OCLC Research Presents MOOCs and Libraries: Massive Opportunity or Overwhelming Challenge?

Hall of Flags, Perelman Quadrangle, University of Pennsylvania

March 18-19, 2013

The conference ran for two half days and consisted of five panels with time for Q & A and a wrap up discussion in small groups with feedback.


In the spirit of MOOCs, the conference included a live panel with an audience, but those tuning in online were encouraged to ask questions and comment through Twitter, on the conference web site or through texting.

  Opening Panel

  • Welcome from the University of Pennsylvania Libraries
    Carton Rogers, University of Pennsylvania
  • Why MOOCs, Why Penn, Why Now?
    Ed Rock, Senior Advisor to the President and Provost and Director of Open Course InitiativesSenior Advisor to the President and Provost and Director of Open Course InitiativesSenior Advisor to the President and Provost and Director of Open Course InitiativesSenior Advisor to the President and the Provost and Director of Open Course Initiatives, University of Pennsylvania
  • MOOCs and Libraries, An Overview of the Landscape
    Jim Michalko, Vice President OCLC Research
    Merrilee Proffitt, Senior Program Officer, OCLC Research

Ed Rock’s title and position demonstrate the commitment the University of Pennsylvania has made to MOOCs. Penn uses the Coursera platform.  Coursera has grown to include 62 university partnerships. Each University can handle its use of the platform differently. Penn asked itself, what is the place of open learning in the overall mission of the school? The Internet is a place of learning but they also care a lot about their students on campus. Everyone who has taught with Coursera has found that his or her own live teaching is changed by it. Many are now flipping their classrooms and having students at Penn view the recorded course content in advance of class meetings and then using the freed up in-class time for discussions. The faculty ask themselves, how best to use the class time now?

Penn’s courses are show cased here:


Penn is proud to offer a variety of courses.  Many institutions with MOOCs, such as Stamford, favor broadcasting computer science courses.  Penn faculty who have offered courses feel there is something about the course content that makes it ideal for such wide dissemination. For example, the course on vaccine science is designed to be an intervention in the public discussion on vaccines and to point out the public health risks of any collective effort to avoid vaccinating children. The intention of some courses is to form community, often of disparate participants.  For example, Senator Dick Durbin took the Modern and Contemporary Poetry course along with nursing home residents and autistic children. Faculty have shown remarkable talent using tools such as PowerPoint to create lively, animated videos (see Robert Grist’s Calculus course). Some courses have  been approved for credit from proper accrediting bodies. For these courses, the issue of identity fraud is handled through a biometric signature check in place and live proctoring of the final exam. Students who take for-credit courses may transfer them the Penn for $200 per course. The pre-existing guidelines that the university has in place for accepting advanced placement credit have worked well with accepting credit for MOOCs.

Jim Michalko quoted Nicholas Carr in comparing MOOCs to correspondence courses.  He noted a number of other precursors, including Ted Talks, Khan U, University of Phoenix, OER Commons, Google in education, etc. Why have these models emerged? It may be a response to a broken university business model. Some literature to consider includes William Bowen’s The Cost Disease in Higher Education: Is Technology the Answer? And Clayton Christiansen’s Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail.

The question is, where is the library in all this?
Merrilee Proffitt conducted a three month investigation on MOOCs. She saw Coursera triple in the number of participating institutions, the non-profit Edx increased six-fold. Futurelearn is a platform that has libraries embedded.
Responses to MOOCs from librarian have varied. Many librarians do not want to get involved, some seek new roles. They see opportunities for partnerships, instruction, copyright consulting, and repository work.

It was emphasized that the three areas most appropriate for librarians for involvement with MOOCS  are Copyright, Licensing and Open Access. As courses are being offered online to a diverse and geographically distributed audience, what are the challenges for licensing and clearing copyright for materials used in courses? Are there opportunities for advancing the conversation on open access with faculty?ImageMajor MOOC providers

Panel 2

Copyright, Licensing, Open Access
As courses are being offered online to a diverse and geographically distributed audience, what are the challenges for licensing and clearing copyright for materials used in courses? Are there opportunities for advancing the conversation on open access with faculty?

  • Brandon Butler, Director of Public Policy Initiatives, Association of Research Libraries, moderator
  • Kevin Smith, Scholarly Communications Officer, Duke University
  • Kenny Crews, Director, Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University
  • Kyle K. Courtney, Manager of Faculty Research and Scholarship, Harvard Law School

Kevin Smith said we need to look at what we have relied on for face to face teaching and now consider what are to options with MOOCs.  When can we claim fair use? When must we get permission? Can we get a license designed for a MOOC? He advises that our fair use interpretation be conservative. In response to a faculty member who wanted to use a full Monty Python movie he recommended giving a link to full movie on YouTube but also use three 20 second clips for content most germane to the teaching. Be careful about telling faculty that they cannot do something without getting permission. It is a real downer.  Don’t be reluctant to ask for permission if necessary.  It might work out in your favor.  Suggest to a publisher that using their materials might help with sales of a book. Most of the time when Duke has asked for permission they have gotten no response. One permission the college rejected would have cost them $20,000.  The issue came up as to whether a MOOC could be considered a work for hire. Keep in mind that law suits are usually over commercial use; take down notice usually come before a lawsuit.

