Cross-Training with MOOCs

by Jess Bruckner, Assistant Editor, INALJ Wisconsin

Cross-Training with MOOCs

Jess BrucknerToday, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are shaking up the educational landscape due to the surging popularity of distance education platforms such as Coursera, Udacity, and EdX. These dynamic platforms have the potential to be game changers for librarians, allowing them to self-educate outside their comfort zones and cross-train to enhance their knowledge bases. If people explore MOOC options, they’ll quickly learn that these courses have the potential to crack the static library service levels. These courses also have the potential to affect the way in which library continuing education requirements are met.

I’ve taken several MOOCs through Coursera, and I’d like to share my thoughts on cross-training with MOOCs. Here is some helpful advice on getting the most out of MOOCs.

Take classes outside your comfort zone. Have you been looking for outlets to learn more about teacher education and how it can radically enhance your effectiveness as a librarian? Or have you been curious about cutting-edge business strategies that you can incorporate into your role in the library? Maybe you’ve been itching to learn about life-changing ways to make better decisions—Scott E. Page’s (University of Michigan) course on Model Thinking (Coursera) is one of the best MOOCs anyone could take on how to make better use of data and design better projects.

You get what you put into it. Plan to invest several hours a week into a course once you are enrolled. Watch the videos, participate in the forums (some MOOCs require it), and watch out for deadlines on assignments and big projects (yes, projects). You don’t have to earn a certificate of achievement for every class you take; you may wish to sign up for a class only to watch the videos.

Take away two or three things from every class. You should be able to walk away from a class with, at the bare minimum, two or three concepts you can immediately apply in your daily work. I’ve never taken a MOOC that failed to enlighten or spin me off into new directions. As a result, I feel as though I am better prepared to contribute more to stakeholder discussions.

Remember, if you are searching for a library gig, MOOCs are marketable achievements. They are free opportunities to cross-train with other professionals and to pass on new knowledge to the patrons we serve every day.

Jess Bruckner is a public librarian at the Montello Public Library and is an oft-used substitute teacher in central Wisconsin. He is currently working on his Wisconsin teaching certification.