Recap: OCLC MOOC Conference, Philadelphia, March 18-19 2013

On March 18-19, OCLC sponsored the first conference to bring together librarians supporting (or planning to support) large-scale MOOCs through major providers like Coursera, Udacity and EdX.  I was able to attend the conference, and learned much about the challenges and opportunities for libraries and librarians to support MOOCs

The video/audio archives of the conference are here:  In particular, I highly recommend the panel Copyright, Licensing, Open Access (59:39) featuring Kevin Smith (Duke U), Kenny Crews (Columbia), and  Kyle Courtney (Harvard).  These experts provided great examples of how we can promote open resources, use provisions of fair use/fair dealing to permit (very careful) use of copyright content in videos, and recommendations for procedures and policies regarding transactional licenses.

Many libraries have had challenges connecting to their campus agencies that are developing and supporting MOOCs.  We’re so fortunate at the U of T to already have great linkages through CTSI to our Director of Online Learning, Laurie Harrison, and through our Chief Librarian, Larry Alford to the provostial Open UToronto committee and its chair, Vice-Provost Cheryl Regehr, who is providing overall MOOC leadership and direction.

How has the Library participated in MOOC development? Laurie Harrison provides me with the list of upcoming MOOCs.  I then make an initial contact with instructors and their Ed-Tech support team to offer Library services in copyright advice, resource curation, and in-course link troubleshooting.  Not all courses require library support or resources. Our greatest involvement to date has been in Jean-Paul Restoule’s course  Aboriginal Worldviews and Education and Charmaine Williams’  Social Context of Mental Health and Illness.

Liaison librarians Sara McDowell,  Jennifer Toews, and Jenaya Webb have been involved in resource verification (mainly verifying open access for recommended links) for these courses.  Librarians at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health were involved in resource selection for Social Context of Mental Health and Illness.  I’ve coordinated the initial contacts with instructors and fielded their questions on copyright and permissions.  We’ve secured 4 transactional licenses (1 paid, 3 not).

What surprises have we encountered along the way?  I’ve had to spend considerable time persuading potential licensees of the value of giving us free access to their content in exchange for the eyeballs of thousands of interested viewers. I’ve also been surprised by a couple of “geoblocked” videos — in particular 4 from our own CBC which are geoblocked outside of Canada.  There was no way we could have known that in advance, and it’s mildly shocking when thousands of students find that they can’t get access to linked content and report it on the course web site. In the case of the CBC, the instructor quickly responded by licensing the content and streaming it on unblocked Coursera servers for the duration of the course.

Being involved on the “ground floor” of MOOC development and support has been a great experience.  We’re learning a lot about deploying large-scale online courses, flipping the classroom, and other aspects of effective online learning.  Those experiences will translate well to U of T’s own courses in the coming months and years.

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