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Librarian Blog

To MOOC or not

It turns out that those massive online-only courses that made headlines a couple of years ago aren't as effective as you might think.

Jeffrey J. Selingo, writing in Sunday's education supplement to The New York Times, examines these kinds of courses and concludes that they have not been dismal failures, but they have hardly changed our national educational system.

Professors may attract hundreds or even thousands of students to online courses, but few participants actually complete them.

My experience may be typical. I have signed up for three MOOCs. I have completed only one of them. The two I did not complete were music-related, and they were too elementary. The course I completed was a general overview of physics presented by a professor of physics at the University of Virginia. It was hard, but very interesting.

I would imagine that, given the poor completion rate for MOOCs, most professors will not feel motivated to put in the time and work necessary to build these courses.

So, they may not die off because of lack of interest on the part of the dedicated few students but because universities and profs won't provide them.

From medium to cold

Billions of people world-wide are on Facebook.

Millions use Facebook's news feeds as their sole source for information.

And there's nothing out there that might slow those trends.

Here's what Facebook does, according to a Sunday article in The New York Times: It uses algorithms to figure out what you like to read/see/experience when you go to Facebook news sites. Then it finds more of the same and feeds that to you. You don't need to browse. You don't need to bother picking through things you might not want to see. Nothing uncomfortable or disturbing will pass your eyes.

And, so, all your biases, prejudices and preconcieved ideas will be underscored and amplified and reinforced, and it will be the same for everyone else on Facebook.

How is democracy going to work when all you access is, say, National Enquirer?

I see this kind of thing as insidious and harmful. Not to mention what it means for the future of newspapers, which is already pretty dismal.

How Wimberley skews

In our planning here at the library, we take into account all the demographic information we can get our hands on.

Today, a new dataset was released through the Texas State Library from a company called ESRI. The data give us a snapshot of what our ZIP code -- 78676 -- looks like.

And basically the information just confirms what Census data have already shown: We are older than the rest of the state and nation; we are wealthier; and we are more likely to be retired or, at least, empty nesters.

Not many surprises there. But, what does that kind of data tell us about what we should plan for in library services? We're talking about that.

More on 3D printing

Looking down the road, I think it's fair to say that sooner than later we will have a 3D printer available at the library for patrons to use.

Prices have fallen dramatically as competition has increased for the printers themselves, and that makes them look for attractive.

But, I've been doing some reading about care and feeding of 3D printers, and it seems that you surely get what you pay for. That's in terms of everything -- speed of printing, cost of materials, time involved, maintenance and ease of use.

The University of Nevada, Reno, just completed a couple of full years of providing 3D services to all patrons, and their report, explained in an article posted by Patrick Colegrove at Educause Review Online this past week, is favorable.

What they have learned is just what I said above, you get what you pay for. And what they paid was quite a lot, more than we could ever afford.

That doesn't mean we won't continue to explore this new frontier of library services. I see us getting into a maker space within the next 12 months, in fact. So watch this space for news.

Now's the time ...

With the holidays looming right before us, it is time for you and your friends to start working on that home movie for entry in the first Wimberley Film Festival and competition.

The library is sponsoring this event, which won't happen if we don't get some entries.

Movies should be 5 to 7 minutes in length, including credits, and should be submitted to us on a DVD.

I've heard there's some interest in the home-school community here, but no one has come around to get a copy of the rules.

Deadline is 5 p.m. Dec. 31.

Lights! Camera! Action!

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