Session Description

The field of online education is incredibly important for libraries to support and be involved in. Learn from our mistakes! We’ll take you through the journey of mishaps and misadventures in developing an open online course offered by Countway Library of Medicine.

Type of Library

Special Library; University Library


online learning, online courses, MOOC, Massive Open Online Course, librarians


May 4th, 2:30 PM May 4th, 3:15 PM

MOOC: Miscalculations, Oversights, Opportunities and Celebration

Floor 2

Online learning is incredibly important for libraries and librarians to stay valuable in modern information ages. While face to face classes are wonderful, online courses give our users more flexibility and opportunities to learn. The field of online learning is essential for libraries and we want to support and embrace online learning developments.

Ways for libraries to become involved in online learning have recently been explored in-depth (Tasha Maddison, and Maha Kumaran, ed. 2017. Distributed Learning. Chandos Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-100598-9.00023-4). While some of the identified challenges and limitations are also reflected in this project, this presentation provides a case study about a library creating an online course for broad use in a specific subject domain.

Learn from our mistakes! Three years of working on an online course results in a lot of lessons learned. We’ll take you through the journey of mishaps and misadventures in chronological order, and share how we turned oversights into new opportunities.

Questions and areas to keep an eye out for when creating your own online class:

1. Planning Stages: Take it seriously and think about the entire project timeline

  • Do you have the background knowledge? Find experts who can help!
  • Use resources available to you, but don’t cut corners!
  • Be realistic about your budget. Include specific breakdowns and costs.

2. Include the User: Include the user in everything you do with check-ins

  • Think about the user first, and think about different users.
  • Your user = your audience. Be reasonable about who your content is for!
  • Conducting a pilot? Include honorariums and plan early!
  • Focus Groups are a great way to get user feedback. But how many should you do?

3. Be Adaptable: Online courses are never going to run exactly as planned

  • Understand both the technology possibilities and limitations.
  • Prepare for scenarios, but be flexible and able to pivot with problems!
  • What happens when the content changes? Think about the long term.

With some experimentation, we ultimately were able to celebrate a completed online course. Long-term assessment will be crucial for determining the aspects that still fell short or lead to the eventual success of this project.


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