Saturday, March 16, 2013

What Do Librarians Need to Know About MOOCs?

Forrest Wright / Thomson Reuters


Over the past several months, the proliferation of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) has been hailed as a potent defense against the rising cost and insular culture of attending a traditional college. The courses, which are generally taught by experts with affiliations to elite universities, are characterized by their unique pedagogy and unlimited enrollment. To date, no course has been accepted for transfer credit at a major on-campus institution; however some administrators and higher-education experts predict their gradual integration into university curriculum. This article examines the MOOC phenomenon, identifying aspects that academic librarians should consider in the coming years, including how these courses interact with scholarly resources and library services. Methods for integrating library services in these courses are evaluated, with recommendations for the best course of action.



The emergence of MOOCs represents a rising trend of removing the learning process from the physical campus, but to an exaggerated degree. This is not necessarily a negative trend; however it does have huge implications for university libraries. The reality of expanded online education in addition to library cutbacks means that librarians have to serve more for less. Additionally, distance learning, particularly MOOCs, rely on professors to select and provide access to scholarly resources by posting links, rather than consulting the library for access to relevant resources. The continued expansion of distance learning will only exacerbate this problem, which is why academic librarians at certain universities have introduced novel approaches to involving library services in online classes, such as integrating tutorials and resource guides. It is my hope that librarians will at least be aware of these challenges and be ready to provide service, or else risk being left out of a huge new development in online higher-education.

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