MOOC(ing) Around Again!

I’m doing a MOOC again, this time about Technology Enhanced Learning. I have to admit, we don’t do a lot of this at my institution; the focus is still on face-to-face or traditional lab learning. However, some colleagues have made inroads into webinar teaching, with varying results.
My impression of TEL is that it is very subjective to the area of study. For example, our A&D students (unless they are doing GD or some such course) probably won’t be using much in the way of technology as most of their stuff is still in printed form (I know this because, as manager of the serials collection they cause me some considerable headaches!). Whereas our tech students in Computing or Science, say, do engage more with the use of technology for learning.
So saying, I’m part of the Social Media Team and we are very aware that our students don’t use these platforms for studying. They will tweet if it’s too noisy in a study area, but generally if they have an information query they will come to the helpdesk to speak to someone. I’ve encountered very few information enquiries via twitter or FB, and these tend to be from overseas or distance students who are using these communication channels generally to be pointed in the direction of the relevant subject librarian.
One of the reflective questions this week is ‘[Am I] leaning towards one approach in particular on ocTEL, and if so why might that be? Perhaps you are employing strategies from more than one approach?’. The approaches to learning under discussion are ‘deep’, ‘strategic’ and ‘surface’.
I’ve always been a strategic learner: maximum gain for minimum effort. So, I use knowledge already acquired and assimilate this into a strategy for expanding on this learning without too much effort! Ergo, this blog post! I know quite a bit about social media and learning and so I am reflecting on this bit of TEL; the use of social media as a learning tool (discussed a bit further down in the post The Joy of Facebook).
For the purposes of this MOOC, my approach is mostly strategic, with a bit of surface thrown in, as I havent got too much time to devote to it. Plus, I wont be graded on it, so I am not too worried about being top of the class, as that isn’t the point.
As to social media being a valid learning tool…well, again, I suppose this is completely subjective and moves into the area we will be exploring in more depth next week. Watch this space…

MOOC(h)ing around in the Library!

It’s a big thing at the minute, the MOOC. My institution hasn’t yet jumped on the bandwagon, possibly due to a number of reasons around restructuring courses and so on. However, it’s a distinct possibility in the future and it’s something that all librarians are going to be thinking about regarding how we can get involved and support delivery of MOOCs.

Of course, it’s not just going to be Academic Librarians who are affected. Anyone can sign up for a MOOC – you dont have to be at University to do them, and lots of private companies are offering them too ( So, public sector and college librarians are also going to be affected, with possibly little or no knowledge of how to support the students! However, we librarians are nothing if not helpful and there are many resources and opportunities to develop skills and knowledge to support users.

Problems arising for librarians however, abound. How do we engage and support people participating in MOOCs? How do we get ourselves into a position in our institutions to show that we can be an asset to these courses? The courses themselves present problems: in a study of learning communities and online resources within the neurological module of the BSc Physiotherapy at the University of Birmingham, one of the key issues raised was the disparity of information literacy and IT skills (Davies, Ramsay, Lindfield and Couperthwaite ‘Building learning communities: foundations for good practice’ British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 36 No 4 2005 pp615–628).

Of course, as librarians, this is where we come in with the offer of teaching these skills. But how do we do this when the students are only learning online? Cue the VLE. Host podcasts and video training on your institution’s VLE (we use Moodle). Put links to these on all of the MOOC course sites. Embed them in the teaching modules. Use webinars and get them embedded in the MOOC as part of the course. 

So. How do we progress? In my opinion, libraries, as ever, are well-placed to support this development in learning and teaching and should be promoting themselves as viable partners. It may be scary; change ever is! But we’ve proved before we can rise to the challenge (PN, development of online learning, VLE’s etc) and will do so again! Watch this space…