Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Librarian of MOOC

It seems that everybody is talking about massive open online courses (MOOCs). Steven J. Bell sang their praises during a doom and gloom ACRL/NEC keynote. The Ubiquitous Librarian, Brian Mathews, credited the universities who pioneer(ed) MOOCs with “inventing the future,” in a recent essay for The Chronicle Blog Network. And, the New York Times published a story last week about how the ventures of MOOC companies, like Coursera, are “part of a seismic shift in online learning that is reshaping higher education.” Readers’ reactions were mixed.


This leads me to my primary reason for enrolling. I’d like to evaluate MOOCs from my perspective as an academic librarian. When I reviewed Coursera’s online offerings, I could not find a single course that required research. Even in a class with multiple writing assignments, such as A History of the World since 1300, students aren’t asked to seek, read, or reference evidence to support their theses. To be fair, the instructor suggests a textbook for serious students: his own, in fact. [snip].

While I am fully aware of the licensing and copyright laws that prohibit MOOCs’ prestigious instructors from recommending that students exploit collections of scholarly resources, I see no reasons why these online learners can’t be urged toward authoritative websites, open access articles, works in the public domain, and the physical and digital holdings of public libraries. [snip].

In my review of Coursera and one of its top competitors, Udacity, I see no evidence of either virtual libraries, subject/course resource guides, or recommended websites. Librarians don’t teach courses, nor will they find employment opportunities at Coursera or Udacity ([snip[



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