Sunday, June 2, 2013

Libraries and MOOCs - the missing link?

Several surveys indicate that the majority of people studying on MOOCs already have a university background and that these courses are not reaching new learners as much as many would hope. The problem is that most people have a traditional school education behind them and need clear instructions, feedback and supervision. Many MOOCs on the other hand demand rather advanced study skills, independence and digital literacy and for those who lack these skills a MOOC can be a bewildering and daunting environment.

That's where libraries come in according to an article on OEDb, Librarians: Your Most Valuable MOOC Supporters. Libraries provide study guidance and information retrieval tuition for campus courses so why not for MOOCs? The article urges librarians to get involved in the MOOC debate by trying them out for themselves and finding ways of supporting MOOC students with trustworthy study guides and literature lists. Many MOOCs that are already on offer have not integrated library services into the package and librarians at MOOC-universities need to get involved in course design from the beginning.

"Miller sees libraries supporting MOOC students by doing many of the things they’ve always done, like providing access to resources, and even existing as a place where learners can use the Internet to access a MOOC. Miller points to the many potential MOOC support roles for librarians: as copyright consultants to MOOC faculty, tech and research assistance for MOOC learners and instructional design consultants as MOOCs are built.

Librarians can extend beyond the role of MOOC support, though. Librarians are experts in information and other resources that can help both faculty and students in MOOCs. In addition to a support role, Miller would like to see librarians move to the role of collaborators in growing MOOC potential."

The difference is that the people taking MOOCs are not on campus, they're everywhere else. So it's time for public libraries to get involved in MOOCs providing support for informal learning, offering computer access, advice and hands-on support for learners unused to online learning. It's not just university level MOOCs, there are lots of other types of informal online courses through channels like Udemy or Peer 2 Peer University and many of the people who would most benefit from them are completely unaware of what's available. There are many libraries who are already offering support for lifelong learning but the rise of the MOOCs puts this even more in the spotlight.

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