What I will miss about my online MSC #1

Now it might be very librarian of me to say that I will miss the library…but I will.

Once my access to the, easy to use single-sign-on, university portal ends I will not be able to access the various ejournals I have kept an eye on over the three years, many in areas such as business and health not directly related to the education/technology schools of my course.  In the form of non-Open Access journals the publishers are effectively helping the universities maintain a legacy control on knowledge from the pre-web era.

Certainly I opted for the course I did knowing I could use the excellent SCONUL Access scheme.  SCONUL Access allows students, at participating UK Higher Education institutions, to visit other physical collections.  However, it was the ejournals that were really useful for my general development even with some of the problems in trying to access materials across different vendor platforms.

Of course University libraries have supported Open Access for a long time now and hopefully this can continue so libraries are empowered to play their part in getting students attached to key information sources.  Students can then go on using and contributing to these resources, and other quality resources and peer reviewed activities, during the rest of their lifelong learning.  The possible death of publishing has been well documented elsewhere, all I would say is that the journals do not just need to be open/affordable but also as easy to use/access as any other thought leadership in the modern era.

Final post on my online MSc

If you ever read my last blog, you will have seen various posts about the online MSc course I was working through during the last three years.  You will have also seen that I was not always very positive about the experience.  Thus is it was interesting, just as I was graduating from that course, to see the increase in press coverage for MOOCs and the increasing adoption of ‘free’ online course programmes such as coursera.org.

The major question for me is how, in these course formats, the instructor/tutor role is formed and the level of socialisation with other students.  At times my MSc was limited to working through materials with some discussion board or synchronous chat.  This, to me, is eLearning as has existed for some time and in many ways a replication of a lecture-heavy instructional design.  Indeed accessing static eLearning materials will be familiar to many from the workplace and there are plenty of examples online, including via Alison.

The real value of an educational experience is often the support of experts and your peers in giving a context to your learning.  I fear many large-scale courses are not managing this well.  For example, my recent MOOC experience of Google’s Power Searching with Google MOOC, which contained some good instructional video and useful activities, struggled with a very ‘noisy’ discussion platform.  Do you then start to select entrants, as traditional university courses have, to try and ensure a higher quality experience?  Alternatively do you deliver static materials as a way to advertise what is possible for a fully supported experience, in the form of open course ware rather than open courses.