Emerging Roles: Key Insights from Librarians in a Massive Open Online Course
Michael Stephens, Ph.D. & Kyle M. L. Jones, MLIS
San Jose State University School of Library & Information Science
From the cutting edge of innovations in online education comes the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), a potentially disruptive and transformational mechanism for large-scale learning. What’s the role of librarians in a MOOC? What can librarians learn from participating in a large-scale professional development opportunity delivered in an open environment to illuminate their own practice? This paper explores the experiences and perceptions of librarians/information professionals participating in an LIS-centered MOOC taught by the authors. We will share insights gained from active participants in the course as they encounter this emerging landscape.
In September 2013, the San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science (SJSU SLIS) launched its first massive open online course (MOOC), the Hyperlinked Library MOOC (#hyperlibMOOC). The Hyperlinked Library course centers on key theories and concepts that merge trends in participatory culture with library and information environments. At its core, the Hyperlinked Library encourages transparent, participatory, and user-centered information services that employ emerging technologies to increase open, collaborative information experiences.
#hyperlibMOOC was adapted from an existing online graduate course of the same name created by SJSU SLIS Assistant Professor Michael Stephens, an author of this paper. The course had been previously only offered to SJSU students enrolled in the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program. The #hyperlibMOOC was not for credit and was intended to serve as a professional development opportunity for librarians, library staff, and professionals who work in libraries, archives, and other types of information environments.
“During the MOOC, Gonzalez met information professionals from all over the globe. There was a large contingent from Australia and New Zealand, as well as participants from countries in Europe and Asia. This gave her a sense of connectedness with other information professionals, who brought diverse perspectives on the issues explored during the MOOC.
“That was a tangible, positive experience for me,” she said. “It was also an opportunity to serve others and help them meet their goals, which is important to me. Overall, it was a great experience.
By serving as a MOOC guide, Gonzalez also gained knowledge that will help her pursue her future career goals. “Having been part of the MOOC behind the scenes for its duration, I walked away with a strong sense of how to present content for learners so it’s useful and usable,” Gonzalez said. “I also got a sense of how to improve experiences for course site users, specifically how to tailor information to their needs. I definitely connected that with my ongoing interest in user experience and my long-term professional goals, as well as with several courses I’ve already taken at SLIS.”
New Landscapes: Exploring MOOCs as LIS and Professional Development Spaces with Kyle Jones, Joanne de Groot, Jennifer Branch. ALISE Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
As a professional development opportunity for a global audience, the Hyperlinked Library MOOC was designed to offer an online space for learning and community-building. Panelists reflect on the MOOC, reporting on participants’ sense of community, the technical and instructional design of the MOOC, and present reflections of its students.
Below are the videos recorded by panelists Joanne de Groot, PhD, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Alberta , Department of Elementary Education and Jennifer Branch, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Alberta, Department of Elementary Education and School of Library and Information Studies, as part of our panel presentation at ALISE 2014. Their insights about feelings of community within the MOOC resonate deeply with me.
The Hyperlinked Library MOOC (#hyperlibMOOC on Twitter), which started on September 3, is taught by Assistant Professor Michael Stephens and Lecturer Kyle Jones. It parallels much of the content in Stephens’ LIBR 287 Hyperlinked Library course, offered to students enrolled in the school’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program. Intended for professional development, the MOOC is offered free to the public. MOOC students can earn a certificate of completion at the end of the course, but no college credit.
Finn took Stephens’ Hyperlinked Library course in spring 2013, and with her background as a technology instructor and school librarian, she was drawn to the opportunity to help out with the MOOC. It’s not a paid position, but she will earn course credit for LIBR 298 Special Studies.
Each MOOC guide is responsible for a group of about 35 participants. Guides don’t grade assignments, but do respond to questions about them and let the instructors know when participants have completed assignments.
The guides started preparing for the MOOC before the fall 2013 term began. They met in web conferencing sessions, and Stephens and Jones set up a blog so the guides could more easily communicate with one another, sharing their questions, problems and successes.
Click the link above to read the whole profile.
Thanks to Jolene and ALL of the Participatory Learning Guides who worked so hard during #hyperlibMOOC
In the Hyperlinked Library MOOC, Stephens modified the common MOOC style of watching a video lecture or reading a lesson and then taking a quiz on the covered material. Instead, student work is reviewed by their peers, who offer their thoughts on what’s working and where there’s room for improvement. Stephens, Jones, and a team of assistants also view the work, but peer evaluation is a huge asset to the structure of the course, Stephens says.While the first course offering hasn’t wrapped up quite yet, he Stephens said that more than 100 of the 363 students registered for the course are well on their way to completing the coursework. Like Lankes, he notes some problems with the pacing, a dilemma he attempted to approach by introducing a week-long break in the course to let students catch on assignments without missing new material. While that sort of break can be a luxury for full-time students, when working with professionals with careers outside the classroom, it may be necessary, said Stephens.
And it’s not just peers in class that are looking at one another’s work. Since the course is open to the public and not protected by a password, anyone can take a look at the ideas being discussed and weigh in on them. “We just did a Q&A in a Google Hangout,” says Stephens. “Not only is that going up in the MOOC space, but it’s being tweeted and reshared in other places as well.” Taking cues from social media not only helps students feel more connected to one another in a MOOC environment, Stephens says, it also makes them more connected to the world at large, citing instances where the authors of readings for the course have weighed in on assignments regarding their work, much to the delight of students in the course.
The next step, as far as Stephens sees it, is taking MOOCs to even larger audiences, including those in far-flung regions who might most benefit from group learning to which they otherwise may not have access. “Reaching isolated librarians with this type of learning will probably be one of the biggest impact factors of this MOOC,” says Stephens.
The rapid development of emerging disruptive technologies is a driving force behind the evolution of the library and information science (LIS) profession and is causing a redesign of the traditional approaches to LIS professional development. Historically fairly static, LIS environments have evolved into dynamic reflections of the enormous societal changes occurring as a result of open communications and access throughout the Web. In addition, 21st century LIS professionals must consider and prepare for the new roles they might play in network-enabled, large-scale learning environments. Several decades of research on self-directed learning (SDL) have shown the social, non-linear, and serendipitous process to be transformational. LIS professionals, who once relied upon yearly conferences, employer-provided seminars and workshops, and association newsletters in order to update their knowledge, have embraced SDL opportunities to expand their understandings and skill sets. The first wave of SDL and networked platforms for LIS professional development (Learning 2.0) may have been precursors to the connectivist learning environments designed into the free, not-for-credit, massive open online courses (MOOCs). Because these new environments of participatory and transformative learning offer the potential for LIS professionals to test emerging technologies, experiment and play with new roles, and self-select teams for collaborative artifact creation, the author has adapted his existing online graduate course, called the Hyperlinked Library, at San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science (SJSU SLIS) in order to explore how LIS professionals can use emerging technologies and participatory practices to serve their communities. Launched in September 2013, the Hyperlinked Library MOOC pilot (#hyperlibMOOC) provides a sandbox in which LIS professionals and students can play the roles of learner, connector, and collaborator in a self-directed yet social learning experience. Results from the pilot course will contribute to a better understanding of how the not-for-credit MOOC can serve as a transformative environment for professional development.
Thanks to SJSU SLIS student Margaret Jean Campbell for her invaluable assistance editing and formatting this piece. Thanks to Kyle Jones, PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Library and Information Studies and SJSU SLIS lecturer, for his incredible work designing the site architecture and for co-instructing the Hyperlinked Library MOOC.