Tag Archives: Education

Health Professions Education Day & Taubman Library Grand Opening

I just wanted to say how button-busting proud I am of last week’s Health Professions Education Day and the Grand (re)-Opening of our library. There was an enormous amount of content related to both, so I made them into two separate Storify. The #HPEDay collection includes a rich overview of the innovative and collaborative approach to health education across all seven of the University of Michigan schools and colleges (dentistry, kinesiology, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health, and social work), with rich visionary insights into professional ethics and leadership. Profound, and worth a slow deep exploration. The Taubman Health Sciences Library re-opening collection includes many images from tours of the new building which was designed to support these visions. Enjoy!

If you have specific questions, feel free to post them below, and perhaps they can trigger additional blogposts that go into more detail about specifics.

[Updated Sept22 to correct list of participating schools & colleges.]

#WHDemoDay and #ADAinitiative — Oh, the Irony

Welcome to Demo Day at the White House! (Megan Smith, the First US Chief Technology Officer) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxGrDsuwCFk

“It’s a tradition in the tech community to show off amazing things that people have built. … All Americans do this. All American are capable of this. And it’s a big part of our future, and it’s always been a big part of our past.”

Yesterday was a landmark day in diversity and inclusion.

Yesterday saw the first ever White House Demo Day (#WHDemoDay), for women and minority entrepreneurs and innovators to ‘pitch’ their ideas to President Obama.

Yesterday saw the end of the ADA Initiative, “a feminist organization. We strive to serve the interests and needs of women in open technology and culture who are at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression, including disabled women, women of color, LBTQ women, and women from around the world.” (Ada Initiative, About Us)

How enormously ironic to see the closing of the one with the opening of the other, and both with such closely related missions. I can only hope that this first White House Demo Day proves to be one of many, and that the effort continues to embrace and support diversity as essential to American creativity and innovation.

White House Demo Day

The White House Demo Day had demonstrations to illustrate the diversity of people contributing to the innovation that helps strengthen the American economy. Most of the companies presenting had at least one woman founder or co-founder. Almost as many of the companies presenting had a founder that is a person of color or who shows ethnic or cultural diversity. The two companies represented by white men were (1) military, and (2) a winner of the XPRIZE. There were a few wonderful presenters from Michigan, including Ann-Marie Sastry of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor talking about her innovations in batteries and power storage. Products presented included new search engines based on cognitive models, medical innovations in cancer / HIV / aging / asthma, parenting tools, strategies for empowering patients, creative ways to repay student loans, several on converting ‘waste’ to profit, and much more. There was even Zoobean, who partner with libraries to recommend books and apps based on children’s preferences.

White House Demo Day

Part of what made this so wonderful (and why I wish I’d heard about it sooner) was the move to encourage parallel events across the country. I wish we’d done this here! Here are some tweets about the high points.

Read about the presenters here. Listen to the pitches here.

President Obama Hosts the First-Ever White House Demo Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKsxHS5vptM

White House Demo Day: https://www.whitehouse.gov/demo-day

Ada Initiative

“When the Ada Initiative was founded in 2011, the environment for women in open technology and culture was extremely hostile. Conference anti-harassment policies were rare outside of certain areas in fandom, and viewed as extremist attempts to muzzle free speech. Pornography in slides was a regular feature at many conferences in these areas, as were physical and sexual assault. Most open tech/culture communities didn’t have an understanding of basic feminist concepts like consent, tone policing, and intersectional oppression.” https://adainitiative.org/2015/08/announcing-the-shutdown-of-the-ada-initiative/

The Ada Initiative began by trying to change the world for women in STEM and tech. They stopped, but not without having made change, and not without leaving a permanent legacy. You’ll see tributes and comments below to testify to this, but you’ll also see links to some of the content they made open source and Creative Commons in order to help perpetuate their work, as well as work from some of their partners who carry on the good message and work. By the way, their open source toolkits are absolutely incredible and well worth downloading.

HOWTO design a code of conduct for your community https://adainitiative.org/2014/02/howto-design-a-code-of-conduct-for-your-community/
Code of conduct evaluations http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Code_of_conduct_evaluations

Announcing the ADA Camp Toolkit: https://adainitiative.org/2015/07/add-a-little-bit-of-adacamp-to-your-event-announcing-the-adacamp-toolkit/

ADACamp Toolkit: https://adacamp.org/
– Inclusive event catering: https://adacamp.org/adacamp-toolkit/inclusive-event-catering/
– Providing conference childcare: https://adacamp.org/adacamp-toolkit/childcare/
– Quiet room: https://adacamp.org/adacamp-toolkit/quiet-room/
– Supporting d/Deaf and hard of hearing people at an unconference: https://adacamp.org/adacamp-toolkit/supporting-deaf-people/

Eszter Hargittai on Essential Tech Skills (#mlanet15)

Part 5 of a series of blogposts I wrote for the recent Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association.

