Blog Post

Do Profs Own Their Own MOOCs? A Halftime Report from #FutureEd

As many of you know, I have just accepted a position directing the Futures Initiative at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, the largest public urban university in the U.S.   I have had a great run at Duke and will miss so many faculty and students and, at the same time, I am thrilled beyond words to be pat of such a great, vibrant institution as the Graduate Center and part of an effort to "advance collaborative and participatory innovation in higher education.."  Here's the official Graduate Center press release.

Interestingly, several people who have written to congratulate me have been very concerned about whether I will be able to run my MOOC again at the GC.  This is an odd question since I made the MOOC as an experiment and never intended to show those grainy amateur videos again, not at Duke or anywhere else.  However, since one point of  "The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education"  was to learn about MOOCs, let me pass on what I have learned in response to inquiries about whether I could rerun the MOOC from a school with which Coursera does not have a contract if I wanted to rerun the MOOC at the Graduate Center. 


Here is the official word on IP as pertains to the MOOC I'm teaching through the Duke platform. I hasten to add that all agreements are about Duke and Coursera.  I do not know if they will pertain at other institutions:


  •  Duke faculty own their IP in MOOCS, subject to certain conditions, reflected in these answers below, intended to reflect significant contributions of Duke to the development of that IP.  Faculty worked with administrators in crafting these IP agreements.


  • As the professor teaching the MOOC, I own my own course content. No one at Duke (or anywhere) can teach with my videos without my permission.


  • I can reuse my videos and course materials at CUNY, but need to acknowledge that they were produced at a Duke. 

*   *   * 

If I were to do another MOOC, since I will be at CUNY, it would not be with Coursera, which does not have an agreement with CUNY.   That said, even if with Coursera,  I would want to initiate a different kind of future of education experiment.  For example, I might organize a multinational and multilingual research and pedagogy team,  f2f and virtually, to work out new methods of using the MOOC platform for other kinds of interactions.   

But that is speculative.  The experiment we are all doing right now with the HASTAC #FutureEd Initiative is fascinating and has yielded a lot.  I still have all my skepticism about the amateur video platform as a teaching tool-- I find it pretty impoverished as actual classroom pedagogy although superior to a TED Talk in terms of community outreach and public translation of knowledge.   But it is not a university education by any means.  Coursera has changed its original rhetoric and that is a good thing.

Teaching a MOOC is a public service, judging by all the demographic information I'm seeing as an instructor in the course.   My typical student is in her or his 30s, has a Master's degree.  In most MOOCs 2/3 come from outside the U.S.   Teaching a MOOC is not taking away the job of a college teacher.  It is offering the world a glimpse into what higher education today, in a very restricted configuraiton, is thinking and talking about in certain quarters.   That is not the same thing as "doing higher education," the interactive method of actually being in a university today. 

My skepticism about the multiple choice tests in the MOOCs is sky high. 

Are there better ways?   We are doing a research project on peer assessment and machine readable assessment, IRB approved of course, and that is in progress.   We hope to add to the available research after we analyze this data after the course ends.

That said, I am now much less skeptical about some community aspects of the MOOC and the potentials there. Making communities of learners is a fabulous social good and I believe in education as a social good.  More than ever.

The point of view, above, is all my own.   And in now way does it comment on Coursera's business model. Or its future agenda.  That's for another blog, another time.


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