The Library, the librarian and the MOOC

It’s been tumbleweed city around this blog for the last while as I finished up my dissertation. You can expect lots of blog posts over the next while as I break my research down into blog-able posts. Teaching IL through PBL and POGIL coming soon!

And instead of just taking time away from learning, I’ve found myself enrolled on two MOOCs/online courses. I signed up for Statistics 101, but decided this was a little bit heavy for a post-dissertation come down. The weekly emails make me feel a little bit guilty though. I have also signed up for Google’s Power Searching, mostly out of curiosity – curiosity to see what Google have to say about searching Google. I admit to not being behind on the classes, but I’m still enrolled and participating still.

And that’s where I find myself with MOOCs at the moment; curious. It seemed that MOOCs (massive online open courses) were everywhere over the past few months. You might be forgiven for thinking that they would quickly and dramatically change the way teaching and learning occurs. The most commonly known MOOC provider, Coursera, is close to 1.5 million users! Interestingly, TIME magazine online suggests that only a fraction of users who sign up for a course actually complete it (Hmm, I’m guilty of that one!). I guess time will really tell the tale how MOOCs will play out, and how exactly they’ll impact education.

But let’s for a minute imagine that they have longevity. And that things like iTunesU become more common place in education. What implications might that have for libraries, and librarians? (Might it have any?) And what about offering a MOOC looking at the area of information literacy? What about collaborating with a non-library MOOC to introduce elements of IL into “the curriculum”? As I re-read my last few questions, I’m reminding myself that these questions aren’t new to libraries or librarians, but the format, or delivery, has obviously changed.

So whether the MOOC continues to grow, or whether something new comes along, I’m sure we’ll continue to try and see how the library fits into the model. Regardless, I think ANCIL’s words ring true (for me at least): ‘While online elements offer useful reinforcement for students who need immediate help at a specific time (such as an approaching essay deadline), we believe that information literacy, as a fundamental aspect of learner development, needs to taught face to face’ (Secker, J, Coonan, E. (2011) A new curriculum for information literacy, Arcadia Project, p. 7,


4 thoughts on “The Library, the librarian and the MOOC

  1. I completed the Google course myself last time around just to see what Google thinks is important about searching. I found it quite disappointing from a user perspective however – far too lengthy and not interactive or engaging enough in my opinion. I think this is a big problem with a lot of (though not all!) MOOCs out there – they are built like traditional face-to-face courses using videos of lectures and downloadable slides etc. I think well-designed MOOCS can work well (particularly for say a CPD context) but still think they will work best as part of a blended learning approach. Looking forward to the POGIL posts!

    1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. What’s the point of just replicating form and content from a face-to-face session and stuffing it into an online format. Like all teaching scenarios, it should be fit for purpose (be it blended or fully online)

  2. I’m a MLIS student, and enrolled in a MOOC through Coursera. Last night I searched the discussion board for folks who had introduced themselves as librarians — and I found quite a few. I know that there are professors enrolled in the course who are conducting subforums about the MOOC format. I need to start the same thing with the librarians in the group. My experience thus far: the professor and TAs are doing a tremendous job. They are enthusiastic and involved. I’m learning a ton. That being said — information is flying fast and furiously in the course. The amount of data being generated by comment threads, etc. is, well, massive, and right now only superficially searchable. This concerns me, as do many other aspects of the format. I’m privileged to have attended a f2f university course many times over, though, and to now have the luxury of critiquing this new form in comparison. My most memorable MOOC moment thus far was reading a tiny little comment among thousands: “Thank you. I’ve never taken a university class before.”

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