As I get more involved in my studies, I find more and more opportunities to learn more and every conference sounds more interesting than the last – then I remember the one problem that we all seem to be having these days – money! How can you justify paying a small fortune to go to an out of state conference – even if it is one that you really want to go to? And then there is the time factor. As students, we all have our commitments and classwork and for many of us, we even work some – where do we find the time to get away?
I know there are opportunities for funding, and I think that for the major conferences such as ALA Annual which has Student to Staff, these are great. However, when all of the fall conferences seem to stack up on each other and you have to find your own funding – who thought up this system anyway? I really wanted to go to the Games Libraries and Learning Symposium (GLLS) in Chicago, but is the beginning of the week that NYLA starts. Well, can’t do both and I pretty much have to go to NYLA, so I guess it is more virtual conferencing for me!
So I had the unique experience of traveling to Champaign-Urbana this weekend for my residency as a part of the WISE course I am taking through the University of Illinois. This was interesting. Like with my online course through Syracuse, I came to develop my own pictures of the individuals with whom I was conversing and learning. And then you actually get to meet them… it was really nice to meet all of these people that I was talking to. And wow, were some of my mental images off – even having seen their little thumbnail pictures and their “bios”!
I had a really enjoyable time, and it was certainly nice to get out of the rain and cold of Syracuse and enjoy an absolutely lovely day in Illinois. For those of you who have never been to the University of Illinois campus, it sort of seems to have been plopped in the middle of the corn and soybean fields of Illinois. The cities of Champaign and Urbana have developed around the University, but the main attraction is still the school. They have a whole bunch of different libraries on campus, including a separate library for the GSLIS (Graduate School of Library and Information Science) students – I did not see this, I learned about this from one of the other students. They also have small libraries in each of the dorms!
The difference between the Syracuse University distance courses and the ones offered by GSLIS are numerous. SU is asynchronous and text based, while the GSLIS course is synchronous and (at least my class) has an audio component where the instructor lectures and the students communicate with him/her and each other through a live chat function. This took a while to get used to, but now it seems a little more familiar. There are still functions that I am sure that I cannot master in one term, but then anybody looking at the SU online classes would find unique aspects about it too.
I have to say, having the residency during the course is nice. It was a chance to meet with students in my group for my final project, as well as to find out more about what my fellow students do – many of them are already working in library and information science fields prior to completing the degree. I also got to see a whole new campus that I probably would not have otherwise seen.