September 27, 2009

Tips for Success in Distance Education

Posted in School Success, Uncategorized at 9:03 pm by melissaautumn

Last fall I had a group of new students struggling to adjust to the unique demands of online education. Since fall is here again and I have a lot of new students, I thought I’d post some basic tips for success.

The most important thing is to have self-discipline. Since you aren’t “going” to class every week, it may feel like nobody will know if you don’t keep up and it becomes very tempting to fall behind. But, if you fall behind, you hurt your own learning and cause yourself even more stress. You must have the discipline to keep yourself on track.

  • Set a schedule for schoolwork and stick to it. Most students are balancing multiple responsibilities, including work, family and school. You need to be sure school doesn’t become your last priority and that you are realistic about setting aside the time needed to do well in your studies. In addition, setting a predictable schedule can help you manage the expectations of your family. For example, I try not to work on Saturdays, which is a day to rest, run errands and spend time with family. But, I do work much of Sunday, something my family knows to expect.
  • Devote two or three big chunks of time every week for concentrated study – reading, working on assignments, etc.
  • Put all your school-related due dates on your main calendar – you want all your important dates in one place. Having assignment due dates on your calendar will also keep you from making mistakes like volunteering to chaperone a school event the day before a big paper is due.
  • I find it helpful to print syllabi and schedules and check things off as I get them done – it is an easy way to keep myself organized and not miss anything, plus I have a visible reminder of what I am accomplishing. A former student created a weekly “to do” list of readings and assignments, including an item for mandatory forum participation – this ensured she kept up with participation, since she had to check it off each week after she posted a contribution.

 I invite those of you who are more seasoned distance education students to share your ideas as well. Just as someone helped you, this is your chance to help someone else!

ACRL’s Internet Resources

Posted in Reference, Resources at 8:44 pm by melissaautumn

Students often ask me how I learn about the various websites I highlight in my courses. Like most librarians, I learn about sites from various sources – links from other blogs, recommendations from friends, and reviews in print media.

One source you can use for web reviews is Internet Resources, a monthly column in College & Research Libraries News. Each column focuses on a timely topic, such as healthcare reform, providing information on 15-20 relevant, good quality websites. The columns are also available (free!) on the ACRL website and can be browsed by topic or date. A wiki provides additional and updated resources.

Reading “Internet Resources” is a good method to build your own knowledge of what is available on the web. You can also browse past columns when you webliography of good sites on a particular topic to create a library guide or to prepare an instructional session.

September 12, 2009

Managing Forum Posts

Posted in School Success at 6:43 pm by melissaautumn

Course discussions are an essential part of the learning experience. In distance education, these conversations may happen primarily or exclusively in the forums. This makes forum reading an important part of your coursework. 

  • Read forums at least every other day, if not daily. If you read forums frequently, they stay manageable (and you’ll have an ongoing feeling of being “connected” to your classmates).
  • Figure out if there is a pattern to posts. In my classes, there’s usually a pattern of when people post the most (often near the end of the weekend, when they’ve been reading course materials and are ready to discuss them). This can let you know what to expect in terms of reading load on a given night, and can also be a great time for you to post and get a response.
  • Prioritize forums like “news and announcements” where you would expect to see posts from the instructor. These are essential reading and instructors will assume you’ve seen them.
  • Subscribe to important forums, such as “news and announcements” or one for your project team, to be sure you see any new messages.
  • Look for ways to manage your reading, such as options to mark posts as read, flag important posts, etc.  

September 2, 2009

Do You Love Dictionaries?

Posted in Reference at 7:01 pm by melissaautumn

A student once posted “I love dictionaries!” in response to a sources assignment. (Yes, folks, that’s how great my assignments are – they lead unsuspecting students to infatuation with inanimate objects.) I’ve always remembered that quote because it captures the enthusiasm librarians have for even the simplest of reference tools, as well as the joy many of us had when we got to library school and realized we’d found a group of like-minded people who love reference books as much as we do (not to mention, we got college credit for studying the dictionary! how cool is that?).

One of my current students shared this link to a TED Talk about the future of the dictionary (thanks, Anne!).

Erin McKean Redefines the Dictionary

This is a thought provoking talk about the future of the dictionary and, by extension, all reference sources. Very interesting if you love reference books and the dictionary.