Kayla Jonas Galvin over at Adventures in Heritage recently wrote a great post about attending school while working full time. Her post highlights a few tips which she has used to help her juggle education and work. Kayla’s post got me thinking about how I am going to approach a continuing education course that I just started.
This fall I am taking the online Records Management Fundamental’s (RMF) course through the iSchool Institute. I’ve been looking into continuing education options for awhile now and decided on this course for a number of reasons, including: the course is completely online and can be tailored to fit my schedule, it is seven weeks which is long enough to have depth without becoming too demanding, and records management has a lot of practical applications both inside and outside the heritage field.
I don’t live close to a University/College that offers courses in my field, making an online course ideal. However, prior to signing up for this course I had a bit of trepidation about the course format, mostly inspired by correspondence class flashbacks. During my undergrad years I took two courses on women’s history via correspondence. I remember doing well in the classes and liking the content, but I also remember how horribly devoid of collaboration and communication those classes were. Learning through reading can have benefits, but I really wanted an interactive approach to continuing education.
The iSchool Institute uses Blackboard for its online courses. Though Blackboard definitely has challenges and faults, it does allow for an online collaborative space. The RMF class assignments include participation in online chats, discussion boards, and a project where students work with partners. Students learn not only from written materials but from each other. I think this is a particular benefit of taking a continuing education class that is made up of individuals from a wide range of professional backgrounds. Everyone brings something different to the discussion and can provide different insight into common problems.
As for my approach to taking the class, I’m trying to set aside specific times early in the week to tackle readings and assignments. Weekly assignments are due on Sundays each week, but I really don’t want to be spending my Friday evening or Saturday working on the material. I also believe that like in a classroom setting, you get out what you put into an online course. Active participation is crucial to a good course experience, be it in a seminar setting or in an online environment.