Online Classes in Library School

I just finished reading “Should Online Coursework be a Library School Requirement?” from Hack Library School. As a current student in an almost entirely online MLIS program, I would say that having experience in online classes is helpful in a lot of ways. However, the fact that ALL my classes are online is, I believe, detrimental to the development of real world interaction in a library and/or community setting. I have created a shortlist of pros and cons, from my perspective, of online classes in library school.

Pros

  • I have learned a ton about Web and Library 2.0. Taking online classes merely accelerated my understanding of these resources.
  • Chances are, assuming I actually get a job in a library, I will need to be able to help students with their online classes. Online classes are gaining popularity, and as a librarian, I will need to have an understanding of them.
  • Online classes force me to manage my time more wisely. I have to be self-motivated. These acquired skills will be very useful in my career.
  • I have become much more proficient in online database searches. Since I no longer go to campus, I spend more time at the library website.
  • Having to interact with my peers in an online environment has given me a chance to see the myriad ways of communicating and collaborating through the web. I have used discussion forums, chat rooms, virtual class sessions, Google Docs, and good old email to work with my instructors and peers. It can be done, and being forced into online classes has helped me see the many possibilities.

Cons

  • Nothing beats face-to-face discussion. I realize that even in a classroom setting, there are those who choose not to participate. However, discussing topics in an online setting can be fragmented, confusing, and totally boring. I would rather sit down in a room full of people and listen to just a few lively voices than sit and stare at my computer screen.
  • I am not getting any experience in a physical library. This has a lot to do with the way that my program is set up. There is simply not enough involvement between the Library and the School of Information. This NEEDS to change. It is ruining my experience.
  • Total isolation. Very few of my classmates know me. I have only met 2 of my professors (out of 3 semesters worth of classes). I do not feel like a person; I feel like a digital representation of myself.
  • Some professors are not very good at online teaching. In fact, I have had a couple classes where the instructors had no real presence at all.
  • Online classes are very time consuming. I think this is one of the major pitfalls of online class newbies. They think, for some reason, that online classes are easy and they can spend a minimal amount of time on them. Nope. These classes are hard and take a lot of time and effort.

I think there are definite values in taking online classes, but I also think that they should not serve as a replacement for traditional classes. There should be a balance, as with everything.

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