San Jose State University course selection tool (MLIS)

Update: Since writing this post I have found out that the iSchool offers a very similar planning tool to its students. Their tool is an Excel file available for download through the iSchool Advising Toolkit, or you can download it directly from here. Both tools are very similar in their functionality. I was unaware of this tool when completing my degree. I hope it helps!

This post will explain how to use the course selection tool I created during my time at San Jose State University for my Master of Library and Information Sciences degree. This is the tool I featured in my ePortfolio Experience article I wrote. If you haven’t read that post, I recommend reading it here. That article outlines my experience in preparing for and completing the INFO 289: ePortfolio course.

Everyone has their own way of planning and tracking their progress. This is the tool I created to track and plan my courses. What makes this tool particularly useful is that it also allows students to quickly identify which competencies they are currently lacking. This helps quickly identify future courses that will help students prepare for their ePortfolio experience.

I wanted to make this tool available for all current and future SJSU students.

Access the Google Sheet here

As of Winter 2018 this tool is working and up-to-date. This could change if the MLIS requirements at SJSU change, I do not plan to update this tool to reflect those changes at this time. If you modify or update this Google Sheet, please consider sharing it with  your peers.

Modifying the Google Sheet

I have made the Google Sheet available above as “view only” to keep the original document clean an unaltered.

To modify this sheet and add your own course information you will have to make a copy of the Google Sheet.

This can be done from the “file” menu. From the drop down menu, select “make a copy…”

Showing "Make a copy..." in the file drop down menu
Choose make a copy from the “file” drop down menu

Next, you will need to choose a location to save the copy. Choose somewhere on your own Google Drive and select “okay”. I recommend making an SJSU file where you can store all of these important files.

Select a copy location in your Google Drive
Select a location for the copied file and select okay

Similarly, you can download the file to use locally on your computer through Excel. In my testing, the Excel version works the same as the Google Sheets version. That said, I prefer the Google Sheets version because it is backed up online and I can easily access it from my mobile device. To download the Excel file, choose “Download as” from the “file” menu.

Showing download as, in the file menu
You can download this Google Sheet as an Excel file

Using the course selection tool

Below you will find a guide to using the course selection tool I designed. While the tool should be self explanatory to use, I wanted to include instructions on the various features. For example, some columns require manual input while others include drop down selections.

Manual columns

You can manually input your course details into the Google Sheet. The course code, credit value, term, and course name must all be entered manually. Below you will see the columns that can be input manually outlined in red.

Manual columns in the course selection tool
Manually input course code, credit value, term, and course name.

By default I have included all the required courses that all SJSU MLIS students are required to complete already entered in the tool. These core courses are: INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 203 and INFO 204. These are required to be completed within the first 16 units. I felt keeping them near the top would be a logical decision as most students will complete these courses before moving into their electives. However, you can replace any of these courses from the tool to reflect your course selection.

At the bottom of the tool I have included INFO 285 and INFO 289. INFO 285 is required to be taken at some point in your SJSU career and INFO 289 is the ePortfolio. INFO 289 is taken in your last term so I have put it in the final space in the list. Some students may opt to complete a thesis (INFO 299). If you choose the thesis option you can simply change this information manually within the tool.

Drop down menus

I have included drop down options in this tool. The columns that include drop down menus are the required/elective and the completed column. The columns that include drop down menus are outlined in red below.

Drop down columns in the course selection tool
These columns can be filled using the included drop down menu

Monitoring “completed” courses progress

Updating the complete column is important. This will update the percentage complete tab. This will only update when a course has been changed to completed.

Showing completed course update
Updating a course to complete updates the percentage complete window

Monitoring “planned” course progress

Sometimes it is nice to see how future courses will influence the overall progress of your degree. In this case, every course you have inputted into the tool is reflected in this section. We can see how this is reflected in the blue section of the tool.

Showing planned competencies completed
Every course you input into the tool regardless of its status will update in the “projected” completion section (blue)

Monitoring competencies “supported” by courses

When choosing your courses, keep an eye on the competencies that each course supports. This can be found in the course syllabus.

This tool will help you identify which courses support each competency and will provide you with a clear idea of which competencies you may be lacking.

For example, looking at my bar graph I can see that I am lacking courses that fulfill competencies F, K, and O. In fact I see that I have zero courses that fulfill those competencies. Perhaps I should find a course being offered that fulfills them.

Showing the competencies of the courses selected
This bar graph shows the number of courses that you have taken to fulfill each competency

When planning my courses, I see that INFO 281-14: Examination of Global Library Issues Using Project-Based Learning by Prof. Melanie Sellar fulfills competency O (this was an excellent course, I really recommend checking it out).

So I decide to take this course and I input it into my course selection tool. I fill out the course code, required/elective, number of credits (this is a 2 credit course), completed (status), I also put an “x” in the competency columns that this course fulfills (found in the syllabus), the term I’m taking the course and the course name.

Adding INFO 281 to the course selection tool
Fill out the course planning tool, include the competencies that this course fulfills (found in the syllabus)

Once you update this information you will see that the competency graph will update. It will only update if you fill the competency section with an “x”.

Graph comparing pre and post addition of INFO 281
Once the chart has been updated the graph will update to reflect the changes

I have also included in this course selection tool a list of the competencies for quick reference.

Showing the included competency descriptions in the course selection tool
Included in the tool is the compete competency list with description


This can be a helpful way to visually identify where you are lacking competencies to complete your degree. This is a tool I created very early on in my SJSU MLIS career. I used this tool from the beginning to help me plan my course selection. I hope this “how-to” guide helps you understand how I used the course selection tool.

Do you plan to use this tool? Do you have another way to track your progress? Please let me know what you think in the comments!

2 thoughts on “San Jose State University course selection tool (MLIS)”

    • It’s never to early to start planning for the ePortfolio! A little bit of upkeep throughout the program will definitely save you some stress and frustration later on. Thank you for having a look a these resources! I hope they help you as you work through the program. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to me!


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