Advice For Students, By A Student

Midway through his latest course in Metropolitan College’s Master of Science in Computer Information Systems online program — IT Security Policies and Procedures, to be precise — Shawn McElhinney delivered to his classmates a different sort of Valentine back on February 14th.

An experienced member of BU’s online community, who has now completed nine classes toward his master’s degree and whose busy home life as a working father of three is typical of so many of our students, he showed his fellow learners some love by sharing with them his tips on how to successfully navigate coursework amidst a crowded life.

Included among his post were a variety of pointers applicable not only to Shawn’s colleagues in the CIS program, but to all of our online students in general — so we’ve decided to pass them along. Included among the post pasted below are comments from the Office of Distance Education’s student services team, who explain in further detail why Shawn’s advice is so valuable.

Enjoy, and if you’d like even more information about a particular point, please don’t hesitate to ask us by using the comment area at the bottom of this post!


SUBJECT: Mush brain
CS 684 — Water Cooler
AUTHOR: Shawn McElhinney
DATE: February 14, 2012  11:58 AM

This is my 9th class & I can tell you it is tough to get through. Three kids (3, 5, 16), wife back to work, 50+ hour weeks, school, and kid’s activities. Makes it tough. It is doable though.

I recommend taking some time to lay out a course calendar. This way you can visually see the deliverables you have for the upcoming week (reading, discussion posts, homework, quizzes, etc.) and set start & completion dates for them. If you can follow the schedule it will prevent you from last minute anxiety to get work done.BQ Patti
Honestly, this is one of the lighter workload classes in the curriculum. The external research required is probably the most useful component of the course (this will help you immensely as you go forward in the program).

Here’s a recommendation – if you haven’t done so already, identify the courses you need/want to take in the curriculum.  If there is significant overlap in a course and your professional experience, request a substitution – then take a course that you can learn more in. Once you have the classes identified, go to the MSCIS website & look at the course schedule. Try to plan out as much of the program as you can.

This process will identify gaps in class availability that you may not be able to avoid – it may warrant taking a semester off for a mental break. If you feel like your brain is mush now, you may find some value in taking next summer off to mentally recoup.
BQ Daisy

Also, always try to get your books and a copy of the syllabus as early as possible. I read slower than death, so I like to dig into the material before the class starts. Some classes will have 100+ pages of reading a week, so it is tough to stay on top of. Other classes will be light on reading & heavy on work – I remember one class required almost 50+ hours a week of work to complete everything, but that was an exception.
BQ Jan

The big thing to remember is this is a learning experience. I’m glad I’m doing it with several years of experience under my belt, as I think I have a better understanding of the material beforehand. You have a wealth of knowledge in your groups, facilitators, and instructors – don’t hesitate to leverage it, they are here to help you excel, not mindlessly regurgitate information.
BQ Jen

The last comment I’ll make is this: Keep an open line of communication with your group facilitator. Life happens and sometimes it will impact your ability to perform academically. If you speak with your facilitator early and often they are more likely to work with you when you have issues. They are not so forgiving when you come to them in the 11th hour and ask for an extension.
BQ Liz

Have fun with this, you have access to experience from all over the world. It is a truly unique and amazing opportunity to learn and grow. Make the most of it.

Best of luck.



Matthew Beckner posted on March 16, 2012 at 3:57 am

Thanks for the advice!

Matt Donnelly posted on May 4, 2012 at 12:36 am

Thanks for the input! Hope to be joining the MCIS program this fall!

Keith Heimann posted on June 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Thanks very much for this helpful post, Shawn. I will be starting the DMA in music this fall.

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