MOOCs, the Gartner Hype Cycle, and Embedded Librarians

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I’ve been preparing for the 6th Annual “Bridging the Spectrum” Symposium here at CUA, which took place today. My research assistant, Anita Kinney, and I gave a talk entitled “Embedded Librarians: Building Relationships in a Massively Open Educational System.” It’s a further development of the theme I spoke about in my webinar for the Amigos Library Council back in November.

One of the points we’re making has to do with the Gartner Group’s Hype Cycle. (If you’re not familiar with the Hype Cycle, see http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/methodologies/hype-cycle.jsp .)

We think that MOOCs need to mature, and go through a process in which we discard the hype around them and focus on what their real role is in education. We see an opportunity for librarians to influence their development by advocating for and figuring out how to integrate information skills in them.

Since all this has been on my mind, I was particularly interested in the release earlier this week of reports by Harvard and MIT about their MOOC experience. I haven’t read the full reports yet, but my reading of the summaries is that MOOCs seem to be meeting a need — but not as a replacement for formal education.

Moreover, in a news report on the studies by Campus Technology, interviewer Rhea Kelly places the same question we have asked: where are MOOCs on the Hype Cycle? And the answer from Harvard professor Andrew Ho is substantially the same as ours: somewhere between the peak of inflated expectations and the trough of disillusionment.

The bottom line for embedded librarians is this: we have an opportunity to influence the development of MOOCs as they mature. Now’s the time to lobby for a voice in your institution’s strategy!

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