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Roles of Librarians in the MOOCs Environment
by Dr. Anna Kaushik

Abstract : Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a hot topic and new pedagogy in the online learning sphere which presents various opportunities and challenges for library and information science professionals, especially to the librarians. Therefore, this article aims to discuss the varying roles of librarians in MOOC environments in order to support MOOC activities on a large scale.


Due to the advent of the Internet and information communication technologies, users love to learn in an online environment. Although MOOCs came into existence in 2008, 2012 was noted as a miracle year for the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). 2012 was not only declared to be “year of the MOOC” but also ample attention was given by some professionals in terms of emergence of new MOOC platforms, development of MOOCs on different topics and subjects, publishing scholarly publications on MOOCs, and gearing up MOOC movements, at an exponential rate worldwide. Since then, the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement has been rapidly spreading out in all disciplines including library and information science, and presenting different opportunities as well as challenges for library and information science professionals, especially librarians. On the other hand, librarians and libraries are always looking for the possibilities to include new innovations, platforms and pedagogies available in different environments in order to enhance their library services. Therefore, librarians are getting involved in MOOC activities and working as the backbone in the MOOC environment by taking opportunities and facing the challenges of MOOCs. The roles of librarians become thus become very important in the MOOC environment.

What is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course in which “Massive” refers to large-scale participation of participants, “Open” signifies that courses are open to all. They may be open access, open syllabi, self- directed and open content learning environments, “Online” represents that these courses are available on the Internet and no face to face attendance or interactions are required, and “Course” denotes the structures of courses offered online to the participants. However, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) may be defined as an online learning model in which any user who has a computer and Internet connection can participate virtually in any course without the prerequisites of the traditional education system.

Opportunities for librarians

In the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) environment, librarians expect to work in a proactive manner. Before taking any opportunity in a MOOC environment, librarians must be well versed with massive open online course concepts as a whole by understanding pedagogies of MOOCs, participating in at least two types of MOOCs, and developing MOOCs on their topics of interest. Librarians should not only assist in the clearance of copyright and other legal issues for copyright resources to be used in developing MOOCs in terms of negotiation with copyright content publishers for content licensing, modifying contents, accessibility and other usages of copyright resources for MOOCs. They can raise awareness among MOOC developers towards the use of open access resources instead of copyright resources for the development of MOOCs. In order to promote usage of open access resources for building MOOCs on different topics pertaining to subjects, the librarians may organize debates on MOOCs and its related issues, face-to-face conversations, expert lectures, conferences, workshops etc. particularly for MOOC developers. Librarians must search, gather, link and provide open access resources either available in the public domain or resources made available in Creative Commons or analogue licenses on their respective institutional websites, individual blogs, and other portals as well. Librarians should frame and provide guidelines regarding how to develop quality massive open online courses on diverse topics. Librarians are expected to provide web based instructions and guidelines to use different types of materials and other issues for developing massive open online courses. Librarians can validate MOOC content and suggest more appropriate materials for MOOCs. To resolve the various problems related to MOOCs, library and information science professionals may create a forum for MOOCs activities and help each other for resolving the problems encountering during the development of MOOCs. They should not only develop a policy for massive open online courses in their respective libraries but also assist in developing MOOC policy for other institutions. Librarians can build collaboration among various libraries and institutions for developing quality massive open online courses in various topics in the collaborative mode. The librarians should not hesitate to enhance information literacy skills among MOOC developers. Apart from this, the librarians can create the proper infrastructure and space for MOOC activities and preserve MOOCs for later usage for different purposes.

Challenges for librarians

Besides the opportunities mentioned above, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) environment also presents challenges to librarians. These include sustainability of MOOCs in the library and information science domain, fair use of different types of materials or resources for building the MOOCs, quality benchmarks to be used for MOOCs prior to being published for public use, effective models for the design of MOOCs in the library and information science domain, lack of proper infrastructure, funding and technical staff, lack of MOOCs policy and its inclusion in the library mission, poor internet connectivity, high cost of MOOCs platforms, lack of institution's own MOOCs platform, cultural and language differences among various countries, Return on Investment (ROI) in development of MOOCs and so on. It is therefore necessary for library and information science professionals to think seriously regarding overcoming these challenges and how they can work effectively in the MOOC environment.

Hence, by actively participating in MOOCs activities, librarians can promote their professional development and encourage other library and information science professionals to be an active part of MOOC activities in order to support lifelong learning in the MOOC environment. On the other hand, challenges of MOOCs are alerting librarians to work diligently in the direction of overcoming the challenges in order to establish MOOCs as a reliable medium for online learning and for accelerating the MOOC movement at a worldwide level. It is also suggested that MOOC developers, librarians, and libraries should make SWOT analysis of MOOCs prior to getting involved in MOOC activities in the real sense.

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Anna Kaushik.

About the author:
Dr. Anna Kaushik is the Deputy Librarian of the University of Kota in India. She can be reached by email at