Eszter Hargittai #MLAnet15

Is the Internet good or bad? Safe or dangerous? The answer from Eszter Hargittai at the MLAnet15 Closing Plenary was, “It depends.” Even if I was tracking tech events at the conference, even if this topic wasn’t my own bread-&-butter, even though Natalie has already done an completely excellent blogpost about this session, I would (and do!) still want to blog on this.

“It depends,” is the correct answer to most debates about anything to do with the Internet. Eszter Hargittai has hard data, and strong methodologies behind it, to show that most of our stereotypes about Internet use, audiences, abilities, etc. are considerably more subtle, nuanced, granular, and shaded than commonly believed.

Eszter Hargittai #MLAnet15

In her research, there were a surprising or worrying number of students who were unable to distinguish phishing URLs from real URLs, to define fundamental Internet jargon terms, to determine accurate versus biased news, to leverage social sharing appropriately for employment, to find accurate and useful health information for common search topics, and more. She described impacts of lower socioeconomic status, gender differences that carry over to online environment, and importantly reframed the “digital divide” as “digital inequalities.” The example which most impressed me related to emergency contraception use. I suspect I’m not the only medical librarian who’s been approached by friends or neighbors with questions related to this topic. In Dr. Hargittai’s sample, a full third were unable to discover that it was possible to buy this over the counter at your neighborhood drug store. And that doesn’t even touch on the question of the other two thirds who do know how to find and purchase it, but do they know how to use it appropriately and safely in the context of their own health history?

Eszter Hargittai #MLAnet15

The Internet can empower as much as it can endanger. What makes the difference? Hargittai says skills.

Eszter Hargittai #MLAnet15

And the skills that are needed are ones that can largely be taught and learned. Librarians are people who generally (“It depends”, remember?) have both the needed skills and know how to teach them. This was a talk that the librarians who attended are still talking about, and I suspect that will continue in months to come.

You can explore the Storify, and its over 300 tweets to see what else people had to say about the talk.

At the Movies: Sex Positivity Messages on Youtube

Montage of thumbnails for several Youtube channels focused on sex positive messages

Tonight there is a #medlibs Twitter chat on some ways in which sex education is happening on social media.

Sexual Education & Social Media Chat — Sex Ed On Social Media: Quirky or Quality? http://medlibschat.blogspot.com/2015/01/sexual-education-social-media-chat.html

In preparation for this, I’d like to share highlights from a few of the more popular “sex positive” sex education Youtube channels! “Sex +,” “sex positive,” and “sex positivity” is a whole movement focused on looking at sex and sexual behavior as a good healthy thing rather than “dirty”. I’m probably oversimplifying with that rough definition, but it gives the broad idea. Many of the advocates and information channels include education, but some focus instead on relationships, communication, psychology, and attitudes. Some are professionally made, some are from health care or educational professionals, some are homegrown. You can’t tell which are the good ones from the source. Some professional ones are badly made or slanted, some homegrown ones are excellent and accurate.

As the phrases “sex positive” and “sex positivity” become more popular, you also begin to find some pornography channels that adopt the phrase in order to get into the search results. This has also happened with “sex ed” and “sexual education,” where some of the channels are more focused on education, and others are more focused on the (ahem) sex. This makes it really hard to go out, do a search, and actually FIND good quality sex ed content in Youtube. You can’t know before clicking if you’ll find something educational or something more smutty or something simply stuffy.

These channels often have clever names to communicate their focus topic (Ask My Girlfriend, Cherry TV, GLAMerotica 101, Kara Sutra, Nice Girls Like Sex Too, Sexplanations, Twisted Broad). Some of them provide good information in a cute way, others have cute names but rarely post any information, and yet others aren’t actually on the topic they seem to be on. Even if they post information rarely, it might be good, or it might be dated or irrelevant. Even if they have lots of views, it might be because it’s a good video or it might just be, well, porn. Again, you don’t know until you go look.

