Towards Formalizing Online Education: Role of Libraries in MOOC Era

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Published Sep 11, 2021
Laxmisha Rai
Min Liao Fasheng Liu


There is a widespread debate on role of online education, and its comparison to traditional, time-tested practices as exist in the formal academic environment such as universities. In recent years, many researchers debated that, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) largely share the characteristics of informal, or non-formal, and act as supplement to formal education. In [1], researchers viewed that, MOOCs can be used as supplement to university courses, where there are limited students, and in courses where it is hard to obtain teaching resources. There are several reasons for not providing MOOCs the complete credibility as formal courses. Firstly, most of the MOOCs are freely available easily on Internet through providers such as edX (, Coursera (, iVersity (, FutureLearn (, Udacity ( XuetangX (, SWAYAM ( and Stanford Online (, etc. So, any user with Internet access can easily join these courses without having any restrictions on language, age, geographical boundary or other prerequisites. Secondly, several researchers also raised the concerns on various aspects such as high drop-out rates, connectivity and infrastructure issues, lack of protected examinations, quality of courses and learning methodology [2, 3]. Thirdly, there is minimum personal support for MOOC learners from organizations which deliver these lectures online. However, many learners able to join MOOCs, and able to obtain course completion certificates. The weak aspects of MOOCs include lack learner verification or authentication, and lack of proctoring of exams. These days, in some of the MOOCs, the learner verification is achieved online. However, MOOCs depend on non-proctored online examinations or assessment submissions. Most of assessments are in the format of online essay submissions, answering multiple-choice questions, simulation based assignments, and interactive based assignments. There are various online simulation tools are also available to complete the courses which involve laboratory or experimental activities. In all these assessment strategies, there is less scope for monitoring the student activities, and verifying the authentication of the online learner. Considering these factors, it is not surprising that, MOOCs are viewed as supplementary to formal education, and considered largely informal even though these high quality courses are provided by reputed universities and organizations worldwide.

In [4] authors described the differences between formal, non-formal, and informal learning. The formal learning happens, in organized and structure environments, and there is more emphasis on validation, and certification of the gained knowledge. Non-formal learning can be occasionally validated, where as in informal learning the learning happen in unstructured environments. In [5], authors identified the ways to differentiate between formal and informal learning. Here, the formal learning happens in school settings, and teacher is the key regulator. However, in informal learning the learning happens in informal learning place, and key regulator is the student. Considering these, it is evident that, the education gained from traditional university settings, where students physically attend lectures, and appear for invigilated examinations can be considered as formal education.

However, when it comes to MOOC learning, there are several differences and challenges. Firstly in MOOCs, students and teachers are physically isolated, and authenticity of learner identification, and authenticity of the documents submitted by the learner is largely difficult to verify. Secondly, there is no physical examinations, and proctoring during examination. Thirdly, is also not possible to verify authenticity of the submitter during assessment submissions or examinations. Considering these three existing challenges in online education in general, and MOOC in specific, only the libraries play a key role in making online education more formal. There are several reasons, for choosing library as the center for managing these challenges. Firstly, libraries act as an interface between worldwide publishers and universities. Secondly, they have better infrastructure in interacting with online production, integration, as well as subscription of journals, magazines, and educational resources. So, it is manageable to integrate the MOOC learning materials as part of learning resources. Thirdly, libraries also have physical infrastructure such as space and reading rooms which are suitable for conducting candidate verification, authentication, and to as exam centers. Finally, human resource available in libraries are more suitable for academic development, such as integrating MOOCs into curriculum, as well as resolving issues related copyright and payment for subscription of learning resources etc. Moreover, libraries also help to develop environment which is suitable to address the challenges faced by local students by localizing the study environment in terms of language, and easy access of MOOC materials.

How to Cite

Rai, L., Liao, M., & Liu, F. (2021). Towards Formalizing Online Education: Role of Libraries in MOOC Era. SPAST Abstracts, 1(01). Retrieved from
Abstract 14 |

Article Details


MOOC, online education, library

[1]K. Andersen, S. E. Thorsteinsson, H. Thorbergsson, K. S. Gudmundsson, Proc. IEEE Learning With MOOCS, 156-158 (2019).
[2] L. Rai, Int. J. of Emerging Tech. in Learning, 13(10), 220–277, (2018).
[3]L. Rai, D. Chunrao, Int. J. of Info. and Ed. Tech. 6(4), 262-268, (2016).
[4]J. Cruz-Benito, O. Borrás-Gené, F. J. García-Peñalvo, Á. F. Blanco, R. Therón, In Proc. Int. Symp. on Computers in Education, 195-200, (2015).
[5]Y. Han, F. Yang, S. Xiong. M. Hu, In Proc. Int. Conf. on Info. Sc. and Education, 334-337, (2020).
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