MOOC’s and SPOC’s in Libraryland

I remember a few years back when the jungle drums went on how the rise of MOOC’s would transform the educational landscape. I haven’t seen that yet but it doesn’t mean that Massive Open Online Courses can’t create meaning and value in education and learning.

And in libraries.

Is the skill of information literacy a universal skill? I think it is. The core skill of information literacy is not necessary hooked up to any specific users, libraries, databases, search techniques etc. It’s a skill that’s gives you the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand. The skill has always been relevant but the Internet’s entree and the rapid growth in accessible information has only made information literary more crucial.

At Copenhagen University Library we are supporting information literacy of students and employees through a variety of courses, workshops and instructions. The face-to-face information literacy sessions is in my opinion one of the most valuable services we provide to the academic community. So when we are looking at alternative options like e-courses, online tutorials and MOOC’s it’s not a resource reduction maneuver (we are struggling on the budgets but the starting point is something else) – it’s to get the best from both worlds.

First Library MOOC in the World

To explore the possibilities of MOOC’s in this context we joined forces with The Library of The Technical University of Denmark to create the first library produced MOOC in the World. The result is Academic Information Seeking which is published on the Courcera platform:


The aim of the MOOC is to make participants proficient information seekers. They will learn how to carry out comprehensive literature searches based on their own research assignments and will be guided through the various information seeking steps: generating search terms, identifying information sources, taking advantage of reference management tools, how to avoid plagiarism and to cite correctly. To check comprehension the lectures include small assignments and quizzes. The MOOC also contain a log book template that participants can use to log there experiences during the course.

The course target is undergraduate students or students who are about to begin working on an academic paper. It contains 21 videos and is a self paced course that can be completed in one stretch or in three blocks over three weeks. To this date 3.500 have signed up and 200 has completed Academic Information Seeking.

The MOOC has been a part of a larger national project under Denmark’s Electronic Research Library focusing on e-learning, information literacy and library services and has been carried out by project heads Birgitte Munk (Copenhagen University Library) and Thomas Skov Jensen (DTU Library). Myself was in the steering committee representing Copenhagen University Library.

In the slipstream of the MOOC the project also created a Small Private Online Course (SPOC) which function as local version of a MOOC targeting on-campus students. Our SPOC serves as an introduction to Copenhagen University Library:

So know you got a MOOC. What’s next?

I personally find our MOOC, Academic Information Seeking, very cool, professional and capable of supporting information literacy on both a global and local level. The question is how?

Stand alone: The MOOC can be followed out of context and you will gain from it. The feature where you bring your own assignment to the virtual classroom creates context for the individual but even without that it still holds basic introductions to information seeking that almost any scholar would gain from on some level. However this is not the strongest way to get the full benefit of a library MOOC.

Blended learning/flipped classroom and integration with curriculum: Library instructions separated from curriculum obvious has value but to my experience, they have far the greatest impact when they are somehow connected – that goes for both face-to-face and online instructions. To set the scene for a MOOC (or any other online instruction content) in the most powerful way it needs to be connected to students reality on campus. Getting it hooked up on curriculum when students really need the basic skills for information seeking (in this case), e.g. before their first major paper, both creates the best outcome from the course but also grabs the students when they have the need and – very important – the motivation.

Easy to say but how does this come about? Faculty members often sees their curriculum as a sacred fortress where it takes a firestorm to shake things. The way I find most useful is advocacy through coffee. Most faculty members and teachers are very reasonable people who wouldn’t turn down a cup of coffee and a chat about how there students – and their course – can benefit from an online library instruction supporting information literacy. In most cases the coffee chat result in an agreement on a pilot on the upcoming term. Remember, it’s not about selling a library course – it’s about creating value for the students on campus.

All that coffee and talking is obvious a cost full way but teachers talk to each other and when just one or two of them sees the point I often find, that we are the ones being invited on coffee and not the other way around.

At Copenhagen University Library we have just started the coffee talks. Since the MOOC in it’s nature is a global course, Academic Information Seeking can be implemented into most curriculum’s around the world so start booking those coffee dates.

Coffee – a powerful tool when it comes to integrating library services 

Final note on library support of information literacy: Connecting the dots from primary school over high school to university 

I hang out with public librarians from time to time. It seems like they are pretty much on the same page as academic libraries when it comes to supporting information literacy. Their target are just not university students – it’s kids in primary school. Many of the same kids that moves on to high school and eventually university. Does the libraries talk to each other about this. Do they coordinate this very important job? The answers is no. At least in Denmark

It seems to me that public libraries and academic libraries has an obligation to coordinate this effort in order to create a red line in educating information skilled members of community.

I’ll suggest we kick it off with a cup of coffee




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