Monday 15 December 2014

The MOOC Library Degree

I'm a fan of continuing professional education (hence the title of this blog!) and I often look to courses to fill gaps in my knowledge or give me a taste of something new. MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are one way to take courses that fit around my normal work schedule and in the past I've been something of a MOOC addict. Although they do have their downsides I think they also have many benefits if both the institution and the participant are prepared to put in the commitment needed.

Whilst flipping through a magazine I came across an article about Laurie Pickard who has created her own MBA course from MOOCS as she doesn't have access to the 'regular' course. She has documented her experiences on a blog - No Pay MBA. Whatever your opinion of the value of MOOCs her experiment certainly shows that she's able to think creatively about her continuing education.

There's been quite a lot of discussion about the value of the traditional library degree in recent years, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't. Laurie's blog has inspired me to have a go at putting together my own Library Science degree from available online courses. It covers some of the areas I think we could do with more of on library courses but I was limited to the MOOCs I could find. I should add that I've not taken all of these courses, this is just as experiment to see what I could come up with. It's also worth nothing that some of the courses below incur a charge, especially if you want a verified certificate of completion.

So below I present my version of the MOOC Library Degree:

Library specific courses
I figured that this would be a good place to start. Most of the MOOCs I've taken in the past have been directly related to library and information studies as this is closely linked to my job. The best of these was The Hyperlinked Library which looked at emerging trends in the provision of library services. The New Librarianship Master Class also looked at the future of modern librarianship whilst Library Advocacy Unshushed looked at ways in which information professionals could advocate for their services (increasingly important with the threat of budget cuts). Finally Copyright for Educators and Librarians provides a useful background to copyright legislation (with an acknowledged US bias).

Management and leadership
Management studies are a traditional part of most library courses and there are plenty of MOOCs available to help you get started. Learn the basics of people management with Managing People: Engaging Your Workforce which helps introduce you to ways to develop those you are responsible for. Entrepreneurship 101 and 102 help to develop skills around strategic thinking for leadership whilst Becoming a Successful Leader provides a way to put leadership skills into context. You can learn the art of negotiation with Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills and also brush up on your Project Management skills. General financial MOOCs are a little thin on the ground but I did find Financial Analysis and Decision Making and An Introduction to Corporate Finance. Finally an Introduction to Psychology course helps with the management of both staff and service users.

This is a very useful skill, especially for services which often need their own unique marketing approach.  An Introduction to Marketing provides a basic introduction whilst Digital Marketing: Challenges and Insights looks at the increase in online marketing. Information services need to develop a brand like any other service - The Secret Power of Brands explains the psychology of brands and brand management and Projecting Your Brand Through New Media shows how to use this online.

Teaching skills are frequently asked for in job specifications. These skills are best developed in practical ways but courses provide useful theory and background. There are courses specifically about teaching such as The Virtual Teacher Program and The Art of Teaching as well as those which focus on associated skills such as Introduction to Public Speaking. Design and Development of Education Technology links to this by providing an insight into the new technologies used to deliver user education.

Technological skills
The role of the information professional is changing rapidly and part of this involves keeping up with technology. Programming skills are much in demand and this is reflected in the number of MOOCs available on the topic. Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game, Introduction to Programming with Java and A Taste of Python Programming all help to fill the gap. Building Mobile Experiences talks participants through creating an app, increasingly important as more and more people are accessing information services on smartphones and tablets. The use of data is also a popular MOOC subject with Coursera devoting a specialization to Data Science.

Job application skills
Finally any degree course should prepare you to get a job upon completion. Whilst not library specific I found the How to Succeed courses from the University of Sheffield useful for picking up tips on both Writing Applications and Interviews.

I'm not sure when people would find the time to take all of those courses but I hope I've at least given readers something to think about. The main point of this post is not to encourage people to ditch the traditional degree but to illustrate that there are many ways to fill gaps in your knowledge or develop a new skill. Thanks to Laurie Pickard and her No Pay MBA idea for inspiring this post and encouraging me to learn about some new MOOCs which I can use to plug my own knowledge gaps.

Photo credit: dumfster via Photopin


  1. A really useful post Claire, I'm sure many readers will find something you've mentioned to help them along with their careers. As current MSc Information Science student, I do hope that the qualification wont fall out of favour, but I do think it unlikely. No course can be comprehensive, and that's where courses such as the ones you identified, come in handy.

  2. Thanks Steve. I can't see the qualification going away any time soon and I personally enjoyed (most of) mine. The value of MOOCs to me is topping up my knowledge or trying something new without the heavy financial commitment. Hopefully they will provide LIS students with a chance to catch up on anything they feel they've missed out on.

  3. I've been asked to add some more data science and statistics courses to the list so I've come up with the following:

    The Data Scientists Toolbox
    Getting and Cleaning Data
    Data Visualisation
    Data Analysis and Statistical Inference
    Statistics One
    Business Statistics