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!
Most students completing their Master of Library and Information Science degree at San Jose State University will have to complete an ePortfolio as their capstone project in their final term.
While I thought the San Jose State University Master of Library and Information Science degree was exceptional, I thought more focus on the ePortfolio at the beginning of the program would help foster student success when people embark on the final obstacle in the program: INFO 289: ePortfolio.
Many people struggle in INFO 289 and I would argue that a little bit of planning and organization at the beginning of your journey will help relieve stress and save time later on. This post will hopefully benefit both students starting and students approaching the end of their degree at SJSU.
This post will cover: getting started, familiarizing yourself with the competencies, choosing the “right” courses, managing your assignments, and tracking your ePortfolio competency writing.
While some people have avoided using cloud based services, I recommend using them during your time at San Jose State University. Dropbox is an excellent way to save your work. Installing Dropbox on your computer makes backing up your important assignments easy. The ability to create permanent links to assignments is also a nice feature and will be one less thing you have to worry about when completing your ePortfolio. Feel free to use my Dropbox referral link when signing up. It will provide both you and I an additional 500mb of storage (https://db.tt/PQpqs5Tu).
Similarly, I recommend using Google Docs and Google Sheets. I used Google products to write my assignments. It always ensured that my work was saved in real time and was always backed up. The ability to collaborate in both these tools is extremely convenient when working on group projects. If your professor wants assignments submitted in Word (.doc or .docx) format, Google Docs allows you to do that. You can easily download and format your assignments once you have finished writing. Another Google product that I found useful was Google Calendar. I won’t cover Google Calendar in this post as the benefits of good organization are clear. Again, Google Calendar allows for convenient syncing with various computers and devices.
Familiarize yourself with the competencies
All students would be wise to familiarize themselves with the 15 competencies students are required to showcase to graduate from the program. I’m not saying that you need to memorize them, just read them through. Perhaps generalizing them will help you to keep them in mind as you work through the program.
I generalized the competencies as follows:
- Comp A: Ethics
- Comp B: Environments
- Comp C: Demographics
- Comp D: Management
- Comp E: Databases
- Comp F: Collection Development
- Comp G: Cataloguing
- Comp H: Technology
- Comp I: Reference
- Comp J: Information Seeking Behavior
- Comp K: Teaching
- Comp L: Research
- Comp M: Communication
- Comp N: Evaluation
- Comp O: Global/International
These are broad categories, so be mindful of that when planning. A full and detailed competency list can be found on the SJSU website.
Choose the “right” courses
One of SJSU’s strengths is their extensive course selection. While selecting all the courses you “want” to take can be fun, it’s wise to keep the above competencies in mind when selecting courses. Ensuring a balance of interesting classes with those required to fulfill competencies will make it easier for you later on, especially when looking for courses to fulfill specific competencies. It would be awful to get to your final semester only to learn you have nothing to fulfill competency O! Use your best judgement when selecting courses. Look at past offerings, is it a course offered on rotation? Is it offered every year? Is it offered every other year? Do your research when picking courses, it will save you a lot of anxiety and stress later.
Do you need help planning and tracking your course selection? I’ve made a tool for that! This tool allows you to track course selection by filling in information such as: the course code, number of credits, whether the course is completed, in progress, or future/planned. This tool also allows you to track your competencies. I have written a very detailed guide on using this tool here. If this tool interests you, I really recommend reading that post here.
Managing your assignments
Once you start completing courses at SJSU you are going to start getting the “remember to save all your work” notifications from the SJSU system. This is something you should try to keep up on. I recommend creating a Dropbox file for each course you take. Organizing your assignments early might seem tedious, but trust me, it is going to make your job easier at the end of each term and more importantly when you are working on your ePortfolio. I didn’t save assignment instructions. I wish I had. This can be extremely helpful when completing your ePortfolio. Again, a bit of time spent saving and organizing your assignments now will help you in the future. Think of it as an investment.
Similarly, I suggest starting a Google Doc in which you start planning which assignments match with which competency. Don’t wait until your final semester to do this! While this may sound tedious, it is going to make your job much easier when you are ready to start working on your ePortfolio. This may even help you plan assignments in your future courses to fulfill competencies that you might be lacking evidence for.
As you decide which assignments you want to use for evidence, you can link directly to the assignment (which you’ve saved in Dropbox) in your Google Doc.
Below is my actual working document. I didn’t make it “pretty”. It was functional and that was all I worried about.
Tracking ePortfolio competency status’
I’m someone who loves to look at data. When completing my ePortfolio someone shared a competency “colouring” wheel. This was a printable pie chart that you colour in as you submit and complete competencies. This was a great reward when a competency was complete but I thought, “this doesn’t give me a true representation of my progress”. I compare the ePortfolio to a marathon, not a race. I wanted a tool that would show my overall progress including what I completed, what has been submitted, what I am currently writing, what I need to revise, etc. I wanted to know everything about my progress.
When I created my “competency tracker” I wanted to have the ability to track additional data. If you, like me, like to track statistics such as word count and page count you can do this in my competency tracker, however, it is not required.
What I like about this tool is that it allows you to visually identify where you are throughout the process. By default I have setup the sheet to make the status of each competency as “To Write” since they haven’t been worked on. A drop down menu allows students to change the status of each competency. It is important to use the drop down menu since it directly effects the visualization tool I created.
I have included a pie chart to visually show the student’s progress throughout the ePortfolio journey. This works similarly to the printable colouring wheel I mentioned above, however, it gives students a much better idea of their overall progress.
This ePortfolio tracking tool is available here. This document is “view only” so you will have to save a copy if you want to make modifications or input your data. Just click “file” and choose “make a copy” from the drop down menu. Next choose a location in your Google Drive for where you want the file to be located.
Many people have asked me what I thought of the SJSU MLIS program and more generally about my experience in an online environment. I personally found the journey fun and enjoyable. I attribute my experience with my ability to stay organized, not only at the course level but at a higher program level. The tools I created above played a significant role in that organization and in the end, my success.
Remember, completing this degree is a marathon, not a race.
Have you completed your ePortfolio? Feel free to share what worked (or didn’t work) for you in the comments below!