How I Survived My First Full Week of Classes

The very first classes of my first semester of library school started on the 3rd of this month; which means that, at the time of writing this, I am about to start week three. Week two, the 9th to the 15th, was the first full week of classes, and it was an insanely full one. I’m taking both Foundations of Library and Information Studies and Reference and Information Services this semester, in addition to my full-time (35hr/week) job; which is currently in the midst of the fall rush because professors wait until the last two weeks of August and first week of September to submit their course readings. The University of Alberta prides itself on the rigorous nature of their programs.  They certainly aren’t kidding – the workload is intense. Several people I met in the introductory posts decided to drop down to just one course for the semester after getting familiar with the requirements for Reference and Information Services. I am so determined to get the required courses out of the way as fast as I can though, so I am powering through.

So what do I have to do? Well, I’m sure every online MLIS program is probably structured similarly to mine in that there’s a big focus on the discussion posts. Each week, for each of my two classes, I have to write an initial post that can vary between 400-700 words on the assigned topic for the week. In that post, I have to answer the question my professor has asked while synthesizing in my own personal experiences, the assigned readings for the week, some additional research sources, and asking leading questions to encourage discussion. Just between those two initial posts, that’s anywhere from 800-1,400 words, which is a lot more writing than I’ve been doing in short periods of time up to this point; but it’s doable because, when I was blogging regularly, that’s about how much I’d write. Those initial posts are due by Tuesday and then we have Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to respond substantively to the other posts in our smaller discussion groups, and keep the conversation going in our own. My foundations professor only requires us to post in at least two other group member’s threads; on the other hand, my reference professor wants us to respond to all five of the other group members, a minimum of once each. As the semester goes on, I am sure I’ll get more used to this model. Last week was really difficult, but I got through it and I have a better sense of what it takes to pull it off now.

Here’s how I structured my week to get everything done:

Saturday, September 7

  • Focused on Foundations of Library and Information Studies, added all of the due dates for discussion posts and assignments to both a physical and a digital calendar and set up notifications
  • Read all of the assigned readings for the week and took notes on them
  • Considered some additional sources in order to help answer the discussion question
  • Wrote my discussion post
  • Edited the discussion post
    Total time spent on Foundations: ca. 8 hrs

Sunday, September 8

  • Focused on Reference and Information Services, added all of the due dates for discussion posts and assignments to both a physical and a digital calendar and set up notifications
  • Read most of the assigned readings for the week and took notes on them (I got too tired to finish the last one. To be fair, there were eleven and the main one was five chapters)
  • Did some additional research on the topic to pull in non-assigned sources; messaged a friend/coworker to ask me if he could show me the project he’s working on at work because I thought I could tie it into my post
  • Did laundry
  • Took my dog for a walk after dinner and plotted a strategy for how to answer discussion posts. I decided on the following structure:
    • Answer both of the other person’s questions (if they asked any)
    • Make a connection to the readings
    • Ask a follow-up question to spur on further discussion
  • Wrote my discussion post
  • Edited the discussion post
    Total time spent on Reference and Information Services: ca. 9 hrs

Monday, September 9

  • Went to work from 8-4, sent my reference post to a couple of colleagues to look over because I was concerned I wasn’t on the right track
  • Went to the gym at our university after work from 4:30-5:45 with my work-out buddy, finished my last reading on the treadmill
  • Edited my initial post for Reference and Information Services to incorporate the feedback and my thought’s on my friend’s work project
  • Followed along with #LISprochat while I was editing my post, we had a guest chatter last week and though I couldn’t actively contribute to the discussion I enjoyed following it
  • Posted both of my initial posts
    Total time spent on Foundations: 15 minutes
    Total time spent on Reference and Information Services: 2 hours

Tuesday, September 10

  • Went to work from 8-4
  • Attempted to timebox with responses. Failed miserably. I thought I could get away with an hour to answer all of the other five members of my Reference and Information Services discussion group. I realized very quickly into writing my first response that approximately ten minutes per post was in no way going to cut it if I wanted to be substantive and thorough
  • Ended up spending three hours writing approx. 2,100 words and doing research. I got through four responses and sent my last group member a message on Facebook letting her know I was too tired to finish that night because I didn’t want her to think I was slighting her
    Time spent on Reference and Information Services: 3 hours

Wednesday, September 11

  • Spent the day with my boss at our satellite campus that is located an hour or so from our central campus
  • Normally I’d go to the gym again here, but we were late getting back from the other campus and that, combined with having to get up early to go, meant I was too tired for exercise given how much work I knew I had at home
  • Replied to the replies that my replies and initial post had received in Reference and Information Services
  • Did the same for Foundations
    Time spent on Foundations: ca. 2 hours
    Time spent on Reference and Information Services: ca. 2 hours

Thursday, September 12

  • Worked from 8-3, took the last hour that I’d normally be working to just relax since I worked an extra hour the day before
  • Got in one final reply in Reference and Information services because someone else had posted on my initial post again
  • Went out to dinner and to see IT: Chapter 2 with my friends, because I needed a break after all that writing
    Time spent on Reference and Information Services: 15 minutes

Total time for the week

Foundations: ca. 10.25 hours
Reference: 16.25 hours

They recommend spending between 9-12 hours a week on each course, so I’m sort of on track there. The heaviness of the requirements for Reference and Information Services required a few extra hours. So what marks did I get for that effort? Well, I got a 5.5/6 on my Foundations post and a 14/20 on my Reference post and I am pleased with both of those. There’s no formal discussion for week three in reference, so this weekend I got off a little lighter! My first assignment is due on September 30, and it’s for Reference and Information Services, so I’m likely going to use this week to work on that.

How did you survive your first week of your MLIS program? Please share your experiences in the comments section.

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