MOOCs and Information Literacy Instruction

I’ve been taking a Coursera MOOC and have been thinking a lot about how libraries can utilize elements from some of these new educational models. Daphne Koller, one of the founders of Coursera, discussed in recent TED TalkĀ a key difference between face to face learning and online education models.

Massive online courses, like the Introduction to Finance class that I am taking, are great at evaluating students through things like multiple choice and fill in the blank quizzes. Peer grading and self grading are also being explored with some success. But these courses are still mostly successful at teaching content and practical, how-to skills. The value of face to face education is being able to “ignite creativity.” Face to face learning is best suited for active learning, critical thinking, and problem solving as opposed to delivery of content.

What could this mean in information literacy instruction? Content is important. Students need to know the nuts and bolts of evaluating a website or how to properly cite so as to avoid plagiarism. But I would argue that some of this “content” is better suited for outside the physical classroom. Avoiding plagiarism and knowing the difference between a reputable website and a questionable website are skills that all professors want and that all students need to succeed.

If this content could be delivered outside of the classroom via video, module, game, flipped TED Ed lesson, or other learning objects, in class information literacy instruction could focus on critical thinking about information choices. Lessons could focus on the changing nature of attribution, citation, and ethical uses of information in the digital age. There could be lessons about having a balanced information diet and understanding where your information comes from. These type of lessons have the potential to unleash the curiosity and creativity of our students in ways that talking about plagiarism and how to use a database can’t.

I don’t think that face to face learning will ever be replaced, but some pieces surely will. I see elements of MOOCs and other new online education models enhancing our effectiveness in the classroom as we’re trying to help students become sophisticated information consumers and creators.

How do you see these changing educational models affecting information literacy instruction?

Andy Burkhardt

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