Libraries, massive open online courses and the importance of place

Steven Ackerman (CIMSS, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, US)
Margaret Mooney (CIMSS, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, US)
Stefanie Morrill (Wisconsin Library Services, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)
Joshua Morrill (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)
Mary Thompson (Division of Continuing Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)
Lika K. Balenovich (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Publication date: 14 November 2016



Web-based courses are a practical way to engage in meaningful discussions with learners from a diverse set of communities. By gathering online to learn about a topic, learners can form communities that transcend geographic and political boundaries. This paper aims to investigate a partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) and Wisconsin Library Services, which brought open access online learning to thousands of lifelong learners around the state of Wisconsin. “Changing Weather and Climate in the Great Lakes Region”, a massive open online course the UW-Madison launched in 2015, paired a regional focus with face-to-face discussions at 21 public libraries to deepen learners’ personal connections to the subject matter. Through strategic partnership, targeted course development and marketing of events, intimate local discussion sessions and statewide events provided fora in which Wisconsin residents would explore changing weather and climate with university faculty, staff and students.


This paper uses a case study approach and firsthand interview feedback from librarians, library staff and university faculty and staff who were leading the effort.


This paper explores the lessons learned and practical implications from the project and offers insight into libraries and universities looking to engage specific communities in non-credit online learning projects into the future.


This effort was a first of its kind partnership for the University and the State of Wisconsin.



Steven Ackerman, Margaret Mooney, Stefanie Morrill, Joshua Morrill, Mary Thompson and Lika K. Balenovich (2016) "Libraries, massive open online courses and the importance of place", New Library World, Vol. 117 No. 11/12, pp. 688-701

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