Coursera praises MOOC-wrapping as they attempt to ban it

If believe that OER reuse could save education, and  you’re looking for a reason for your institution to NOT sign up with Coursera, I guess it’s this, from their terms of use:

You may not take any Online Course offered by Coursera,” stipulate the terms, “or use any Letter of Completion as part of any tuition-based or for-credit certification or program for any college, university, or other academic institution without the express written permission from Coursera”.”

In other words, institutional reuse — even by non-profits — is banned.

These terms of service come to light as Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller pens a Forbes article praising a professor that wrapped another course in Udacity a face-to-face course around the original Stanford MOOC, and promotes the model of institutional reuse. Neglecting, of course, to mention that she will charge you for it, and that she is using her entire column in Forbes to essentially sell a product.

We now understand the endgame here. We now get the business model. The idea is not “send your students to us!”. The idea is to become yet another online vendor of services to higher ed.

It gets tiresome, this.

Even so, this might not be a problem except that, contrary to popular opinion, xMOOCs are an evolution of OER, not online education, and decisions like this do not just affect the bottom line of Coursera, but the future of the movement that made Coursera possible. As a matter of fact, many Coursera courses consist largely of materials formerly made available as freely licensed OpenCourseWare, making the move to ban reuse of them a particularly pernicious form of enclosure, which endangers the maintenance and production of truly open resources.

I am a pragmatist. I don’t mind corporations, corporate software, or corporate people. There are many days I miss working in the private sector. I think the private sector does do many things better. I believe people should profit from their work, and I think a certain level personal risk and investment should be rewarded.

But I have to shake my head at any institution who can look at the Coursera terms of service  — and look at it with a full knowledge of how hard-won our victories in OER have been — and sign us back into the dark ages.

Luckily, there are other options if you want to run an xMOOC. You can run your course on the Canvas Network, under your own terms — and you’ll have a framework that is superior to Coursera’s in many ways. You can download and run Stanford’s truly open platform Class2Go. And if you want to move from xMOOC to cMOOC, of course, the world is your oyster.

Or you can sign up with Coursera. Just don’t go telling people you did it to “give back” to the world. Building a fence around tax-funded materials does not constitute giving back, and is to be looked upon with derision, not praise.

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17 Comments on “Coursera praises MOOC-wrapping as they attempt to ban it”

  1. I always wonder who comes up with this. Founders who come from academia should know better. Surely they hired some smart lawyers to formulate these terms but shouldn’t you also read and approve them?

  2. […] Coursera bans reuse of its content (even by non-profits), illustrating why they are not so open http://hapgood.us/2012/11/09/coursera-praises-mooc-wrapping-as-they-attempt-to-ban-it/ Here is a useful guide to finding open content online from […]

  3. […] coming out of the open content world have accordingly been raising concerns about everything from the fine print of Coursera’s licensing agreements to the pedagogical […]

  4. […] entrance out of a open calm universe have accordingly been lifting concerns about all from a excellent imitation of Coursera’s chartering agreements to a pedagogical […]

  5. katie m. says:

    Thanks for this, it’s really helped me to … organize some of the rather vague qualms Coursera has raised for me. I have to say, Coursera’s rhetoric, with the attendant mismatch between language and legal agreements, continues to frustrate me. They could be so much more *interesting* — perhaps even innovative — than the model they’re going for right now.

  6. […] bans reuse of its content (even by non-profits), illustrating why they are not so open http://hapgood.us/2012/11/09/coursera-praises-mooc-wrapping-as-they-attempt-to-ban-it/ Here is a useful guide to finding open content online […]

  7. […] blogger Mike Caulfield observed, this is something of a backward step in terms of OER. It seems to open the possibility that […]

  8. […] So Martin’s question is a good excuse to do a “story up until now post”, and point to posts over the last six or seven months that have advanced the argument. The most free standing one is probably January’s “Both MOOCs and Textbooks Will End Up Courseware” but the earliest one is from October 2012′s “Coursera Praises MOOC-Wrapping as They Attempt to Ban It“: […]

  9. […] So Martin’s question is a good excuse to do a “story up until now post”, and point to posts over the last six or seven months that have advanced the argument. The most free standing one is probably January’s “Both MOOCs and Textbooks Will End Up Courseware” but the earliest one is from October 2012′s “Coursera Praises MOOC-Wrapping as They Attempt to Ban It“: […]

  10. […] it shortly turned out that MOOCs weren’t really open, and that Coursera, edX, and Udacity all explicitly prohibited reuse of their materials without permission. And permission involved being in a pilot, paying some money, or doing other things we can’t […]

  11. […] it shortly turned out that MOOCs weren’t really open, and that Coursera, edX, and Udacity all explicitly prohibited reuse of their materials without permission. And permission involved being in a pilot, paying some money, or doing other things we can’t […]

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