me quite a bit. I have taken the rest of the week off from work in order to help get everything done. Please keep your fingers crossed that I can get it all done!!!

I can’t wait until the end of the semester!!!!

Don’t Forget About The Homework

March 15, 2007

Despite spending an inordinate amount of time on student empowerment issues, I do actually have homework to do – a great deal of it.

For ILS560 – College & University Libraries:
I have a benchmarking exercise due on March 25th. For this assignment, we are expected to choose an academic library and do a statistical comparison between the chosen library and some peer institutions. A large part of the assignment hinges upon the choice of college library and the justification of the peer institutions that we choose. I have started collecting data about the library I plan to profile and am in the process of deciding upon which peer institutions to use. The paper should include charts and diagrams and be no more than 8 pages. I think I can get a good portion done this weekend.

For ILS656 – Information Architecture:
We have one major project during the course of the semester – a redesign of a web site. I am working with one other person in my class to build a web site for a public library. So far, the majority of work that we have done has been analyzing and detailing the current site. It took a while to get approval on the projects from the Institutional Review Board – so we are just starting to get to the stage where we can talk to the people at the institution. The bottom line here??? There is lots and lots of work to be done over the next month and a half.

Some Steps to Information Architecture

February 10, 2007

Since we are in the processing of working on a web site project for my ILS-656 Information Architecture, anything about IA catches my attention (especially if it is written by Louis Rosenfeld). In a post entitled The No-Knead Approach to Information Architecture (#1 of 5), Rosenfeld asks “Why can’t information architecture be as simple and straightforward? And even as enjoyable?[as simple, etc. as kneading bread]” You can bet that this caught my eye. I want it to be straightforward and enjoyable. I know that I always think about information architecture as a massively complex procedure – and maybe this is why it becomes some difficult. If we think of it as a complex concept then any end result must therefore be some type of complex structure of information. Isn’t that what we want to avoid?

In advocating a simpler approach, Rosenfeld suggests four easier steps to take to information architecture. These include

Step #1: Ban the word “redesign” from your meetings.
Step #2: Determine who your most important audiences are.
Step #3: Determine each primary audience’s 3-5 major needs.
Step #4: Make damned sure your site addresses each of those needs.

In the course of my project, I’m going to try to keep these steps in mind. I think these are some great guidelines to go by. Hopefully, every time I start getting bogged down (and start making things overly complicated), I’ll look back at these steps and reassess the situation.

ILS656-IA Team Project

February 5, 2007

The major portion of my ILS656-Information Architecture class is to work on a group web site design/redesign project. The professor asked us all to submit any ideas that we had for projects – and to list our strengths according the the Nine Pillars of Web Design. Once she had all of this information, she created a list of suggested web projects and a list of suggested topics for each student. We all voted for which projects we would like to work on. At this point, the professor came up with an overall plan for four projects and tentative teams. I will admit to being a bit disappointed that I was not given my first choice of project. Rather than work on a web site at SCSU for distance students, I will be working on a redesign project for a public library. However, overall, I think this is a great assignment, and that there is a great deal to be learned from redesigning a public library web site.

I also want to say how much I appreciate the way in which the professor put all of the group projects together. As a rather introverted type, I have always hated trying to find a group to work with in a classroom setting. I don’t do it well in a face-to-face class where I actually might know someone – so I find it even more traumatic in an online environment. In this case, the professor handled the situation very well. She allowed us to come up with the project ideas and then made suggestions. She allowed people the flexibility to object or express doubt – and make changes. However, she oversaw the process and made sure that everyone had a place. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

While I didn’t get to work on my first project choice, I was made project manager of the project to which I was assigned. In addition, I will be responsible for Concrete Design, Content Production; Technology Implementation, Technology Strategy, and Site Strategy. Wow!!! There is a great deal of work involved in this project – and right now it seems daunting. Additionally, I’m a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of being in charge. It will definitely be a challenge. Of course, right now, everything is still a bit nebulous. I have only been in contact with one of the team members (and hope to hear from the second soon) – so it will probably take a bit to feel comfortable within our team. There is something a bit more challenging about collaborating solely in the cyberworld. But, I’m excited – and looking forward to seeing what we come up with. Hopefully, it will all go well.

ILS656 – Information Architecture – An Overview

January 28, 2007

We are a week into the semester, and I am still pretty excited about this IA class. Since, a couple of people expressed some interest in the class, I thought I would post a bit more information about the class. 

