On November 19, Regent University announced the launch in January 2014 of LUXVERA™, a proprietary platform designed to “provide transformative Christian education to all parts of the world,” in the words of Regent Chancellor Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson.
To prepare for the roll-out of the University’s first MOOC, the Library faculty has been spending the fall semester learning about this development in higher education. To begin with, the librarians have participated in a four-part professional webinar about supporting students and faculty engaged with MOOCs as well as issues of copyright and fair use.
On the theory that the best way to learn about something is to do it, the entire Library faculty has also been taking MOOCs. The librarians have taken courses in historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction, leadership and emotional intelligence, world history, video games and learning, and algebra from Coursera, Udacity, and Khan Academy. With the exception of Udacity’s and Khan Academy’s self-paced algebra classes, the course lengths have ranged from 8 to 12 weeks, with weekly time requirements ranging from 3 to 6 hours per week.
The librarians’ experiences with these courses have been generally positive, with nearly everyone praising the organizational structure and quality of instruction. Commenting on Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction, Library dean Sara Baron writes that “the professor from University of Virginia, is very engaging and responsive…even though there are hundreds of messages posted daily, he answers some of them personally.” Reference Librarian Jason Stuart, while praising the lectures in his video games and learning course, also felt that the assignments were too simple and lacked a design that would encourage the student to explore more deeply the concepts introduced in the lectures. A dynamic platform with multiple forms of instruction and ongoing communication proved to be the most enjoyable for the Library faculty.
The experience of taking MOOCs this fall has given the Library faculty some important insights into the dynamics of MOOC’s:
- MOOCs allow for different levels of commitment. Head of Public Services Sandy Yaegle comments that in her leadership course, students may choose a free “basic track” or a for-pay “signature track” that allows the student to earn a statement of completion to apply for continuing education credits.
- As much as possible, the required readings for MOOCs are open source. Divinity librarian Melody Diehl mentioned that in her world history course, purchase of the textbook (written by the professor teaching the class) is optional.
- Assignments and essays are peer-reviewed by other students in the course. The peer-review process is a significant part of the weekly time requirement for classes.
- Librarians have an important role to play in assembling course content and advising professors on copyright and fair use.
The Library faculty believes that the experience of taking MOOCs on several platforms and discussing their experiences together has been an excellent preparation for supporting Regent’s entrance into this new venue for college-level education.