““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.