Student Learning and the MOOC Experience: Instructors Share Insight from the Hyperlinked Library MOOC Pilot


The School of Library and Information Science at San José State University (SJSU) launched its first-ever Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in fall 2013. The free online course, The Hyperlinked Library, was designed to provide professional development for information professionals and demonstrate ways for librarians to use new technologies to their advantage when developing user-centered library services.

More than 1,300 information professionals expressed interest in the Hyperlinked Library MOOC, which was limited to the first 400 signups. Those participating in the course were surveyed both before and after the course, in an effort to gain insight on what they learned from the course, their self-reported success rates, and participants’ interest in MOOCs.

According to research conducted by instructors Dr. Michael Stephens and Kyle Jones, 61 percent of the MOOC participants who responded to the survey felt that the course taught them “new ideas, new knowledge, and new trends.” Participants also reported that they “gained inspiration, energy and excitement about the field” and learned “new technological skills,” demonstrating that the course was successful in providing new information and eliciting creative ideas.

In addition to other findings about student learning and the MOOC experience, Stephens and Jones also found that 76 percent of the survey respondents felt somewhat or completely successful in the course, 53 percent felt that the MOOC was a convenient way to learn, and 45 percent felt it would aid their professional development. Complete findings from Stephens’ and Jones’ research will be published this fall in The Journal of Library and Information Science Education.

The Hyperlinked Library MOOC was developed by Stephens, Jones, and 10 graduate student assistants using research they found on other successful MOOCs. According to Margaret Jean Campbell, one of the graduate student assistants, the MOOC design is “highly sophisticated in terms of interconnectivity and social engagement.” Stephens added that he was surprised by “the intense level of sharing from the core group of active students. They shared so openly about their aspirations, workplace triumphs and challenges, and their feelings about learning in an open, global ‘classroom.’” In addition, Stephens said that he “was touched deeply by the kindness and support they gave each other and the kindness extended to Kyle and [me].”

The online learning platform used for The Hyperlinked Library MOOC was new, and it was developed by a team of experts, including Jones. Jones has extensive experience with open source content management, and developed the platform by starting with WordPress design and administration for the course site and customizing it for the MOOC with modifications. According to Jones, “WordPress creates the foundation for each MOOC student to blog and participate in reflective learning. However, the platform we created for the MOOC allows us to offer the connected experience Michael and I both strive for with our teaching. We’ve been thoroughly impressed with the significant amount of activity, interaction, and knowledge building that our MOOC platform has supported.”

The MOOC program at the SJSU information school expands the school’s professional development opportunities, especially for individuals interested in topics trending in the library and information science field. The MOOCs are free and open to everyone as not-for-credit learning experiences. Stephens is planning to offer an updated version of The Hyperlinked Library MOOC in spring 2015.