MOOCs Panel

(L-R) Meg White, Rittenhouse Book Distributors (moderator); Meredith Schwartz, Library Jouranal; Lynn Sutton, Wake Forest University; Rick Anderson, University of Utah

Meredith Schwartz said that MOOCs are a Massive Opportunity for Libraries and have started to enter the public consciousness.

One role for librarians in MOOCs is a material matchmaker, primarily in locating open access alternatives and helping faculty to find materials for students.  This is a side effect of making their work open access and negotiating permissions.

Content for MOOCs:

Content for MOOCs

It is important to figure out what counts as fair use and use only the smallest part of the material that you need.

At present, it appears that there have been 3 MOOCs developed by library science instructors.

MOOCs for Librarianship

In the public library, MOOCs are still developing.  There is no way to track how many students are using libraries’ computers to access MOOC content.

Assessment is still an unanswered question; it is not clear whether student learning goals are measured by completion of the course.

Further reading

Further reading

Lynn Sutton described how the Wake Forest University library created its own MOOC because they did not want to be left out of the latest development in education.  Libraries have more to offer to the MOOC discussion than locating public domain images or providing copyright existence.  We have faced disruptive change successfully  Now change is coming to higher education and we can lead that change.

What happened at WFU:


MOOC mania developed last year. The library developed a MOOC which was a success, but the faculty was doubtful and angry that the library developed a MOOC.

The library’s first MOOC was entitled.” Cure for the Common Web”, which taught students how to search the web.  There were 700 registrants from 6 continents, and the students were very happy with the course.  The next course was one for parents of incoming students on what it means to be the parent of a college student today.  About half of the parents interacted during the course, and 20% finished.  Those who finished it loved it.  This course is having a positive impact.  One parent said it changed her attitude towards her daughter.  Future plans include partnering with the public library to offer a genealogy course.

Rick Anderson discussed how we should be thinking about MOOCs.  He said that sometimes we worry too much about the motivation of the providers. Some only want to make money and are enemies of traditional higher education.  We should not be distracted by such considerations.

MOOCs are emerging in a real marketplace of time and attention.  Their impact does not hinge on whether we think they are a good idea, but whether they solve a real problem.  The real problem is that traditional education is expensive in terms of time and money.  Lots of people want it.  They want learning and certification.

The traditional higher education monopoly over learning and certification is eroding.  MOOCs are here to stay because there is no reason for them to disappear.  What do we do with this tool? How can we use it to provide as much good as possible?

What should librarians think about?  What does a university’s MOOC behavior imply for the library?  Normally according to vendor license terms, access to purchased library services is restricted to currently enrolled students and faculty.  But we do not restrict access to research services—anybody can go into the library and get reference service, which is also true of phone reference or chat services.  MOOCs could force changes in those practices or scaling them up.  Scale is an unexplored problem in libraries.  The reason we think reference services work is that so few people try to use them.   MOOCs could force us to face that issue.

We think open access is a good thing as long as it threatens the traditional practices of publishers.  We will find that where there is more enthusiasm for MOOCs there will be more pressure on OA policies and mandates.

What should libraries do right now?

What should libraries do?

Take leadership. Look at what WFU has done.  How much bibliographic instruction could be turned into a MOOC?

MOOCs will destroy the traditional textbook market because they can perform a similar function.  Libraries are in a strong position to take advantage of that to help it to happen.

Take care with cautious optimism and take risks with due diligence.  We need to know what we’re getting into before we take the leap.


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