Ken Crews encouraged librarians and course developers to think fair use first.  Look for material in the public domain or provided by the government. Link link link. Remember, the amount of content matters, so use less. Who owns MOOC content? Get on top of this from the beginning with agreements before the content is created. It could be a work made for hire. Academics may not see it this way but the university would argue otherwise. Write clear policy. Long term reuse is ideal but otherwise get long term archiving.

Kyle Courtney reiterated that course creators use only the portion of a work that is needed. Avoid using images you may put up just for laughs since these cannot be justified in the transformative use argument. Copyright talk should lead to alternative resource options. Harvard will never use material if payment is required.  They do not like to set this precedent.
Sometimes instructors get the ok to use a lesser quality version of a textbook.

Q and A
Commercial provider (Coursera) vs. nonprofit Edx should not make a difference when making fair use claims (Courtney)’ but Crews says it will matter a little more

International boundaries – what about content going over as fair use in one country but not another? Where is the server usually is first question.

Panel 3

Production & Pedagogy
How libraries and academic support offices contribute to MOOC-related course production options—a view on how technology helps and hinders, and how pedagogy may need to shift in a new environment. What are we learning about teaching, what works, and what doesn’t?

  • Bruce Lenthall, Director of Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Pennsylvania, moderator
  • Christian Terwiesch, Wharton School Faculty, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jackie Candido, Online Learning & Digital Engagement, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania
  • Amy Bennett, Penn Open Learning, University of Pennsylvania
  • Anna Delaney, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Christian Terwiesch offered an Introduction to Operations Management MOOC at Wharton. 90,oop signed up, 7700 completed. Makes use of user generated content. Faculty needs help orchestrating the MOOC systems. Libraries can help here. MOOCS generate content. Decentralized production. Opportunities for libraries to create and bundle learning experience. Don’t think that completion is the measure of success. Do it yourself reflects professor’s passion and will make a better course. An exit survey of non completers would be helpful; in video components of the course, the Qs are easy to see if you are awake. HW Qs harder and test hardest. If you want to complete the course, you work harder to do that. Imagines library type support would be through a package of licensed material. Despite huge volume of questions users help each other.


Does paying tuition necessarily translate to productivity?


User content feeds the class.

Amy Bennett – think about marketing, six month build up before launch is ideal but may not be enough time and may not be available.

Jackie Candido – rethink about how you communicate, think about the objectives of your course and support you might need to increase quality. Why do people quit? Depends on why they took it. One guy took the course to impress a girl. Life gets in the way. Some keep returning for the community. Talk to faculty about how you think your course will make a difference in the world. Being in front of camera has been a challenge for some faculty. No Penn archive. Relying on Coursera for this. Library support for non-Coursera online courses but not in Coursera courses. Support is info literacy in nature.

Anna Delaney – think about the behind the scenes stuff, consider content that is appropriate for the MOOC platform. Success has come from separate teams who work overtime. Costs college $6-8000 per cost. Thinking about the audience is hard for some faculty. They have to realize it is a less vested audience. Vaccine course led to 4000 emails after first day. Yikes! Also, a stalker was on the course. FBI got involved.

Panel 4

New Opportunities for Librarians: What Happens When You Go Behind the Lines in a MOOC?As we learn about new platforms and new modes of working, librarians are going into the trenches to see for themselves how MOOCs work. How do library resources and research skills fit into MOOCs and other online learning environments? Where do library collections and service fit? How can we use the experience gained in MOOCs to think about the future of the library in an evolved teaching environment?

  • Marjorie Hassen, Director of Teaching, Research, and Learning Services, University of Pennsylvania Libraries, moderator
  • Sarah Bordac, Head, Instructional Design, Brown University
  • Jennifer Dorner, Head, Instruction and User Services, University of California Berkeley
  • Lynne O’Brien, Director of Academic Technology and Instructional Services, Duke University

Lynne O’Brien – MOOCs took off at Duke at amazing rate. How they are delivered does not match w everything we have held true about online education. Not just for CIS.  Start date not standard e.g. Astronomy course started on day of a big sky event. Calendar may not be 14 weeks if that is not ideal. Expect special issues from international students in developing nations. Library role – tech support from Center for Instructional Technology, provost funding, use of a scholarly communications intern. Student feedback important.  They have found kids may take courses with a parent.  MOOCs are a tool for recruitment.
HS teachers getting ideas for their own teaching from the MOOCs. Most faculty will repeat. Faculty feel their teaching has improved, online students tend to be critical – this is the cost benefit. Duke is offering for-credit courses through 2U.  We are seeing the end of boundaries between course, textbook, library.  Reminder not to be bullied by publishers, be advocates for different types of licensing models, accelerate our role advocating OA and pushing faculty to us IR.