So, you can’t trust the key words, the metadata, the sponsors, the names of the channels, or the names of the videos. This is one of the best reasons for medical librarians and health care professionals to look into this before the questions are asked or answered. Trust me, you REALLY don’t want to be browsing these while someone is looking over your shoulder waiting for an answer! I stumbled into a few surprises while planning this post that I really could have done without. (The eyeballs! They burn! Ahhhh!) So spare your eyeballs, and check out a few of these as examples of the sex+ genre.

In this collection (which is highly selected and ONLY examples!), I’m focusing specifically on pieces with a more education focus and less of the sex, how to, issues, or relationship management, even though those are also obviously important. This means I didn’t include the famous Dan Savage or Kara Sutra or Just Sex or Nice Girls Like Sex Too or Twisted Broad or …. I also wanted to show sex ed that is more peer-to-peer, from teens and young adults to other teens and young adults, so I didn’t include pieces that try to sell sex toys or psychotherapy or couples therapy or from major universities. Face it, the universities offer solid content, but it isn’t as fun and engaging. Should it be? Why or why not? Did I miss any channels you think are great? Please list them in the comments!


Of course, I have to begin (and end!) with Laci Green, who is THE name in this space. If you only have heard of one sex positive online advocate, it is probably her. This video on the topic of what is consent and how to get it goes into an essential concept in sexual safety, as well as prevention of rape and sexual violence. Her description of the video includes “how to properly ask for consent, as well as what consent does and does not sound like.” Good stuff, worth thinking about. What would you add or change?

Wanna have sex? (Consent 101) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD2EooMhqRI


Laci Green started up a second channel in partnership with Planned Parenthood for talk about sex topics that are less educational and more issue-oriented. In this space, she has a small collection of videos on topics such as recovering from rape, hormone therapy, birth control, pregnancy testing, and more.

Sex After Rape https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnK6xN7PF4


Laci Green started up a THIRD channel in partnership with MTV for talk about pop culture, some of which includes sex talk and much of which doesn’t. In this space, she has a small collection of videos on topics such as recovering from rape, hormone therapy, birth control, pregnancy testing, and more.

Sex At Hogwarts?! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXPQBLOfnFk


Sexplanations is a channel designed around the perception of authority (“with Dr. Doc”) right along with quirkiness (check out the pigtailed avatar). The “Dr. Doc” behind the show is Lindsey Doe, a clinical sexologist.

Sexplanations Episodes 1-50: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQiadPyjJ4E&list=PL_zdi3TflN9LjEjkqh3OwKb-l8o-ieODH&index=1


Reid About Sex is a partnership of Reid Mihalko and Cathy Vartuli (Intimacy Dojo). In their extensive video series they have conversations about topics of interest, ranging from gender identity and sexually transmitted diseases to communication, props, behavior, and sex positive business advise. Whoa. That’s a lot of ground to cover.

Can You Get Herpes From Cuddling? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcXzaKJsaJc


The Sex Ed Talk used to be called “The Tit Talk”, and can be found in various social media locations under either or both names. Their focus is on what they believe should have been covered in school, but wasn’t, or wasn’t covered as thoroughly as they like.

Vagina 101 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE93vWFglEg


Dodson & Ross introduce themselves as “the top sex educator in the world” and “the best attorney on the planet and my stunt c**t.” They continue by claiming you can’t ask a good question they won’t answer. They mean it, too. I had trouble finding one that was safe to put in this post. Despite the use of straight language (which sometimes means street language), all the videos are education, and pretty straightforward as well as candid.

Healthy Vaginas Through Menopause https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RTjYaBrYMo


I just couldn’t do this post without included my first and favorite Laci Green video — “You Can’t Pop Your Cherry (Hymen 101).”

You Can’t POP Your Cherry! (Hymen 101) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qFojO8WkpA

Open Access or Not? Thoughts on Selecting Online Resources for MOOCs

Birthday: Saline Train Depot: Office - Upside Down Open

I had a very interesting pair of questions come up this week. So interesting and such excellent illustrations of issues in selecting open content for MOOCs that I wanted to share it, but will “change the names” for several reasons. That this is Open Access Week just makes this even more timely. Take this as an example, a case study or sorts, nothing more. However, I do hope that those of you with more experience in intellectual property law will please chime in to clarify any thoughts or misunderstandings I might insert inadvertently.

For background, I’ve been taking a variety of MOOCs in recent years, few of which I complete, and most of which I register for with three reasons in mind. Reason One: The content interests me, and I wish I had time to learn more about it. Reason Two: I’m curious what the bibliography and resources will contain, and hope to add those to my collection, even if I don’t have time for the class. Reason Three: I’m interested in different MOOC platforms and methodologies, and learn about these best by actually trying them out hands on. As a librarian, I have a special interest in the bibliographies, the links, the readings, and where those come from. Part of my interest is personal and part of it comes from our own institution being engaged with MOOCs through the Coursera platform, and wanting to see best practices for how to identify and select content for these types of classes.


