MOOCS ARE ‘MASSIVE open online courses’, which are often (but not always) free and have no prerequisites for enrolment other than access to a computer. MOOCs are delivered by a number of universities and other organizations across the world. Defined as ‘a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people’, they involve collaboration, shared resources and often have limited tutor input. These courses can attract thousands of participants from all over the world and often act as a taster course for universities, who use them to showcase courses, extend their reach and identify new audiences.
The first UK MOOC was launched in 2012, and there are now over 54 MOOCs in the UK and even more worldwide (Higher Education Academy, 2013). Library staff can be involved in MOOCs in two ways, as collaborators in the creation of a course, or as participants, as part of their ongoing learning and development. At Leeds University, LKS staff were involved in the creation of MOOCs developed by the University and hosted on the Future Learn platform (Green and Howard, 2014). The role of the librarian was multifaceted; advising on resources, copyright issues, accessibility, open access and digital literacy and creating links within the organization.
For the learner, MOOCs provide informal learning opportunities via courses which vary in length, from 2 to 12 weeks (Higher Education Academy, 2013). Generally, MOOCs have a defined start and end date, although some are flexible and can be accessed at any point in time. They differ from other forms of online learning in that they facilitate connections between other learners and tutors outside the ‘classroom’ rather than being a solitary process. Participants should expect a mixture of learning methods including videos, lectures, reading, assignments, evaluations and online discussions (MOOC News and Reviews, 2013).
There is some evidence that participants use MOOCs flexibly, without completing the assessed elements of the course, and completion rates can be particularly low, at around 10%. Matt Holland (2014a) suggests that com - pletion rates may not be the most appropriate evaluation for MOOCs, as is traditionally the case for face-to-face courses.