Taubman Health Sciences Library and Academic Innovation launch MOOC

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hands on laptop, next to stethoscope
(pxhere/modified by Alex Hancook, AI/CC0 Public Domain)

Informationists at the U-M Taubman Health Sciences Library recently partnered with Academic Innovation (AI) to develop and launch a new massive open online course (MOOC): Advanced Literature Searching in the Health Sciences. Mark MacEachern, informationist, led the development of the MOOC and worked closely with AI to ensure its success. The online course covers:

  • The components of advanced searches
  • How to identify the types of projects dependent on advanced searching
  • How to construct advanced searches
  • Ways to uncover search-related biases that impact projects
  • Procedures for citation management
  • Best practices for reporting search strategies

According to MacEachern, the development of the MOOC was inspired by a popular Taubman course on systematic reviews. “Our initial plan,” MacEachern says, “was to provide a completely online version of that other course. However, as we started to build the curriculum, we realized it would be more beneficial to provide a more general course on literature searching, as there weren’t any open courses like it.” The final course focuses on the search process more broadly and is designed to appeal to anyone interested in the search process. This unique curriculum covers the search process more in depth than any other MOOC currently available.

To develop the course, Taubman content and technology experts created a syllabus with individual lesson plans. These were integrated into a proposal to collaborate with Academic Innovation. After being accepted, AI developed a more detailed plan which included design, production, and post-production work. Eight months after Taubman and AI began their partnership, the MOOC launched on edX, which was chosen in part because it “allowed for more flexibility in content delivery” than other available platforms.

A total of nine lessons are included in the course and are accessible sequentially or more selectively. Each lessons covers a specific component of the search process, from selecting the right resources to reporting the search process in a manuscript. The content itself is presented to the participants in a number of ways: brief lectures, hands-on demonstrations, interviews, panel discussions, text, and activities to reinforce learning outcomes.

After launching last fall, the MOOC has been a great success. In its first three months, over 1,500 people have registered for the course and nearly 100 have paid for the optional certificate through edX.

MacEachern shared the following eight pieces of advice for those who may be interested in developing a MOOC of their own:

  1. Create a lesson plan with objectives that tie into the overall course objectives
  2. Present content in brief chunks whenever possible (learners generally won’t want to sit through long video lectures)
  3. Mix up the learning objects (e.g., brief lectures, interviews, tutorials, demos).
  4. Ensure high quality recordings, so the media doesn’t detract from the learning
  5. Make the course as activity-driven as possible
  6. Optimize activities and content for online environment
  7. Consider marketing early in the design process
  8. Look for comparable MOOCs before getting too far into development

The course was designed so content may be added or removed as needed in the future. Assessments are included, so participant responses may help pave the way for updates. For more information and to register, “Advanced Literature Searching in the Health Sciences” is available on edX. The material is available free of charge and the optional certificate costs $49. U-M affiliates may receive the certificate for free through Michigan Online via the “U-M Free Access” button.

Chase Masters, University Library
Author: Chase Masters, University Library

Chase's role at the Taubman Health Sciences Library includes managing technology projects and resources, consulting with faculty to effectively incorporate technology into their curriculum, supervising staff, identifying and building partnerships with instructional technology units throughout the university community, and serving on his department’s leadership team. You may reach him at mastersc@umich.edu.