Thursday, April 4, 2013

Duke Librarians Aid MOOCs With Technology, Research

Margot Tuchler | April 4, 2013

Coursera students see their professors in the online course videos, but they do not see the teams of people working behind the scenes to make the videos possible.

The advent of massive open online courses in the higher education community—specifically Coursera, which Duke partnered with last summer—has demanded expertise from a variety of sectors across the Duke Libraries system, which is responsible for more than just books and databases. In fact, the relationship between professors and the online Coursera platform has largely been bridged by the Center for Instructional Technology, a division of Duke Libraries dedicated to helping teachers integrate various technologies into their lessons.

Apart from CIT’s role in supporting the structure of online courses, Duke Libraries and its constituents have helped professors gather materials for courses and ensure that they are transferable to Coursera’s massive audiences.

“For a long time, the library, working closely with [the Office of Information Technology], has been the fulcrum for assisting faculty in introducing new technologies into their classes,” said Provost Peter Lange, noting that he immediately turned to Lynne O’Brien, director of academic technology and instructional services, to help with the move to MOOCs. “She’s been my right-hand person throughout all of this. That puts the library at the center.”

CIT helps professors make their course materials align with the Coursera platform, O’Brien noted.

“The staff in [CIT] have been the primary consultants to faculty on the development of Coursera courses,” O’Brien wrote in an email Wednesday. “We work closely with colleagues in [OIT] and Duke Media Services on production of Coursera video materials.”

Apart from CIT, O’Brien noted that Duke Libraries’ involvement also extends to other departments, including Data and GIS Services, Digital Scholarship and Production Services and the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communication.


Apart from helping professors prepare for their Coursera classes, the library system has also played a role in assisting professors who wish to implement the new “flipped classroom” model to their on-campus classes. CIT staff led workshops about flipping the classroom that around 70 faculty attended and provided consulting for the new educational approach, O’Brien said.


The structure of Duke’s library is not very common among its peer institutions, O’Brien said, noting that Duke seems to be ahead of the game in terms of integrating technological assistance and access to course materials through one streamlined system. Duke joined Coursera last July, when only 15 schools other were participating. Now, Coursera hosts 62 universities.

“Duke is envied by many peer libraries for its close relationship between teaching support and instructional technology along with research services in the library,” O’Brien said. “It’s been a very busy year for everyone.”

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