Saturday, March 16, 2013

Libraries and MOOCs

The MOOC sounds like the latest monster from a dystopian YA novel, but actually, it’s much more real than that.  A MOOC is a massive, open, online course.  These free, college-level online courses are becoming more popular as universities such as Harvard and Stanford join the open education movement.  This is not a passing fancy.  Recently, 160,000 people signed up for a MOOC on artificial intelligence!

Why should libraries care?  Well, as this educational phenomenon grows, you might find yourself supporting some of these self-motivated learners at the library.  Libraries are always trying to gaze into the future to understand the shifts in technology and learning that could affect services, so this is one trend you might want to keep an eye on. Learning on the web may become more the norm than in-person classes in twenty years (or less?).  This also emphasizes how integral digital literacy will be for the next generations.

In addition, some of the more monetarily challenged librarians that I know might want to actually take some of these free courses for sheer edification.  You know, lifelong learning and all that jazz.  Incidentally, some of the first online courses to go up were out of Stanford University and focused on computer science.  The basics of networking, programming languages and gaming courses are still very popular MOOC’s that could be useful to librarians or your staff.

Traditionally, MOOC’s have not offered students college credit.  However, this is changing as universities get creative with ways to generate revenue.  In some cases, students can now pay to take a test after completing the courses in order to get college credit.  Experts predict that this will remain a very economical option as organizations such as Coursera bring universities together to share resources.


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