Is your college or university doing MOOCs? They’re the hottest new thing on campus today—even more than Sunday omelette bar, Sufjan Stevens or the new Politics of Gender course offering. But what are these MOOCs with their awkward names? And what do they have to do with your library?
Short for Massive Open Online Classes, MOOCs are a new way of learning that spreads engagement beyond the classroom and into the community at large. Like an online course on steroids, MOOCs rely on video lectures by professors, some student interaction and online educational tools to teach a course. These classes register tens of thousands of students and some have numbered as many as 160,000 in a class—making it impossible to provide professorial support.
MOOCs are a smart way to get your library involved with the learning going on at your institution. Here’s why you should care about this new form of learning:
They impact your mission.
MOOCs give you a chance to reach out to student populations who were otherwise difficult to reach, like students studying abroad or those who just take online classes. Academic libraries like yours are committed to keeping learning possible for all populations, so MOOCs provide a way to keep your services relevant to distant learners.
They could change your job for the better.
As MOOCs continue to gain popularity, we learn more about the potential of the medium, including where they intersect with, or are contrary to, established library values. MOOCs require that all participants can access and study important resources related to the course, wherever they are in the world. As traditional leaders of furthering education and exposing students to new resources (especially digitally), libraries can and should play an important role in helping faculty and students—wherever they are—gain access to information.
Keeping up with MOOCs means keeping up with technology.
You’re probably already guessing that MOOCs require a strong technology structure to function correctly, and you’re right: not only is the bandwidth required to host streaming content for thousands of people, but licensing agreements and models require a lot of tech know-how. Penn State University Library has resources in place to help professors and staff developing MOOCs to do so in line with copyright issues, and facilitates finding open-access resources. The library is the perfect place for professors, staff and students to connect around MOOCs—and make them the best they can be.
They let you share your knowledge in a new way.
MOOCs are built on the theory of connectivism: students need to be able to seek out information by themselves, filter secondary and extraneous information and reach their own conclusions on their research. The University of Florida, for example, provides great resources on how to navigate the world of MOOCs, find the perfect one for you and how to find the research needed to complete the course. Libraries the perfect place for students to learn how to do the research needed to participate in MOOCs, and librarians are the perfect people to help them find, evaluate and use information.
If you’re looking to get your library hooked up with MOOCs and other cutting-edge resources but don’t know where to start, download our checklist of the 9 innovations shaping academic libraries today for ideas.