Thursday, February 14, 2013

Back to school on my couch

This assignment calls for me to assess my own abilities and shortcomings as an online student and member of a team. I can't honestly say that I learned new information from the readiness assessments or the teamwork videos, but they did help me to internalize some things I have been avoiding.
I am a procrastinator. I have always been a procrastinator. (What's that you say? I'm supposed to be completely finished with this class in less than a week?) As a freshman at Reed, my advisor told me that, contrary to general wisdom, I appeared to function and write much better under a time constraint. In context, he found an essay I wrote during an exam, for which I had an hour, to be much better reasoned and written than the papers I had written for him with weeks of time. He told me to embrace my panic-induced brilliance (relative), and I faithfully wrote the final fifty pages of my senior thesis in the week, then hours, before it was due, in tribute to Nigel. Though I don't think Nigel intended me to take his advice quite so literally, it nonetheless served me well enough at Reed. However, as I have learned during these first few weeks of SLIS, online graduate school is a far different beast.
At Reed, my primary motivation for completing my readings or papers was to ensure my professors and fellow students didn't think I was a waste of space. I didn't know my actual grades until I opened up the copy of my transcript before sending it off to grad schools. The attitude among my friends and professors was that grades were a crass necessity needed only to give objective information to the venal administrators of graduate schools. Group projects, in addition, were unheard of. There was no middle ground between individual and collective.
Here I find myself at least a week behind in my readings for my classes, putting off this class because it's *just* a class about how to succeed in an online environment, having to confront the reality of grades and non-paper assignments for the first time in almost ten years. Alas, "I'm changing, fearfully changing!" I know that self-motivation is not an innate skill of mine but is a necessarily element of online courses. From now on, I will be assigning myself daily tasks in order to keep on top of my work, and work at it until it becomes a natural habit to work on things steadily rather than all at once, last minute. I hear it's possible.
As for group projects, because I've put off this class for so long, I've already encountered many of the problems of a poorly thought out group project for another class. I approached the assignment with all of the prejudices mentioned in the lecture - hating the idea of a group project because I could do it better on my own, avoiding possible conflict over group organization by doing as much of the work myself as I could, etc. Our group leader was very good at trying to include everyone and setting internal deadlines for the project, but our main issue was not setting expectations for the group at the beginning. I think a lot of the problem originates with the fact that most of us are in our first semester of SLIS and still navigating how the whole thing works without having the added complication of working with other people. With the explicit advice offered by the lectures, I'm hopeful that the next steps in our group endeavor will be smoother.