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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 Talk 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?

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4 Reasons Librarians Should Join A MOOC

Notes from an Online Class

Me learning math and whatnot

I am now in my fourth week of a Coursera course called Introduction to Finance. It’s a massively open online course (MOOC) that I am taking with thousands of other people from places like Ukraine, Malaysia, Indore, and Bogota. The class involves video lectures, working through problems, discussion forums with other classmates, quizzes, and even math. And even though I’m not quantitatively inclined, I am loving taking this course despite the work and number crunching. It was something outside of my training and education, and it gave me the opportunity to open myself up to a different perspective. There are a lot of good reasons though for librarians to sign up for a MOOC themselves. Here are a few:

Explore Innovations in Higher Education

There is no shortage of talk about new experiments and especially disruption in higher education. There are a lot of amazing startups, projects, and ideas that are gaining traction in the realm of education. Higher education, due to the high costs and new available methods of delivery will continue to change and evolve rapidly, and it’s important to be aware of those changes. Instead of waiting on the sidelines to see what happens, by enrolling in a MOOC or exploring other higher ed innovations, librarians can be an active participant and contributor to the future of higher education.

Update Your Skills

We can’t learn everything in library school and there are other things I wish I had learned there. But luckily librarianship is the ultimate extensible profession. We are good at learning and, MOOCs are one way that we can gain skills and competencies that would enhance our work. There’s a wealth of classes available that could be extremely useful in librarianship. We could understand how to make decisions based on data, learn how to code, study applying game elements to non-game problems, or even design our own class and learn from one another.

Learn From Great Teachers

The professor for my finance class, Gautam Kaul, is a professor at Michigan and has won various awards for teaching and research. More importantly he is a great teacher. He is authentic and brings passion for his subject into the class. He says things like “my role is to show you the beauty of finance,” and “learning happens when you’re happy.” He talks about finance, but also life and love and even pokes a little fun at accounting. I have learned finance concepts under his coaching, but I have learned from him as a teacher. As educators, librarians can learn a great deal in observing other teachers and how they structure classes, deliver content, and relate with their students. When taking a MOOC the learning is important, but observing the teaching can be equally rewarding.

Do Something For Yourself

It’s important to take care of yourself, develop yourself, and recharge. Similar to choosing to do yoga, enrolling in a pottery class, or taking up photography, finding a class you are interested in online is a way for you to challenge yourself and try something new. It’s not necessary to take anything even remotely related to your career. There are classes on mythology, philosophy, or even a beginner’s guide to irrational behavior (which might help in some of those faculty senate meetings). MOOCs are another way to explore yourself and your interests in a new and low investment way.

Taking a MOOC, like other learning, can be genuinely rewarding. Last week I was studying in a Barnes and Noble and got excited (probably causing-a-minor-scene-excited) when I worked through a really difficult example that the professor put up and was able to actually go through it step by step, understand it, and get the correct answer without looking. Learning can, and should be, fun and exciting especially now that the options for learning are increasing. If you’re interested in learning more about the future of higher education, you’re in luck. There’s MOOC starting up in October from some of the pioneers in large open online classes including George Siemens. The class is called Current/Future State of Higher Education, and I’m already signed up. Hopefully I see you online.