MOOCS — DIY?

Here is an obvious question: Why don’t universities host their own MOOCs rather than outsource hosting to third parties like Udacity and Coursera?

Do it yourself.

As we clearly see with edX — the partnership between Harvard and MIT — many universities already possess considerable marketing power through their own branding, identity, and prestige. Why should the University of Michigan, for instance, offer MOOCs through Coursera? Why can’t students simply take the course directly from U-M — or from a Big Ten Consortium for MOOCs? Coursera’s answer to that question is that no university can match Coursera’s marketing reach. No university can expect to attract “740,000 students” (Young, 2012). This may be temporarily true. But the existence of edX and the success of the MIT OpenCourseWare project and Open Yale Courses, etc., certainly challenge that claim. What if some universities, or university consortia, can successfully market their own MOOCs? And what if, eventually, all universities will be able to do so?

Many universities already possess considerable market and brand power. Those universities that don’t have the punch individually to sponsor their own MOOCs can form partnerships that will have impact collectively. The smart approach might be for universities to develop MOOC consortia — based on what Yochai Benkler calls “a cooperation-based system” (2008, p. 59; see Benkler, 2002) — that provide broad, affordable access to students in exchange for tuition revenue for universities.

DIY MOOCs would (a) allow universities to recover more of the tuition revenue associated with MOOCs, and (b) avoid the copyright problems that are arising with third-party hosts like Coursera and Udacity (Porter, 2013a; Porter, 2013b).

 

References

Benkler, Yochai. (2002). Intellectual property and the organization of information production. International Review of Law and Economics, 22, 81-107.

Benkler, Yochai. (2008). The university in the networked economy and society: Challenges and opportunities. In Richard N. Katz (ed.), The Tower and the Cloud: Higher Education in the Age of Cloud Computing (pp. 51-61). EDUCAUSE, 2008.

Porter, James E. (2013a). MOOCs, “courses,” and the question of faculty and student copyrights. CCCC Intellectual Property Annual. Forthcoming.

Porter, James E. (2013b, February 26). MOOCs, outsourcing, and restrictive IP licensing.  AIMS Blog.

Young, Jeffrey R. (2012, July 19). Inside the Coursera contract: How an upstart company might profit from free courses. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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