Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are gathering lots of attention. Steve Arnold’s cover story (Gadzooks, It’s MOOCs) in the January/February 2013 issue of Online Searcher talked about some of the underlying open source technology, but most of what I read about MOOCs is more on the philosophical/logistics side of things. There’s a good blog post by Steve Dale explaining MOOCs for the information professional. There’s also been discussions in multiple places about where libraries and librarians fit into the MOOC mix. Although the word “free” is not in the MOOC acronym, the “open” piece of it implies free. A criticism from students talking MOOCs is that required readings are not necessarily either open or free. That may be changing.
Coursera decided to experiment with offering free textbooks from Cengage Learning, Macmillan Higher Education, Oxford University Press, SAGE, and Wiley. These publishers, via a partnership with Chegg, will offer versions of their e-textbooks to Coursera students, but only while they are taking the class. Students will have the “opportunity” (that’s the phrasing from the publishers) to purchase the full versions of the textbooks (e or otherwise, I’d assume) if they want to continue their learning experience after the class is over.
And how do librarians fit into the MOOCs environment? For one thing, they should be happy that the students aren’t bombarding them with requests to add the e-textbooks to library collections (not that they probably would). More importantly, as pointed out in a recent article in the Minnesota Daily, librarians are helping faculty produce the courses. From the article:
University librarian Nancy Sims and other team members have shifted job responsibilities to support MOOCs. Some on the team have devoted most of their time to working on the online courses since the University agreed to do them in February, she said.
“Sometimes people think of the library of just being buildings with books in them, but I think this has shown that this is not what we are,” she said. “The way the library folks have been able to just dive right in in a short time frame has shown a very high level of amazing talent.”
This involvement by the library team enhances their visibility and professionalism with university faculty, something that’s always a plus.