One of the MOOCs I took included in the recommended readings a link to classic content from the 1800s, but which is included in several anthologies, both new and old. A particular anthology was recommended, and a link provided. The link was to a PDF of the entire book hosted in a site for a Slovenian high school English teacher. Meanwhile, given the importance of the work, copies are also available in several well known and highly regarded collections of open access content. These included Project Gutenberg, EServer (hosted by Iowa State University), the American Studies Project (hosted by the University of Virginia), the Internet Archive, Electronic Classics Site (hosted by Pennsylvania State University), and others, such as societies honoring the author and other academic organizations or collections.

I was alarmed to see a link to a suspect source (Slovenian high school?) provided in preference to authoritative sources which track provenance and verify rights to content posted. I dug around in the downloaded PDF and the pages linking to it, hunting for any indication that the teacher had received permission to repost the full book for his students. All I could find was a copyright statement in the PDF that the work was under copyright and that electronic conversion was not allowed, with a statement explicitly asking readers to not encourage electronic piracy. I wanted to bring this up, but did not want to cause any problems for the professor in charge of the MOOC nor for the school hosting the content. For this reason, I did not bring it up in the class forums, but instead hunted for the faculty member’s email address to send a message about the concern and alternate locations to access equivalent content, even if it is not the same anthology.

I received a note from the faculty member explaining the selection, with an interesting perspective. Briefly the logic follows this progression.

1. The contents of the anthology are all out of copyright, and in the public domain.
2. The anthology as a whole and the editorial comments would indeed fall under copyright protection, however, these were not included in the required readings for the class.
3. The professor had asked the students to read selected pages in the work, not the complete anthology nor the introductory content by the editor. The content on those specific pages is not copyrighted.
4. The professor did not himself create the PDF, nor reproduce the pages, but merely linked to them.

As the professor put it, “the assertion of copyright is not the same as having copyright.”

I find this a very intriguing justification, but incomplete and perhaps a bit of nitpicking. I suspect that if push came to shove, if the publisher of the book chose to contest the availability of the PDF online, the professor MIGHT find that his logic stands in a court of law. I suspect that the publisher (widely international, but the work scanned was from an American imprint) might find it easier to establish a suit against American use of the work than trying to take the case to Slovenia. Copyright itself is not the only concern. Additional concerns are placing at risk the institution that provides the MOOC online, the school for which the faculty member works, as potential collaborators in linking to the suspect content. If the school and organization were aware of this and chose to support the use of this link, that would be one thing, but I am not sure that they were or are aware.

Lastly, but not least, I am concerned about the example being set for the students. In my eyes, the faculty have a duty to model information use and resources following methods recommended for their students. Here at the University of Michigan there have been times when the University has elected intentionally to push the boundaries of Fair Use in order to prevent the erosion of the rights, and knowing that they might find themselves the subject of a lawsuit. The Google Book Project is a notable example of this. Google Books is a definite example of the concept the professor noted, that “the assertion of copyright is not the same as having copyright.” If the use of this Slovenian full text link was intended to explicitly test that legal provision, that would be lovely, and I would applaud the bravery and purpose of both the professor and the institutions supporting the content. If so, I would have personally appreciated having that made clear to the students. If not made clear there is the more subtle risk that students will interpret the Slovenian link to a possibly pirated work as having the approval of the professor, especially when so many other clearly open access copies of the work are available and the link is provided in preference to those open and legal copies. That is what baffles me most.


This example is almost the complete opposite of the first one! This is what makes these two such an exciting pair of examples for me to explore. In this MOOC which I took, the professor had as required readings almost entirely works which were free to the students. There were just a couple notable exceptions, for which you either had to find a print copy in a library or buy a copy. I was lucky, in that I already owned a copy, but when I accidentally stumbled on a free electronic copy online, I thought the professor would appreciate knowing about it, and that it would make life even easier for the students of that course. The professor, quite rightly, was reluctant to pursue making that link available because the author is still alive and the book still in print, making it pretty clear that the copyright is still in force. So, the question became, when is it alright to share an online copy of a copyrighted work? Ever?

The first important concept to understand is that an author may retain the right to share their work, and still keep it under copyright. Even a Creative Commons license does NOT mean that the author has given up their intellectual property rights, only that they’ve simplified the process of requesting certain types of rights. Which rights are simplified depends on which CC license was chosen. So, it is possible that an author could make the choice to permit use of their work in a specific circumstance.

