MOOCS: What’s in it for law librarians?

Katie Thomas, Law Librarian, Toronto, Canada

Web: http://katiemthomas.wordpress.com

 “With a MOOC MOOC here,

And a MOOC MOOC there,

Here a MOOC, there a MOOC,

Everywhere a MOOC MOOC…” *

 Law librarians have many options for professional development opportunities. Annual conferences, meet-up groups, webinars, twitter chats, and collaborating with colleagues are just some of the eclectic ways we can keep our ear to the ground. But what about MOOCs (massive open online courses)? What’s in it for librarians or better yet, law librarians? I thought I would find out.

 What’s a MOOC? The idea has been well covered in the professional press and I encourage you to plug the term into your favourite search engine.  As a starter, you may want to read Susan Munro’s piece entitled MOOC, Distance Education and CLE or Judith Gaskell’s MOOCs: What are they good for?, both posted on SLAW.

 This post focuses on the professional development opportunities offered through MOOCs for librarians. I am not so much interested (at least just now!) in how librarians can provide support for MOOC learning to our clients and students as a considerable amount has already been written in this area, especially in the academic librarian literature. And, as Susan Munro and others have pointed out, there is no lack of topics to address. Quality of the educational experience, student engagement, student-teacher interaction, the business model behind the phenomenon and librarian support for the MOOC are just some of the issues that can be explored. 

 So where to start? Well, that’s the thing. There is no “official” place to start looking for MOOCs, never mind just the “librarian-ish” courses. Yes, you can plug the term library, librarian, information, metadata, legal etc. into any of the MOOC websites like Coursera or edX, but expect mixed results.  An aggregator such as ClassCentral helps, but it does not pull some of the iSchool courses I will describe below.

 I began with the article entitled MOOCs to Watch written by librarian Courtney Brown. She provided a helpful list of courses that would be of interest to librarians. They are primarily technology related such as Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps.

 iSchool MOOCs which have received rave reviews (based on the website comments and speaking with colleagues who have enrolled) include the New Librarianship Master Class open online course taught by Dave Lankes at the Syracuse University iSchool. Professor Lankes writes that “Through this course, [librarians] will learn how to better capture, store, and disseminate the conversations of their communities.” The videos, slides, readings, and structure have remained available for free on the website but you will first need to register with the provider COURSEsites. By the way, the first MOOC offered at the iSchool was A Brief Introduction to Data Science with R and a second is planned for autumn 2013 entitled Applied Data Science: An Introduction.

 Over at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Dr. Pomerantz at the School of Information and Library Science has been teaching the MOOC, Metadata: Organizing and Discovering Information, again to rave reviews. It is being offered again for the fall of 2013.

Then there is the Hyperlinked Library MOOC at San Jose State University SLIS, which explores how libraries are using emerging technologies to serve their communities. Last I checked, the course had reached its full capacity of 400 students! It is clearly filling a niche for professional development for librarians.

In Canada, Wendy Newman at the University of Toronto iSchool is very excited to be offering, in the winter of 2014, a MOOC on Library Advocacy through edX.  She says, “The MOOC description is not yet fully confirmed, [however]…it is a 6-session adaptation for a wider audience of my regular credit course.” Keep your ear to the ground for further updates.

And what of MOOCs for law librarians? I did not find any that were purposely geared to law and librarians. There are courses on environmental law, criminal law, English common law, constitutional law and more. I think Wendy Reynolds raises a good point when she surmises in a comment on SLAW that, “I also wonder about the value of MOOCs in helping librarians gain exposure to other disciplines and emerging ideas. Are employers willing to treat these programs as “real” learning? Does it matter?” We should be exploring new ideas and thinking outside our box. So yes, as to MOOCs, there’s lots “in it” for law librarians.

Finally, if MOOCs have caught your fancy, you could attend the symposium Pushing the Envelope in Education: Roles for Libraries — MOOCs, eLearning & Gamification taking place in Toronto from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, 2013 at the University of Toronto. A session on MOOCs for Librarians will cover how to plan and implement a MOOC for the library community. Also, you may want to follow up on any archived materials available from two previous conferences MOOCs and Libraries: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (July 2013, London, UK) and MOOCs and Libraries:  Massive Opportunity or Overwhelming Challenge? (March 2013, Philadelphia, PA).

In researching this paper, I found that the only MOOCs being offered, at least through iSchools, are those that are described above. If there are any I’ve missed please let me know! It would be great to see more. It would also be good to have a repository listing of iSchool MOOCs somewhere. Is this being done? Lots to think about. I think I hear a follow-up article being written!

*With sincerest apologies to Old MacDonald.

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5 thoughts on “MOOCS: What’s in it for law librarians?

  1. Thanks for assembling all this useful info, Katie! I will be sure to copy you when the registration opens. Having done a workshop on advocacy for law librarians at the CALL conference in Toronto, I am excited about working with law library colleagues online in a MOOC environment. Old MacDonald, shush THIS! 🙂

  2. Pingback: MOOCs and Law Librarians | zone1001

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