When I first started taking online classes at UMaine Augusta, all my classmates came from Maine. Since I live on an island, it was a point of pride that I was often the “most distant” distance learner. But over time, that changed. Each semester there would be at least one person from out of state. Once, I even had a professor who taught from England!
Nowadays when we do our student introductions, it’s pretty common to “meet” classmates from far away. In my European Short Story class this semester there are students from New York, Arizona, California, and even Scotland! For part of our intros we talk about our degree programs, and I was curious to see that four of these very distant learners are pursuing degrees in Information and Library Services (I’ve also heard this program referred to as Library and Information Services and Library and Information Science). So I contacted them to ask: Why UMA?
I’m grateful to Holly and Shelley for taking time at the end of a busy semester to talk about their experiences. Holly lives in upstate New York and Shelley lives in California. Rather than pass along pieces of what they said, I’ll let them speak for themselves.
Colleen: Considering where you live, why are you doing your degree through UMA?
Shelley: I work full-time during the day, so online is the only practical way for me to finish my degree. Since the program is fully online, location isn’t important. Also, I don’t know of an online BLIS offered locally. There is a Masters program offered in a nearby city, so maybe in the future, after a break, I may enroll in that program.
Holly: I had looked into other library science programs, and UMA was not only cheapest (some programs were 200-300 a credit!), but also very balanced. I was very pleased to learn that they accepted the 30 or so credits that I had already taken, including a nursing class!
Colleen: How did you learn about UMA and the library science program?
Shelley: I subscribe to a listserv serving California School Library staff. The program was mentioned on the listserv.
Holly: I had been looking into a MILS program at a school near me, but didn’t really want to get a 4-year degree in English. I did some research on BS programs in ILS and here I am!
Colleen: Are all the classes for that degree online?
Shelley: The core classes are offered online. Other classes can be taken locally or online at UMA.
Holly: So far I have been able to take everything online, including electives. I had thought I would have to take both of my Comp Sci classes locally, but one is available online next semester, so hopefully the second will be available online as well.
Colleen: How far along in your degree are you?
Shelley: Nearly finished. I have four classes left.
Holly: After this semester, I’ll need 18 credits to graduate. I’ll probably finish in the Spring of ’12.
Colleen: Do you feel that the content of your degree program is a good match for online classes? Why or why not?
Shelley: Yes, Library Information Science is heavy in use of technology since education today requires this. People serving as library staff must know how to use technology, and how to teach patrons about technology use. Using technology in our own education will help us when we assist students or patrons in the future. Along with that, the format (asynchronous class time, posting to boards, etc.) seems to work with the types of assignments we have had.
Holly: The program is very tech-heavy, so the online format is perfect. Anyone pursuing a job in the field should be very comfortable with the internet, and computers in general.
Colleen: How do you feel about online classes in general?
Shelley: I like the convenience and flexibility of online classes. At this point, since I am working full-time, I don’t think I could do it any other way. However, I would choose regular classes if I could. I miss having the opportunity to meet other students and the instructor face to face. Some of the most interesting people I have met were in classes. I also find regular classes to be more memorable. Additionally, I find some discussions more interesting and valuable in a regular class.
Holly: I think general opinion is that online classes are easier than traditional classes, because you don’t have to show up for classes, and all tests are open book. I don’t really agree with this, as I have very rarely had to take an actual test, most classes have papers, or some other way to gauge how well students are grasping the materials. I think it takes a lot more discipline also, to make sure all of the work is completed on time, because we don’t have to actually go to a classroom. More of the responsibility is on the student to manage their time.