MOOCs and Libraries: An Update

Back in October, I wrote about my involvement with DavidsonX.  At the time, the DavidsonX team had just started working on Davidson’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC):  Medicinal Chemistry, taught by Erland Stevens.  I’m happy to report that the course went live on Monday.  (It’s not too late to register; remember, it’s free!)

Since my last post, I’ve learned a lot about the role of libraries in MOOCs.  I’ve done some webinars and joined the edX library committee.  The best teacher, of course, has been the MOOC itself.   One thing I’ve realized is that there is no one role for libraries in MOOCs.  That role varies based on course content, institution type, and existing collaborations, among other things.  My most recent goal is simply to discover how our library can support both the needs of the instructors and of the students for each of our DavidsonX classes.

Medicinal Chemistry mostly required me to locate licensed images that could be used for illustrative purposes and to secure permissions for articles that the students will read as part of the class.  (Because MOOC students can’t use Davidson-licensed resources, that’s easier said than done!) Because of the nature of the course, the students don’t have many research needs, so I won’t be doing too much for the MOOC now that it has started.

The next course, Ann Fox and Dave Wessner’s Representations of HIV/AIDS, will pose some new and interesting challenges for our library.  Permission requests will be more complicated, because of the types of sources the instructors want to use.  Also, students in the course will be required to do their own research to find representations of the disease.   This task gives us the opportunity to provide students with information literacy instruction.  The assignment is still being designed, but I imagine that we will provide information about how to locate copyright-friendly materials, curate resources, and cite appropriately.  My first task is to create a working list of repositories and databases that contain licensed and public domain representations of HIV/AIDS.   This guide will be done in conjunction with the work we’ll do to support the on-campus version of the class, which will run concurrently with the MOOC.

And what else do I see for the future of the Davidson College Library’s involvement in MOOCs?  Here are a couple of things I’ve been thinking about:

  • As MOOCs become more prevalent, how do we support the research needs of  Davidson students who are enrolled in non-DavidsonX MOOCs?
  • Are MOOCs a form of “content” that we should provide to our students, the way we provide access to books, articles, and other materials on the web?

As I learn more about the roles of MOOCs in libraries, I’ll be sure to update here.