The initiative of MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) was taken by the University of Manitoba in 2008, though the courses were not made available until 2011; however, the initiative became widely known outside a few North American institutions. In the autumn of 2011, Stanford University organized an event about the uses of MOOCs. Since that event, MOOC has never looked back and attracted millions of users in almost all countries. Two well-known professors at Stanford University initially started an online lecture on Artificial Intelligence which attracted 160,000 students from 190 countries. These lectures compelled American nationalists toward online learning and led to rash MOOCs. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) joined Udacity and Coursera in December 2011. By the end of 2012, MIT became an active part of edX along with Harvard and they both initiated online lectures, which brought a radical change like most MOOCs.
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Initially, MOOCs had been characterized by connectivity, chaotic and open-endedness, and above all, student-driven; all courses were released under an open license and it was allowed that their contents could be remixed and reused, but the new startups of MOOCs were quite different; the new lectures are firmly embedded in educational mainstream, these lectures are mainly based on instructivist pedagogical methods and significantly fewer opportunities are granted for remix and reuse. Udacity offers its course under a creative commons license; however, it strictly forbids remixing and reusing its contents.
Udacity and edX have brought tremendous revolution in online education and have encouraged educators in other countries to undertake similar projects.
In developing countries like Pakistan, the situation is different. Although some distance educational institutions like Allama Iqbal Open University and Virtual University in Pakistan practice the same, only registered members can access these materials. From my point of view, they avoid uploading it publically because it will harm their degree programmes and enrollment in future. Other issues like copyright and licensing of visual materials hampered them from showing it online.
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Librarians, whether in academic libraries or the Public sphere, are abreast their users with the latest development. Many librarians worldwide linked MOOCs lectures with their websites to attract end users. In Pakistan, few librarians know about these services and have connected them with their websites; however, most do not have online websites. If few have online libraries, they are commercially designed like Virtua, Insignia and so on. Many libraries in Pakistan even do not have proper budgets for IT tools like computer hardware and software. The low budget for books does not allow librarians to spend more on IT developments. Few libraries have adopted open access software like KOHA, Dspace, eprints, and Greenstone, but these require a considerable amount to customize for web services. Pessimism regarding the librarian’s role in MOOCs is not entirely groundless. Even in developed countries like the USA, UK, Germany etc., many librarians are unaware of embedding these technologies with their websites.
As Udacity MOOCs deliver free lectures, these services should be adopted on the library website to capture the audience’s interest. Udacity MOOCs are designed to be entirely self-contained; they ought to be shown. Other MOOCs have inflexible terms and conditions and confuse the customer about where to move. For the most part, librarians can expect to take on a similar role to those they have in traditional courses. The perception of librarians regarding MOOCs is divided into two categories; one group believes that the bleakest outlook for academic libraries adopting MOOCs is not the job of librarians but IT experts, the others hold the view that MOOCs can attract the majority of our users and they can be engaged in the library affairs.
Librarians do not have much role in some MOOCs lectures for many reasons like lack of IT skills and less knowledge in software development; however, realistically, it would help their patrons to use library services; they should link Udacity, edX, Coursera etc. with library websites. Librarians face some issues by embedding these services with library websites; these are copyright clearances, helping to ensure that content uploaded MOOC will be accessible to all users, including those using assistive technologies, content licensing, providing instructions in information literacy and encouraging the use of open licensing. MOOC is a good initiative for distance learners, and libraries should use it properly.
Written by: Abid Hussain
The writer is Deputy Director Library Services at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, he can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.