Where are the Duke MOOC students?

Sarah Bordac – a librarian but has a background in media production. Brown U started offering courses online with pre-college. Coursera courses in archeology, computer science and comp lit. All bring different reasons for teaching the course so library roles will be different. Multi- disciplinary team: Center for Teaching, Continuing Ed, Library and Media Production. Librarian’s role – copyright questions, negotiations with publishers, public domain images in a lib guide, digital production services, teaching spaces. Embedding has been uneven, only worked with the archeology course but archeology librarian is also faculty in archeology department. Created separate module for licensed resources – example of recommending how to structure class. Brown is not currently designing the classes for the “unknown MOOC student.”


Brown has moved into online teaching first through pre-college courses and now through a number of other options including MOOCs.

Jennifer Dorner -BerkleyX – joined Edx July 2012
Most courses are CIS and stats. Lack of coordination and centralization. Challenges for library – some courses do not have a library objective. Harvard and MIT libraries reached out to them and began a conversation about how libraries could be involved – two working groups of EdX users – content accessibility and research skills. We ask ourselves – are we supporting the faculty or the students? Supporting faculty similar regardless of the learning environment, but supporting MOOC students is very different. Cost diminishes because a lot of students are learning from each other.

Q and A
How can libraries lead? How can libraries partner? Will libraries be cut out because of inability to provide access to licensed resources? An opportunity to encourage faculty to push to retain their own rights to the content they create. EdX model of lib support group is good. Could it be extended?

Drexel librarian comments on – do we know the students ? What is their motivation? These students are not going for a credential. How can we justify expense? This has been the public library challenge for years.

Panel 5

 Who Are the Masses? A View of the Audience
MOOCs are drawing thousands and even hundreds of thousands of attendees. What do we know about these learners? What might we discover? How might we change as a result?

  • Howard Lurie, Vice President, Content Development, EdX
  • Deirdre Woods, Interim Executive Director, Open Learning Initiative, University of Pennsylvania
  • Margaret Donnellan Todd, County Librarian, County of Los Angeles Public Library

Howard Lurie, EdX
Open source platform. Who are the students? International students and challenges, blocked content, lack of broadband. Some are young, located remotely and brilliant. Most students in US, but a lot in India, UK, Russia, Brazil. Most students in the complex CIS courses have some background. Weekends busiest times, students look at content multiple times.


Where are we on this graph?


Completion numbers.


Student performance

Deidre Woods – What to do with the data? They have collected a lot. Want to create dashboards for faculty to see what is going on with their courses.

Margaret Todd – Also serves on Education Reform Board for the LA Department for Probation. MOOCs could be a way to address dropout rates. Futurist says that in 30 years education will not look like what we know. Community college not a place for people who need to catch up. They are more about being feeders to four year colleges or for AS completers. MOOthC in public library can fill the void community colleges have left and can address issue of the high cost of college. Courses tailored to adult learners, resume writing, computer use skills. They use Ed2Go.

Final Discussion’

Next step will be to see how this will proceed in institutions that don’t have a lot of resources.

I asked: What is OCLC’s role. They say that they see MOOCs as something on the horizon
. We are libraries, we won’t exist if you don’t exist so we want to know where you all are on this. It is that simple.

Focus on reforming license negotiations.  It takes 380 hours to work out a license – this is ridiculous! We need to cut down the time. Tackle vendors at a level above the single course.

Librarians should look at MOOCs in beta and find the points that are relevant to us.

How about a trigger point where Qs come in often enough to indicate that a librarian’s help is needed.

Librarians could be involved in platform critique and development.

Strategic moves:
Jump right in
Librarians should get involved in discussions about licenses that will work
Librarians will also have a job helping the university as consumer, not producer of MOOC
How about offering a physical space for local MOOC takers?


From Merilee Proffitt:

A discussion group for MOOCs and Libraries has formed on Google Groups – you can sign up to continue the conversation there: http://oc.lc/xOrrMX

  • · There’s a proposal on ALA Connect for an “ALA Conversation Starter” on MOOC, Online Education and Libraries – here the focus is specifically on “scaling information literacy” and not on library support of MOOCs, but the session hopes to draw together all types of libraries. You can log in and comment on the session proposal and if it gets enough votes, it may get on the program! http://oc.lc/cbQ7hd

Gerry McKiernan has an active blog devoted to MOOCs and libraries.



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by | March 23, 2013 · 9:45 pm

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