The second important idea is the question of whether the author or the publisher actually owned the copyright in the selected work. Just because an author wrote a book does not mean that they have the RIGHT to make the decision about whether or not it is alright to put up a free copy online. Frankly, based on what I’ve observed, authors are more likely to choose to make a work Creative Commons than publishers. There are publishers that have chosen to make ebook versions of their backfile free when the original is out of print, but that is still more the exception than the rule. For this example, the copyright is owned by the author, se we really don’t have a clue (unless we ask them).

In this example, again, there was a complete PDF of the book, but in addition to the PDF there were also multiple file formats for different e-reader devices, including accessible formats for persons with disabilities and raw text (ASCII). The PDF was not in some distant country or on the web site for a particular local school, but was instead part of a major online collection of full text works. My first step was to look at the credibility of the provider, which is pretty similar to what I did with the first example.

While I’m not listing the specific title, I will list the collection in which it appeared: The Basic e-Learning Library (BeLL) of the Open Learning Exchange, but not the version housed at their main site, rather the BeLL collection housed in the Internet Archive. I tried first to look at the actual work as posted to see if there was any statement about the rights. I couldn’t find anything. Next I tried looking for some sort of statement on the OLE site. I couldn’t find one there either. I wanted to find out more about the OLE, what they do, and how reputable they are. Well, WOW! They are an international initiative focused on providing high quality education resources to 3rd world countries. And do they have powerful partners: UN High Council for Refugees; US Agency of International Development; US State Department; Oxfam …. And those are only a few. My gut reaction was, “They are partners with the US State Department? Well, they MUST be legitimate and responsible!”

I came very close to stopping there, placing my trust in the State Department and the United Nations to properly vet their partners. The group is doing such a good thing, and I really WANT deeply to believe in them and support this wonderful thing they are trying to do, helping low income countries. But then I tried to reverse verify this, and again ran into problems. I tried to find anything on the UN or UNHCR sites to show that they have a partnership with OLE. Hunh. I couldn’t find them listed on the UN site, but there were a couple links on the State Department site. Not anything saying they are partners, but at least people connected with the organization are presenting at State Department events. Normally, I would really not be working this hard. Normally, I would have called this credible and dropped it, which is what I had done when I made the recommendation to the faculty member. But it was starting to really bug me that I had spent so much time on their OLE site and could NOT find anything explicitly about their licensing of copyrighted content, efforts to negotiate in good faith with living authors or their representatives, or anything else. Most of the links that turned up in my searches were broken. Here is what I did find.

“Part 2: Quality Open-Source Content”
“Did we mention that all of these resources are freely available to members under the Creative Commons License?”

Now this just reads wrong. Open source applies to hardware and code, not to, well, books. Open ACCESS is the correct phrase for books, literature, articles, and other written works. And, well, if the works actually are open source, or open access, or creative commons licensed, then they are available to EVERYONE, not just members. It sounds wrong, at least to me, to even imply that the content is limited to members-only.

I kept digging. I found their Learning Toolkit page, which stated:

“The Open BeLL – Coming Soon!
Our virtual interactive library will now be available for public preview”

Preview? That again makes it sound as it, well, the content isn’t actually open. And I thought their “virtual interactive library” was already available through the Internet Archive? By this point I am so baffled, I don’t know what to think. I start asking my colleagues, one of whom actually finds the official OLE Copyright Statement. The reason I couldn’t find it was because I was looking on their web site. Now, why on earth would I expect to find their legal statements on their own web site? [sarcasm] It was instead on the Internet Archive site.

Open Resource Library - Copyright Statement
OLE Copyright Statement: https://archive.org/stream/OLECopyrightStatement/OLE_Copyright%20Statement#page/n0/mode/2up

Briefly, what this says to me is that they are putting up full text of commercially available copyrighted works under a Creative Commons license with the assumption that this falls under Fair Use. Let’s take a second and look at fair use a bit more.

“Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.
1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work”
US Copyright Office, Fair Use. http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

I’m no expert on Fair Use. You can find more information on this from Stanford, Texas, and our own University of Michigan Copyright Office.

One of my favorite resources from these groups is the UM “Fair Use Myths.

