Monday, March 25, 2013

CHE > For Libraries, MOOCs Bring Uncertainty and Opportunity

March 25, 2013, 2:28 pm

By Jennifer Howard

Philadelphia — A lot of the discussion about massive open online courses has revolved around students and professors. What role can academic librarians play in the phenomenon, and what extra responsibilities do MOOCs create for them?

At a conference held here at the University of Pennsylvania last week, librarians talked about the chances and challenges that open online courses throw their way. The conference, “MOOCs and Libraries: Massive Opportunity or Overwhelming Challenge?,” was organized by OCLC, a library cooperative that runs the WorldCat online catalog and provides other services and library-related research.


Librarians who get involved in MOOCs should be prepared to deal with “lots of interesting questions for an international audience” of students, Ms. O’Brien said. MOOCs attract students with very different skill sets, languages, technological setups, and knowledge. [snip]

Ms. Bordac described some of the many jobs librarians can be called on to do in support of MOOCs. Library personnel might need to negotiate with publishers over course materials, help make fair-use decisions, track down public-domain images, provide digital production services, set up teaching spaces and equipment, ... . At Brown, Ms. Bordac said, she serves as “a connector” among many several different offices and groups, including the university counsel’s office, media services, and the university library.

Several panelists said that working on MOOCs can be a great way to heighten instructors’ awareness about open access and the licensing of course materials.  [snip]

In the summer of 2012, Berkeley joined the nonprofit edX venture founded by Harvard University and MIT. Ms. Dorner said the university had a wide assortment of online-ed offerings beyond edX. That gives students a lot of options. It can also be a headache for librarians asked to provide support for many different kinds of courses. [snip]

To help figure out strategies for dealing with those challenges, librarians from all of the edX partner institutions have formed two working groups, Ms. Dorner said. One group is looking into the issue of access to content; the other is talking about the research skills that MOOCs require and how librarians can help students develop those skills.

Merrilee Proffitt, a senior program officer for OCLC, helped organize the conference. In a phone conversation afterward, she said it’s very early days for MOOCs, too early for libraries to rush to build MOOC support into their core services. [snip]

But librarians also can’t afford to sit back and let the phenomenon develop without their input. “It’s important for libraries to be engaged in the conversation and present and watching,” Ms. Proffitt said. “This is a great time for experimentation.”

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