MOOCs as Professional Development

by Kathleen Reed
Assessment and Data Librarian, Vancouver Island University

With bright sun and shorts weather arriving on the BC coast, my thoughts have turned to summer plans. With fall and winter terms being way too hectic to put much sustained attention to professional development (PD), spring and summer is the time to take a few days and learn new skills.

Aside from the conference circuit and catching up on recent publications, one of my favourite ways to spend PD time is doing massive open online courses (MOOCs). I love MOOCs because 1) they allow me to learn about a wide range of topics, 2) they’re free, and 3) they’re low commitment – if I don’t like the course I just drop it and find another, or only take the part of the course I’m interested in.

For this blog entry, I thought I’d review some free courses relevant to librarians engaged in evidence-based practice.

I Heart Stats: Learning to Love Statistics
edX (Notre Dame)

I’ve searched far and wide for a stats course that doesn’t scare the hell out of me, and this one is it. It’s a very gentle introduction (or refresher) to basic statistical concepts: inferential stats, chi squares, T-tests, ANOVA, regression, and correlation. If any of those words strike fear into your heart, this is the course for you! Taught by a sociology prof, the emphasis is on helping non-math majors get comfortable with basic stats. The only prior knowledge required is how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. This was the first course I ever took where I thought “wow, stats can be fun!”

Social Psychology
Coursera (Wesleyan University)

A psychology course might seem an odd choice for librarian PD at first, but I found this one particularly useful to understand why people do what they do, which has implications for everything from library space design to designing effective assessment activities. Taught by Dr. Scott Plous, this is an engaging introduction to social psych.

Project Management: The Basics for Success
Coursera (University of California, Irvine)

Project management skills are seriously helpful in a library environment. If you’ve never taken a course in project management, consider this one. It’s free and available on-demand (i.e. no start/end dates, no deadlines).

Introduction to Marketing
Coursera (Wharton School of Business, U. of Pennsylvania)

Once you’ve got evidence of good stuff happening in your library, the next step is to communicate your awesomeness to your stakeholders. Good marketing skills really help. Wharton is known for their marketing expertise, so why not learn from the best? This course started June 1.

Psychological First Aid
Coursera (John Hopkins)

Lots of people have training in giving First Aid for physical injuries, but what about people who need immediate psychological assistance? This course doesn’t qualify you as a psychological first responder, but it does give an introduction to the subject.

The five courses above are ones I see a direct, useful connection to my job as an Assessment Librarian. There are plenty of MOOCs out there for people who want to learn about a whole variety of subjects. If you’re looking for a PD opportunity this summer, why not check out a MOOC? My favourite MOOC sites are Coursera, FutureLearn, and edX.

Have you found a great MOOC? Have you tried MOOCs before? What do you do for PD? Please share in the comments below.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.