Course Description (from syllabus):

An overview of the concepts and practices of information architecture (IA). Students will develop an understanding of the concepts of IA through reading the existing literature related to IA and we will reinforce those concepts by building complex web sites for real organizations that reflect our best understanding of the organizations mission, processes, goals, clients, suppliers. Students will form IA teams, identify a client, and design and build a web presence for the client.

Course Objectives (from syllabus):

Upon successful completion of this course students will to able to:

  • Author web pages, and design web sites
  • Verbalize the mission of a web site within the context of the organization it serves
  • Use research methods to better understand the environment within which a website will be created or revised
  • Develop navigation systems, labeling systems, and taxonomies for web sites
  • Articulate and apply the principles of information architecture
  • Coherently discuss the meaning of the term, “information architecture”
  • Apply the principles of information architecture to a real situation
  • Create a report describing and making recommendations for web site design.

Course Work:

We have one main project during the semester – to work in teams to create/redesign a web site in accordance with the principles we learn in class. We will prepare a midterm concept report that details an overview of our team’s project and then implement the web site for the final part of the project. The teams and projects have yet to be determined. The professor asked us all to evaluate our skill set – based upon The Nine Pillars of Successful Web Teams by Jesse James Garrett – and make some suggestions about ideas for projects. Based upon our input, the professor plans to put together a spreadsheet with suggested teams and projects.

In addition to the team projects, we are required to lead the discussion with one of our classmates during one week of the semester. I think that this will be a major part of our grade for participation within the class.

So Far . . .

When I registered for this class, I didn’t actually have a web site in mind to work with. I was surprised that many of my fellow students actually did. My only thought was that SCSU (or the ILS department) could use some type of web site with information specific to distance learners. I am a bit unsure how this whole project is going to work, but am interested to see how it all plays out.

I volunteered to lead the discussion during the week of April 2nd when we will be studying content management systems. I think I would have preferred to lead the discussion earlier on in the semester, but I am really interested in the topic of content management systems (we are finally getting ready to implement one at my place of work).

Week one has gone well – here’s hoping the rest of the semester goes the same way!!!!

And The Semester Starts Tomorrow . . .

January 21, 2007

Although I had intended to spend my last weekend before school started doing any that wasn’t school related, I spent most of today going over information for both classes. My professor for ILS656-Information Architecture had already posted the syllabus and class readings. I noticed that the professor for ILS560-College & University Libraries (or Academic Libraries as called by the professor) opened up this class today. I printed the syllabus early this afternoon along with the readings for this week. And, so of course, I started doing the readings.

Anyway, both classes look great. I guess I’m a bit more excited about ILS656-Information Architecture because it is something I haven’t studied. I work in an academic library – and while I certainly have more to learn about them, I’m very familiar with them. Last semester, I found ILS565-Library Management to be a bit painful because the subject matter was too real. I’m thinking the same might be true for ILS560-College & University Libraries. The good news is that although I expect both classes to be challenging, I think the workload will be manageable (famous last words, huh?).

I’m Looking Forward To This Semester

January 17, 2007

Yesterday, my ILS656-Information Architecture professor sent a general email letting us know that classes start on the 22nd of January – and giving us instructions for logging onto the class. It seems that SCSU made some changes in its policies for accessing online course material over break. From what I understand, all schools in the Connecticut State University system shared one course management for distance education programs (at one time called OnlineCSU). Each university also had an additional CMS portal for traditional and hybrid classes. I always wondered why there seemed to be so much confusion among students accessing online classes. However, I can see how students taking both traditional and online classes at the same time would get confused by having two separate systems with different usernames. I guess the CSU system decided to disband the OnlineCSU system – and now we all log into SCSU’s WebCT portal. The big difference is that we no longer log in with some 8 digit number, but use another log in (a more traditional username that is some combination of our names). It took a while to figure this out – but fortunately, I was able to figure it out with some help from fellow graduate students via the ILS listserv.

Once I finally logged onto the system successfully, I was able to poke around in the course site for ILS656-Information Architecture. The professor has already posted all sorts of material. I probably should not have been surprised. This professor has her own web site with information about the courses she teaches, projected courses with tentative schedules and syllabi. She also includes the texts for these classes. I can’t stress how wonderful it is to have this information when registering for classes. I so wish other professors would do the same. Anyway, this all makes me very excited about this class. I think it will be a wonderful learning experience -albeit a challenging one. I’m also looking forward to ILS560-College & University Libraries. I have already taken two classes with the professor teaching this class – and so far he has been my favorite professor.