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.