MOOCs and Libraries

Have you heard about MOOCs?

Massive Open Online Courses have been getting a lot of attention lately and we’re going to be hearing more about them here at Davidson.  That’s because Davidson has joined edX, an initiative founded by Harvard and MIT, to create DavidsonX.  We’ll be offering a series of MOOCs beginning in Spring 2014 to bring “Distinctly Davidson” courses to the world.  These free classes will be taught to tens of thousands of national and international students.

I’ve been thinking a lot about MOOCs recently because I’m a member of the DavidsonX course team, which is a group working to make the DavidsonX courses a reality.  Librarians have begun talking about both the challenges and the opportunities associated with MOOCs; the MOOCs and Libraries blog is just one example of this conversation.  Two of these issues are especially relevant to my work at Davidson: copyright and information literacy.

The copyright rules we follow in U.S. higher education don’t generally apply to MOOCs, because the courses are freely available to anyone in the world.  For me, the challenge is to help DavidsonX faculty find public domain, licensed, and open access materials to use in their courses.  When those materials aren’t available, I try to get permission to use an item from the copyright owner.  This can be more challenging than it sounds, since many publishers haven’t decided how to deal with these types of requests.  With these challenges, however, comes the opportunity to advocate for open access publishing and Creative Commons licenses.

MOOCs are also a great platform for exploring issues related to information literacy.  It’s possible that librarians can provide some level of research support to students, although the challenge is to figure out how to do so on such a massive scale.  We can help students think critically about the information they create as part of a MOOC; it would also be interesting for us to see what kinds of information sources they use.  I’m looking forward to exploring how information literacy can be incorporated into DavidsonX courses.

I hope to give more attention to these issues in future blog posts.  For now, keep an eye on the edX list of courses.  Davidson’s first MOOC should be listed soon!