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Thomas and I attended the Fall meeting of the Coalition for Networked Information in Washington, DC on December 10-11, 2012. CNI is a membership organization dedicated to best practices in information technology, from both the Library and IT sides.As happened last year, I had bad luck traveling to the meeting due to a delayed flight. By the time I finally got there, the keynote was already over.
For the first concurrent session, I chose “Establishing Infrastructures for Scholarly Publishing.” Kevin Hawkins, Head of Publishing Production from the University of Michigan, spoke about mPach, a system being developed to publish journals directly into the HathiTrust repository. It will be available to other institutions within the year and creates a one-step process for both publishing and archiving OA journals. Continuing the library publishing theme in the second session, I chose “Library Publishing Coalition Project.” I had heard about this earlier from my ASERL meeting. The project is meant to create a forum for professionals engaged in the field of library publishing. It is hosted by the Educopia Institute, with a large number of academic libraries participating. Membership at both the Founding and Contributing levels is now open. The stated mission is to mainstream library publishing in a range of forms, and the aim is to provide services to practitioners such as marketing, collective purchasing, advocacy, training, statistics, research, directory, and liaison with other communities. I ended the day by meeting ZSR’s good friends Dr. Earl Smith and Dr. Angela Hattery for dinner. They led the two South Course excursions in which ZSR participated in 2007 and 2009. It was great to catch up with them and hear about their new professional lives at George Mason University.
On Tuesday, the first session I attended was “Supporting Community and Open Source Software in Cultural Heritage Institutions.” I was particularly interested in the update on Kuali OLE, which is still in development on a pay-to-play basis. The OLE (Open Library Environment) project received a third year of funding from Mellon and joined the Kuali Foundation to take advantage of its governance structure and general infrastructure. The University of Chicago and Lehigh University will be the first adopters. Version 1.0 is scheduled for Q4 2013 with the release of a global open knowledgebase. In the same session, there was also an update on ArchiveSpave, which will combine Archon and Archivists Toolkit, which we use here at ZSR. The beta release is scheduled for May/June. Lyrasis has been chosen as the organizational home for training, help desk, upgrades, etc.
For the next session, I chose “HarvardX: Developing Communities of Practice for Innovation in Online Learning.” I am very interested in the MOOC movement (massive, open online courses), having taken several of them myself. Harvard and MIT announced EdX in May, 2012, and several other institutions were added shortly thereafter, including Texas, Berkeley Wellesley and Georgetown. Within EdX, Harvard uses the brand HarvardX with a goal to improve teaching, learning and research across the institution. The libraries at Harvard are trying to figure out how to support the endeavor. They have been looking at copyright implications, mostly. Perhaps the most insightful, and certainly the most amusing comment of the conference, came from a man now at Cornell, but previously with the British Open University. He said that there is nothing about MOOCs that is new, since it has been done in Britain, at least, for some time. Americans apparently think if they haven’t invented it themselves, it doesn’t count. He might have something there…
For the final session of the morning, I again choose MOOCs (can’t get enough). Our neighbor, Lynne O’Brien from Duke, presented on “Massive Open Online Courses as Drivers for Change.” Duke joined Coursera in July 2012 and has launched two courses, with eight more in development. Duke’s goals are to drive teaching innovation, extend its commitment to knowledge in service to society, and to expand Duke’s global brand. Her office helps promote, design, produce and provide media storage for the MOOCs on campus. The Provost’s office provides stipends, while the school or department also provides teaching assistants and other support. Duke’s Scholarly Communication office is providing copyright review. For some early courses, major publishers have been providing free versions of e-textbooks and some software companies have offered free or discounted software. Since the initial courses have just been completed, it is early to draw conclusions. They are estimating that development costs per course might be as high as $50,000. Faculty are doing it to build their personal brand, often without additional money or course reduction. Some faculty now want to use the Coursera platform for their own Duke courses and want the flexibility it offers in terms of the length of a course. (There is some movement there to re-think the “course is a course” approach for which Duke is known.) Overall, they are excited about the possibilities.
The conference ended with a final keynote by Hunter Rawlings, President of the Association of American Universities. He talked about the tidal wave of international students and the consequences it brings, both good and bad. He also highlighted the stress suffered by flagship state research universities and the inappropriate meddling by politicians in their mission and scope. While he does not currently have a high opinion of MOOCs, as a classicist (of special interest to me) he noted that ancient Greece was an oral, performance culture and the introduction of the written book was a massive disruption that eventually proved its worth. Plato predicted (correctly) that books would cause people to lose much of their memories, so when he wrote books he did it in dialog to mimic the best form of education and pursuit of truth (in his view). Perhaps we can think of MOOCs in the same way.