Online Student Experience at the iSchool

The iSchool Experience: Online Student Edition

My Adventure

I began my adventure at the iSchool on campus while I was living in Syracuse. When I bought my first house an hour and a half away, it was no longer feasible for me to make the drive to campus. I knew I wanted to complete my degree at the iSchool because I had already become a part of the strong community at SU. I decided to navigate my degree at the iSchool full-time online. Also, as a mother of a toddler, which gives me a couple of things to consider. Going to school online can look differently for each person, but this is what it looks like for me.

Making Life Happen

Being a mom, going to school full-time, and earning an income was a challenge I was willing to combat. Like many parents before me, I decided it was important to get my degree in the same amount of time it would take anyone to obtain it. In order to stay on track, I needed to take three online courses.

Knowing the amount of work it would take to do that, I decided the answer was to set up shop at home, earn my income by babysitting a child who is the same age as my son, and attend the required online courses until it comes time to do my fieldwork. When it is time to begin that aspect of my graduate studies, by attending school online as opposed to on campus, I determined that I will have saved enough money on gas and childcare that I will be able to enroll my son in a good preschool.

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Creating a Space

About a week before the semester began, I thought about how I would spend a lot of my time watching class videos. I wanted to create a space where I could have my online resources pulled up and be able to refer to them while I write my own reflections simultaneously. I found an old computer monitor no one was using and set it up above my laptop screen using a monitor stand. This allows me more virtual space to work.

I also use an easel that I bought at a craft store to hold my books up making it easy to refer to my open textbook while I am writing about my research. Lastly, I created a self-regulated, electronics-free reading corner. This means leaving my phone behind to sit in a comfy chair that is away from my computer. By distancing myself from distractions, I have been able to designate the time spent in my reading corner as time dedicated to simply absorbing information.

Mapping For Success

Going to the iSchool online required me to self-manage and find ways to organize the information I was given. The nice thing about attending school online is that everything the professor wants you to know is immediately accessible. By having this access, I was able to create a wall that serves as a map for my semester. On my wall, I have a calendar containing online session times, due dates, and appointments with professionals. Below the calendar, I have an assignment list for all of my classes organized by due date, allowing me to prioritize my time. Next, I have a status board, where each evening when I finish my work, I write out my status for each class and assignment. In the morning, I catch myself up on the status board, and I am able to easily pick up where I left off.

How It’s Going

We are almost halfway through the semester and I have learned so much, not only about my field of study, but how to dedicate my space, time and resources. While other online students, including fellow parents, are able to work full-time in the field and immediately apply what they learn, right now, I am getting my own invaluable experience that is full of discovery. Through the process of attending the iSchool full-time online, I have discovered the benefits of creating a functioning work space, and how self-management is the professional growth that I needed to become a competent information professional.

Lauren Stevens

Lauren Stevens

Lauren Stevens is an online student in the MS in Library and Information Science program at the Syracuse University iSchool. She's also a professional photographer at Tides + Pines.

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