As massive open online courses move toward version 2.0, libraries are in a unique position to guide and support the future of blended learning.
By Irene Gashurov, Curtis Kendrick
MOOCs are experiencing an existential crisis. They have demonstrated their capacity to spread learning beyond traditional populations and to make learning both less expensive and more efficient. On the other hand, MOOCs can suppress student engagement, compromise the educational mission with the profit motive, and raise hosts of unanswered questions about the integrity of data in the unpoliced realm of the Internet. At their essence, MOOCs are about the flow of information in digital form, not only confidential data about students but also the intellectual property that is the university’s stock in trade. And it is in this management of information flows that libraries can make their greatest contribution to the debate about the future of MOOCs, both in encouraging student engagement and managing the dissemination of knowledge.
Libraries and MOOCs
Besides being centers of information, libraries are perfectly situated to deliver the institutional support and physical infrastructure that can help students engage with online courses. The library that delivers support services to a student need not be the one affiliated with a course’s originating institution. This August, the New York Public Library embarked on one such venture with its first foray into blended learning, combining MOOC technology with in-person help. In the experiment, the library provided its space as a so-called learning hub for a Coursera class. New Yorkers who signed up for the six-week class, “The Camera Never Lies,” met each week for 90 minutes at either of two NYPL branches to discuss their work with each other and with a facilitator. The idea behind the pilot is the hypothesis that the very high MOOC dropout rate might be caused by a lack of pedagogical support and community. Coursera’s program at the NYPL is providing participants with the mentors and social experience they need to keep them on the rolls. Each week the library tracked student attendance, their level of engagement with the materials and the range of their skills. “Among the goals of the experiment is to explore what MOOCs mean for libraries,” said Luke Swarthout, NYPL’s director of adult education services. “We’re excited to see how this goes.” NYPL is offering another MOOC in poetry in the fall, which uses a community of enthusiasts online to act as facilitators.
Libraries are also taking the lead in addressing the impact of MOOCs on educational norms — on privacy, content sharing, intellectual property and accreditation. Librarians are especially well positioned to help universities navigate copyright legislation. And by participating at the planning stages of MOOCs, they can help ensure that reading materials are open source. In addition, libraries are exploring ways to use MOOCs for professional development and self-directed continuing education. Last fall, San Jose State University professor Michael Stephens taught one of the first library MOOCs, The HyperLinked Library, and is exploring the use of MOOCs in the core library courses at the university’s library program.
[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2014/11/06/can-libraries-save-the-mooc.aspx ]