Over the past several months, the proliferation of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) has been hailed as a potent defense against the rising cost and insular culture of attending a traditional college. The courses, which are generally taught by experts with affiliations to elite universities, are characterized by their unique pedagogy and unlimited enrollment. To date, no course has been accepted for transfer credit at a major on-campus institution; however some administrators and higher-education experts predict their gradual integration into university curriculum. This article examines the MOOC phenomenon, identifying aspects that academic librarians should consider in the coming years, including how these courses interact with scholarly resources and library services. Methods for integrating library services in these courses are evaluated, with recommendations for the best course of action.
IntroductionWhile technology has facilitated access to distance education for over a decade, 2012 witnessed a seismic shift in attention to this platform for learning, typified by the November 2nd New York Times article, "The Year of the MOOC," as well as the October 29th issue of Time Magazine devoted to this topic. The four letter acronym, MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), has been hailed as a potent defense against the rising cost and insular culture of attending a traditional college. Recent interviews indicate that teachers praise MOOCs for their ability to distribute lectures to very large audiences, while students enjoy the flexibility, free tuition, and access to elite university faculty (Ripley, 2012). Companies hosting MOOCs are also responding to this sudden demand by expanding their course offerings. For example, Coursera cofounder Daphne Koller recently stated that within five years, Coursera will expand from around 200 courses to 3,000. This is roughly the same number of courses offered in the academic catalogs of large research universities (Koller, 2012). Given their apparent early success, MOOCs are likely to be part of the higher-education landscape for years to come. Therefore, academic librarians need to be aware of how these developments may impact their responsibilities and role within a university.
This article aims to inform librarians and information professionals about developments related to MOOCs that are of unique interest to them. This includes how universities are involved in creating or sanctioning MOOCs, descriptions of the major MOOC providers, and how scholarly resources are used in their curriculum. I will then offer an evaluation of current models for library services in distance learning that may apply to the support of MOOCs. I believe it is important for librarians to consider these issues in the early stages of this phenomenon, because not only are MOOCs here to stay, but they represent a new challenge in the shifting relationship between library services and online learning that will continue to play out in the future of higher education.
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