Wendy Newman, Sr. Fellow at the University of Toronto iSchool, introduced us to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). (Her co-author, Sandy Hirsh, Director of the San Jose State University iSchool, was unable to attend, but her slides are available on the conference website.) Jill Hurst-Wahl, the track moderator, set the stage by giving some definitions of “MOOC”. In the context of MOOCs, “massive” can mean thousands of students; “open” may not mean open to all; and the concept of a “course” is frequently not clear. All MOOCs are not the same, nor are they equal.
Wendy’s talk was entitled “MOOCs as Continuing Professional Education: The Case of Library Advocacy Unshushed” (which is the title of her MOOC). She said that we are currently at a tipping point with MOOCs. Here are some library schools offering MOOCs (see the photo below).
An ALA panel last year identified several characteristics of MOOCs: hope, concern, optimism, and skepticism; retention issues; and the business model. Gartner has said that MOOCs appear to be in the “trough of disillusionment” now. Reasons for an institution offering MOOCs include: building their reputation, providing professional development, exploring delivery and business models, strengthening relationships with alumni and faculty, exploring and evaluating pedagogy and open platforms, and contributing to innovation. Participants’ reasons for enrolling in MOOCs include professional development, networking by isolated practitioners, curiosity, credentials, and credits.
Some of the lessons that Wendy learned in creating “The Library Unshushed”:
- The “sweet spot” for MOOCs is 6 to 8 weeks, with one session each week; any longer and it becomes difficult for many people to complete the course.
- It can take hundreds of hours to create a MOOC (Wendy’s took about 300 hours).
- The larger the group taking the MOOC, the harder it is to facilitate community engagement within it.
- Lectures should be limited to 5 to 10 minutes.
- Don’t just have a “talking face” for more than about a minute. Have something going on visually; include some illustrations and videos. (These are difficult to design and produce.)
- Guest speakers can add good variety to a MOOC.
Here are some impacts of MOOCs in library schools:
In a final assignment, students were asked to record their reflections. They reflected a deeper understanding and commitment to leadership advocacy and changes in confidence.
Can MOOCs grow? Yes! They provide opportunities and will enable a deeper understanding than can be gained in conferences and blogs; improve the accessibility of research; help with recruitment into the profession; connect programs and practitioners; model roles of librarians in design and implementation; and perhaps provide models for sustainability.