14 November 2012

The implications for libraries of recent global trends in open online education (Part 2)

Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43

With assistance from my colleagues at UTS Library and the commenters on the first part of this post, here is a listing of the implications for libraries of recent trends in open online education (such as MOOCs). These implications vary depending on whether the University is providing MOOCs or seeking to utilise the content available on them. I have tried below to account for the implications covering both of these situations.

Open Access
If MOOCs (and the like) are seen as another form of scholarly publishing, it makes sense for libraries to push for Open Access as the default standard for MOOC course materials. Protecting and extending Open Access policies and initiatives that facilitate open online education through enhanced access to Open Educational Resources will provide a far better and more accessible future for all than one in which another form of “open access” is available for a fee. (This can already be seen in the publishers using “Gold Open Access” models that are facilitated via Article/Author Processing Charges levied instead of subscription fees.) This issue is covered very well in this recent post by Timothy Vollmer http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/34852

Discoverability of MOOC courses is mainly the problem of the course provider, but to date this seems not to be a problem if we look at the large numbers enrolling in some courses. Some MOOC directories already exist and some of these include rankings. It should be noted that MOOC resources are often behind registration/password walls. Lecturers seeking advice on MOOCs can always consult Librarians at their institutions for help in collaboration in finding resources for a course as is currently the case.

Equitable access for all users should be the ethical obligation and should be design in at the outset for all MOOC courses. Research shows that retroactively making material accessible is much more difficult, expensive, time consuming and a job that usually falls to libraries.

Advising on IP, Copyright and the use of licensed resources 
This primarily involves access to our existing online resources and the physical collections of the library which are governed by existing access guidelines and policies. It also involves the copyright clearance and management of course materials. It is already believed that fair-use exemptions will not hold for open courses in the US. The terms and conditions applying to many existing MOOCs also indicate that not all MOOCs should be assumed to be “Open”, so their free re-use cannot always be assumed.

Delivery of teaching & learning assistance and support 
If an institution were to offer a MOOC-type course what library involvement and support is envisaged? Our enquiries indicate limited involvement by libraries in other Australian universities providing MOOCs. Librarians should be able to work with academics to develop the courses and advise on the inclusion of appropriate scholarly resources. Librarians may need to engage more with and within these new online environments and learn the skills to create, mash, present and market content in aid of promoting the expertise and knowledge within the institution. Libraries will need to consider how to embed information literacy into “flipped” learning models, but to some extent we are already using this model with our current forms of IL being more hands-on and interactive (less lecture style).
If support is to be offered for remote courses and a massive extension of the hours is involved are collaborative arrangements between participating institutions the answer here (e.g. the Australian and NZ public libraries collaborating in virtual reference services)?
If MOOCs do lead to a major change in the delivery of a lot of higher education, it could mean that libraries need to offer more online services in terms of training, resources and digitisation of collections (where possible) – for remote and online users.
If an institution offers a MOOC course, to what extent (if any) are those enrolled in that course to be considered the same as currently enrolled university students and afforded access to the same library resources that those students pay fees for? I doubt that this will happen to any great extent.

Assistance and advice in the future as the lines between MOOC and LMS providers and publishers blur 
This seems already to be happening and libraries can offer useful advice re vendors and in negotiating with publishers for content and licenses. Publishers may also start to offer new products such as e-texts that are aimed specifically at the mass MOOC market and library staff will most likely be the best to deal with and provide this form of content to support MOOC courses.  Examples so far indicate that publishers see e-texts as revenue-saving at least or a money making opportunity at most so the issue is who pays?  For a free MOOC, they would target individuals directly rather than the university but students of a fee-paying MOOC would expect them gratis.

If some of the commentators are correct in predicting that MOOCs are likely to be the first disruptive step that changes the provision of education, then the most thoughtful and helpful initiatives are likely to be found in new forms of collaboration. Libraries have a long background in this field, nationally, internationally and across all kinds of other boundaries and we can probably build on some already existing collaborative arrangements.
One major need if higher education moves in this direction is a need for well designed and dedicated online collaboration spaces where people can easily connect with each other beyond a classroom, learning commons or a formal LMS as they exist. Maybe this kind of platform should be built into the MOOC itself?

Technology support issues 
There are some technology support issues that MOOCs raise because of their massive scale. These issues mostly concern those in institutions who provide and maintain the LMS, but the Library may also have a role to play in providing the sophisticated, extended, remote and scalable support and systems that will be required to support our initiatives. Scalability, but also reliability are major requirements. Integration of some of our online services and resources (where allowed and feasible) into MOOC platforms is another technical consideration.

Continuing to promote the relevance, value and impact of the Library and its services 
This is a competitive advantage to the University and also to its enrolled students. Those enrolling in MOOCs without being enrolled in a university will have little or no access to the wide variety of reading, reference and other special collections available from institutional libraries, beyond the course materials provided.
In addition, some libraries (like ours) are busy expanding cultural services and experiences with things like events, exhibitions, performances and art works in the Library. Should these also be offered online? The generation currently attending university is said to value experiences, so perhaps those experiences are another advantage of the campus-based university?

Mobile access
The trend now is for everything going online, but also there is an even greater trend of mobile devices outselling traditional PCs. Not only will MOOCs need to consider this, but libraries in general must do the same.

A more general consideration
Lastly, and more generally than specifically about libraries, a major issue is the amount of time and resources we invest into MOOCs and this depends on the institution's objectives. If the courses do not account for credit, should we be focusing more on our degree/paying/enrolled students. The priority and resourcing to be allocated for the support MOOCs needs to be determined at each institution.

No comments: