The WISE Consortium and Your LIS Education

The Web-based Information Science Education (WISE) Consortium is a cooperative endeavor among seventeen library schools that allows students to have greater access to a variety of online courses. Each semester, schools in the consortium enroll students from other member institutions in a select group of their online courses. Two of our contributing writers are currently enrolled in WISE courses and came together to discuss their experiences in the classes. Jessica Colbert is a Master’s student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Carissa Hansen is a Master’s student in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Library and Information Studies.

What WISE course are you currently taking and how did you decide to take a WISE course?

Jessica: I am currently taking “Copyright for Information Professionals” through the Syracuse iSchool. I decided to take this class because I am really interested in copyright, thanks to my former supervisor at a music library, and didn’t really see any classes offered at GSLIS specifically about copyright. Of course other classes mentioned it, but they were classes about law or information policy. Copyright is so important, so I was actually really disappointed to see that my program doesn’t regularly offer this type of class! Yes, I was able to take it through WISE, but some students don’t like online courses, and also there’s no guarantee that this will be offered each time, or even that every student will get a spot.

Carissa: I’m enrolled in a WISE course on archival appraisal, arrangement, and access through Queens College. I’m a distance student, and I decided to take the course because UW-Madison doesn’t offer many archives classes online, and when they do, they’re offered intermittently. So, when I saw this archives class, I jumped at the chance to take it. I was a bit nervous about taking a class at a school other than my home institution, but it has turned out really well. I even have a classmate from UW-Madison taking the course with me!

What are some of the biggest benefits of taking a WISE course?

Jessica: Well, you can take classes that maybe your program doesn’t offer, which is always a plus, and is the main reason I took my course. You can also meet professors and students from other programs, which lets you see how other programs do things, and also is a great way to network!

Carissa: I’ll echo Jessica in saying that the biggest benefit is getting to take classes that aren’t offered frequently or at all at your home institution. This summer I’m planning on taking another WISE course in Encoded Archival Description (EAD) through San Jose State University. My home institution doesn’t have a class dedicated to EAD, so it’s a unique opportunity for me. WISE is a fantastic way to supplement your library school education with a greater variety of courses than what could be offered by any one school. Not to mention, it’s easy to enroll in a WISE course, and you simply pay the same amount as you would for a class at your home institution. You don’t have to apply for special student status or pay a different amount at each school. It’s all very streamlined.

Any drawbacks?

Jessica: My WISE course meets asynchronously, which means that there is no set meeting time each week; my professor just uploads the lecture at the beginning of the week, and we can watch at our leisure. Which I find really nice, but others might not like the lack of structure! Especially in my program, our online classes have a set live meeting time. Again, other programs probably do things differently, so asynchronous classes might be the norm elsewhere! You also have to sign up for and get used to another course management software, which is kind of annoying. The only other problem is that, since this class is through another school, you do not have access to their library resources! My library is huge, but other programs are not as lucky as me, so be sure to check on readings early and talk to your professor if you are having trouble accessing anything. Since professors know students from other programs will be in their class, they should hopefully try to avoid this problem.

Carissa: Sometimes you have to be patient when you’re getting your WISE course set up. It may take a while to find out if you’ve been enrolled in the class. It can also take a while to establish communication with the institution offering the course and get yourself registered to use the courseware.

What else should other students know about taking WISE courses?

Jessica: The process of signing up is competitive! These classes only have a few open spots in them, so you really have to apply quickly. What I recommend is applying as soon as your school allows, even if you’re not sure about taking whatever class you pick. If you decide later not to go through with the class, you can deny your spot, and your spot will be given to somebody on the waitlist. I had no problem applying, but I did it literally as soon as I got the email; I applied on my phone!

Carissa: If you’re planning on completing your library degree as an online student, I highly recommend applying to schools that are part of the WISE consortium. It’s such a great deal and it will expand your course options significantly. Truthfully, I didn’t think a lot about WISE when I accepted admission to UW-Madison, but now that I’m nearly a year into my degree, I really look at my school’s membership in the consortium as an asset of my program.

Have you taken a course through the WISE consortium? Tell us about your experience!


Photo by Mike McCune, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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