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,


Innovating Pedagogy: a benchmark for teaching and learning?

I’ve been reading the recently published Innovation Report from the Open University, Innovating Pedagogy 2012: exploring new forms of teaching, learning and assessment, to guide educators and policy makers. You can access a copy of the report from here:

The report outlines 10 aspects of pedagogy that the authors believe may have an impact on education over the coming years. Two things struck me about the report: they refer to aspects of education that have a direct and indirect correlation to libraries and information, and the report really does seem to summarise a large number of topics and initiatives that seems to be really prevalent and ‘of the moment’ on twitter, in the literature, etc.

According to the report, the 10 aspects of education that may a significant impact on education over the coming years:

e-Books: dynamic formats, and innovative uses of accessing and using ebooks

Publisher-led short courses: offering self-directed, CPD learning opportunities

Assessment for Learning: changing the focus of assessment from assessment of learning outcomes towards assessment for feedback to enhance the learning

Badges: Awarding ‘non-formal learning’ through a widely-recognised honour or badge system.

MOOCs: Massive open online courses brings open-access education to the masses.

Changing nature of academic publishing: the continued development of open-access scholarly publishing initiatives

Seamless Learning: learning across multiple locations, platforms, formats in a continued way

Learning Analytics: Emphasis on obtaining data to learn more about the learner and their contexts in an effort to improve learning opportunities

Personal Inquiry Learning: Focus on the learner as an active, exploratory learning agent involved in discovery and inquiry learning processes.

Rhizomatic Learning: learning occurring through multi-facets/avenues of inquiry, taking contexts and previous knowledge and experiences into consideration, using social and personal sources of learning to foster a personal learning network.

The report got me thinking a bit about a recent paper in College & Research Library News abnout ACRL’s top ten trends in academic libraries for 2012. Available here:

ACRL listed communicating value, IT developments, mobile environments, Patron-driven ebook acquisition, new schoarly communication models and user behaviours and expectations as some of the trends for libraries for this year. I can make some clear connections between ACRL’s trends and the Innovating Pedagogy report.

As always, I’m reminded that the divide between education and the role of the library is always, and should always, be linked and intertwined.


Sharples, M, McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Hirst, T., Mor, Y., Gaved, M. and Whitelock, D. (2012) Innovating pedagogy 2012: OPen University Innovation Report 1. Milton Keynes: The Open University,

Information Literacy and Summon

Looks like the SummonIL event in the UK yesterday was a great day, with lots of ideas, experiences and approaches being shared. Head on over to for the live blogged posts from the day. Looks like there’s plans afoot for more content over the next while. Great idea.

You might know my views on the whole area of IL and discovery services. We’ve just launched Summon in our library, so September 2012 is going to be a really interesting time for us.


Interactive EndNote tutorial available on PRIMO

Back in the workplace, an online interactive EndNote tutorial that a bunch of us worked on has been accepted for inclusion on the PRIMO database. PRIMO is the ALA/ACRL database for Peer-reviewed Instructional Materials Online and is a great resource. We’re delighted to be included.

You’ll find more information on the WIT Libraries EndNote tutorial by clicking the image below.

ImageYou can access the EndNote tutorial directly from:

Information Literacy in an era of web-scale discovery

The era of web-based discovery resources is not new – its been here a while. A large number of libraries now boast the much sought after single search box that will unlock the doors to the library’s full wealth of collections (however decreasing they might be).

And it has led to some librarians questioning how these web-scale discovery services impact on how we teach information literacy. There’s a real dichotomy at play; do we put on our librarian hats and scoff at ‘real research’ being done with one search box; a lack of Boolean operators and search syntax commands? Or do we put on our users’ hats and think about how they search (and use information) and why the single search option is so appealing?

Web-scale search products should give us the chance to rethink our concepts of information literacy teaching. If we’re lamenting the single search box because it means it’ll be harder for us to teach students complex search skills, then we’re missing the point. If we think our students aren’t going to find the single search box on our website, and not use it, we’re wrong. If we think that students are going to choose an A&I resource over a discovery service that finds full text resources, we’re wrong. If we think students are going to choose the complex, confusing and never-ending list of search options from the single database, versus the simplicity of a single search box, we really don’t understand our students.

There’s a great paper by Lucy Holman (subscription required: that really highlights the main problem. And it’s this: students think they’re great at finding stuff. But students really do overestimate their IL and information seeking skills and understandings. Holman found that students’ lack real robust mental models of searching. Holman concludes by saying that it’s time for IL and teaching librarians to rethink how we teach students. Lucy rightly wonders if we should be focusing on teaching students why their searches went wrong, how they could refine and amend searches, rather than construct the perfect all-encompassing search from the beginning.

Holman’s suggestion means we shift not only what we teach, but how we teach. Information literacy teaching has to meet the students where they’re at, right in the middle of their own search problems. And if that’s going to be on any library resource, that’s going to be in the Summon, EBSCO Discovery and other web-scale discovery services.

We can’t ignore discovery services, and we can’t ignore the opportunities they afford us to rethink our own approaches to teaching information literacy.

EDIT: In the lastest edition of College & Research Libraries News is a short piece reflecting on teaching Summon. Beyond simple, easy and fast: reflections on teaching Summon, by Catherine Cardwell, Vera Lux, Robert J. Snyder.

Flipping the Library Classroom

There has been quite a bit of online chatter recently, (and increasingly so in the LIS field) about the concept

of flipping the classroom. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education really outlines the premise of the idea.

Students cannot passively receive material in class… Instead they gather the information largely outside of class… [W]hen they are in class, students do what is typically thought to be homework, solving problems with their professors or peers, and applying what they learn to new contexts.
(Berrett, Feb 19th 2012, CHE).

According to the article, one of the most important features of the flipped classroom is that the teacher can correct any student misconceptions at a crucial point in the learning process (and not while students are participating in graded summative assessment).

The infographic on the right by Knewton illustrates the concept very well. (Click to go to source)

Some articles and posts on flipped classrooms have emphasised the importance of, and opportunity for, online videos and other multimedia learning objects. Here’s one such post.

And inevitably, we find ourselves asking if we can flip our library classroom. I especially like some of the questions that Donna Watt asks in her post, Flipped classrooms as an activator for library thinking. Essentially, she talks about the librarian breaking beyond the library walls, and sees the potential for greater outreach. The most recent post in the Association of College and Research Libraries Blog, ACRLog asks specifically if we can flip our IL sessions, particularly, as they point out, when a lot of them are one-shot: Can we Flip the Library Classroom?

For me, the part that most appeals about flipping the classroom is as Berrett suggests; being able to identify and correct students misconceptions. We know that students (particularly higher level students) assume they have little to learn from IL library sessions. We also know that these very same students actually need much more help and direction than they realise. I think flipping the classroom can help bridge this gap.

Sure, we can design and develop a host of reusable online learning objects that the students may or may not refer to before they head into a flipped library classroom. But by far they best thing that students can bring into the flipped classroom is their IL experience. Their bad habits. Their coping mechanisms. I think students build information literacy coping mechanisms, particularly as their undergraduate (and maybe postgraduate) careers progress. By flipping the classroom and asking students to solve IL problems, we engage them in the process of their information literacy habits. When we’re there with them as the facilitator, we can expose them to their shortfalls, and guide them to overcoming these. In the flipped classroom, the process of information literacy is so much more important than the product of information literacy. (I’ve said this before, and will again).

Flipping the library classroom? I think I’m already doing it, in many ways.