Fair Use Myths: http://guides.lib.umich.edu/content.php?pid=396670&sid=3248179

The first myth states approximately that just because what you are doing is educational is not sufficient in and of itself to make it fair use. OLE says that they are putting up copyrighted content under a Fair Use claim. They don’t anywhere say that they ask permission, but instead assume it will be ok, because they are good folk. (I’m paraphrasing.) The author might have agreed with them, but there is no way for us to know. But the final of the four factors to be considered is the economic impact. If OLE did not have permission, then making a PDF and text of a complete book available for free does seem like something that might possibly have an impact on sales. For me, it seems like this would fail the “four factors” test.

As I said, I’m not a lawyer, and certainly no expert, but I am a librarian, and I tried really really hard to find any evidence to show that OLE did the right work to protect themselves and their partners. I began this post believing in them, and I ended it with an opposite view. During the days I was working on this post, the work in question, the one that sparked this inquiry, has disappeared from the Internet Archive and now gives a statement of not being available due to an enquiry into a metadata error. I am wondering if someone told the author or their publisher.


Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Just because you should doesn’t mean you can.

Who says so?

But what will the neighbors (students) think?

Residency Education & Care in the Digital Age – Hashtags of the Week (HOTW): (Week of October 27, 2014)

International Conference on Residency Education

The big hashtag splash in Twitter’s healthcare universe this week was the International Conference on Residency Education, with a theme this year of Residency Education and Care in the Digital Age (English Program) (Abstracts) (Facebook). Pretty darn awesome, if you ask me. Two hashtags, for two languages.



Topics ranged from social media to apps to flipped classrooms to Facebook to fatigue to professionalism to other innovations in learning.

Infographic of the Week: Learning in the Digital Age—“I Was Pleasantly Surprised”

Infographics in research articles?
Jeffrey Bartholet. Student Poll: “I Was Pleasantly Surprised.” Special Report: Learning In The Digital Age. Scientific American (2013) 309:72-73.
http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/journal/v309/n2/full/scientificamerican0813-72.html PDF:

I was indeed surprised when I stumbled on this research article, went to read it, noticed the image thumbnail, and thought, “Oh, my goodness, that looks like an infographic!” And it was! We’ve been talking about infographics a lot lately. Our library is talking about the roles we could play as librarians in supporting infographic development for our institution and faculty. There were multiple presentations about infographics at last month’s Medical Library Association Annual Meeting. Also in the past couple months I’ve attended a few presentations about uses of infographics to promote research findings, for marketing, or health literacy outreach. But I had not noticed that infographics have crept into the actual published and printed versions of scholarly research articles!

This one was about MOOCs, which is another interest. I’ve taken (read “lurked in”) several MOOCs, without ever completing one. I have learned useful skills relevant to my job from a MOOC, but when push came to shove between the MOOC and my real life, real life won. Or just feeling tired won. This summer is different. My son and I are taking a MOOC together, watching the videos together, discussing the assignments while we do them. I’m going to be really embarrassed if my son finishes and I don’t. I’ll be even MORE embarrassed if I bomb out and my son takes that as an excuse for him to quit. So I was very interested in this piece of research on how MOOCs are used in science education.

“One in five science students surveyed by Nature and Scientific American has participated in a MOOC—and most would do so again”

It’s worth reading the whole short article. Here are just a couple small snippets highlighting key points.

Stefan Kühn: “I started the course because of personal interest … and was pleasantly surprised when I realized I was using it for my write-ups as well.”

Kathleen Nicoll: “Although some classes try to mimic research experiences in a virtual lab, that cannot substitute ‘for smelling formaldehyde or seeing something almost explode in your face and having to react to that.'”

Kathleen Nicoll: “One of the huge upsides is that MOOCs can reach everyone [with a computer and Internet]—people who are differently abled, people behind bars in prison.”

Jeffrey Bartholet: “Because failure is cost-free in a MOOC, the basic human tendency toward procrastination and sloth are stronger than in traditional classes.”

Shannon Bohle: “I like to share with my friends that I finished the course and hear everyone say, ‘Oh, you’re so brilliant. Kudos to you!'”

It also didn’t hurt my interest at all to hear about what specific courses these students and faculty found useful. I might actually want to take the one recommended by Kühn, Think Again. The infographic itself also contained some surprises. I didn’t realize that any universities were requiring MOOC participation for their residential students! Or maybe I’m misinterpreting that question? It made sense that people find superior career value from taking classes face-to-face. Hard to make a connection in a MOOC that could turn into a person willing to write a letter of reference for you. But it was surprising how the perception of learning value was almost equal! Here’s the infographic – what surprises you?

MOOCs: I Was Pleasantly Surprised
Image source: Scientific American