Libraries and Education (yes, I’m going to use the word MOOC – a lot)

Sorry for those folks who feel they’ve heard *way* too much about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) lately… While reading “Why online education is mostly a fantasy” at Pandodaily today, I was struck by his comparison of libraries to MOOCs. Libraries have offered free education and learning to anybody who asks for years and, as the author of the piece points out, there are few self-made entrepreneurs who learned everything they needed to know to start their business in the library. For the same reasons (mainly motivation), the author believes that MOOCs will be similarly unsuccessful in providing free education to the masses.

What if, however, libraries used the advantage of local spaces and face-to-face meeting possibilities along with the advantages of MOOCs to create study groups. Anyone with an interest in a particular class can sign up and the local students could use a library meeting room, library computers and each other. With equipment, space and motivation to continue provided by fellow students, combining MOOCs with Libraries seems to me to be a pretty sweet combination. Librarians can get people in the doors by offering space and, maybe, refreshments (though not near the computers, maybe?) and patrons can sign up to take classes and form study groups while educating themselves – something libraries should always be prepared to support!

Is this already being done? I think the possibilities are endless – especially for a library that knows its patrons and can connect circ stats to what patrons might be willing to learn about.  The author of the article ends with:

most people [will] continue to require structure and a supportive learning environment in the modern age of online education

Why can’t libraries be the institutions that step up and make that supportive learning environment happen?

2 responses to “Libraries and Education (yes, I’m going to use the word MOOC – a lot)

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  2. I’m also a little scpciteal that North American (or for that matter northern hemisphere) institutions will effectively solve the world’s higher education problems. Like most unequal cultural exchanges, there will be new problems caused, including the need to enable students around the world to gain an authentic understanding of standard curriculum as it applies in their own cultural context (let alone as it sounds in their own language).I don’t think we should resist open education initiatives on these grounds, and we can see that they are starting to emerge from different points of the world’s compass, which is great. But the issue continues to be scale and access to resources. Noticing small pockets of MOOC activity coming from other corners can make it all feel OK: look, the education market is open and free and fair. But the reality of the similarly-managed entertainment market is that the freedom of the most well resourced countries to produce higher quality content significantly reduces the opportunity of the less well resourced countries to contribute competitively. That’s why so many of the world’s entertainment content producers ask for some local protection against Hollywood, for example.So the question for me is that really basic one of global sustainability how can MOOCs support the sustainability of content development right across the global educational market, so that we can all learn from each other, and not just all learn from the already powerful?

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