Intellectual property of MOOCs and who own them

MOOCs and intellectual property.  Who own the content of MOOCs?  Are they intellectual property of the professors, the institutions or MOOC providers?

In this post on professors want to own moocs before moocs own them by Meghan Neal:

“If we lose the battle over intellectual property, it’s over,” former American Association of University Professors president Cary Nelson said at the group’s annual conference this week. “Being a professor will no longer be a professional career or a professional identity.”

But since the explosive popularity of MOOCs, universities stand something to gain by retaining ownership over a course even without the original professor. Though some super-star teachers attract potential students on their own, more often than not students choose a course based on the institution offering it.

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This would be the concerns for most professors, as that’s where professors would add significant values to the education system, under MOOCs.

Here is my part of my previous post MOOCs:

Are We MOOC’d Out? – Huffington Post –
Who would win this race of MOOC mania? Of course the institutions who have the resources, money, professors, and support from those who are looking for values from the xMOOCs. Time has proven that. Did you see most news on MOOCs are praises (hypes) which are unlike the typical news in newspapers which are more than 80% negative? Do we need more good news? To be more patriotic, and loving and caring the society and institutions? In my post  , I commented that this is what educators love to do – promoting good values of good citizenship, pro-social behavior, demonstrating and modelling wonderful professionalism in public. All these are good acts of being an educator.

The reality is: with the shrinkage of funding, more educators would need to work their way out, in order to remain “employable” and stay in their education business. Be proactive in learning, get skilled, be adaptive, and be innovative, or else, there is another exit for those who couldn’t cope or adapt to the system – would they leave, or “die”? This applies not only to teachers, administrators, but also to institutions and corporations. I am trying to be optimistic. But I reckon the ones who might have to worry most are those who are teaching MOOCs now, as once their work are shared, would you still need them any more?

In a Chinese proverb, when the cunning rabbit is dead, you could cook the dog. When the flying birds are gone, you could pack up the bow and arrows. The moral of this proverb is: if the teachers have already served its needs, do you still need them? May be for a different purpose, or a different job.

In xMOOCs, only the content and assessment is the most valuable part. We all know the interaction and engagement with the professors (through dialogue, conversation and feedback) is where students perceived to be most valuable for their learning, but that would be reserved for fees paying students, when these students attend the institution course. Once all content and assessment is opened to the public, there is limited added value that would be perceived by the teacher or students. The teacher might no longer be needed, as the videos are already prepared. Would you still pay the professors for that? May be for branding purpose! You could still employ the professors for face-to-face teaching, but as Sebastian Thrun mentioned, only some tens (was it less than 50 left out of his 200 students) attended the live sessions? Even the best professors would go and set up their own education business (Sebastian, and many who followed suite).


8 thoughts on “Intellectual property of MOOCs and who own them

  1. I think education is vital but I’m also tired of the sanctimonious lectures on the end of intellect when in my whole life my intelligence has been belittled and scoffed at by virtue of my lacking qualifications earned from those who mock me. Closing the system for personal advantage over a duty to the public that pays you to expand knowledge and serve greater interests, it might be that professors have made their own enemies and now have no one to turn to. Higher education has acted irresponsibly in the name of personal interest while hiding behind the cloak of public interest and instead of reaching out with some level of humility to help those reinvent something that can withstand to rise of stupidity it’s always about disrespecting those who can find no allies beyond their own efforts to learn.

  2. Thanks for the article John. Good points made and point I’m getting is since MOOCs throw off so much discussion and user generated ideas a privately run MOOC could become a massive harvester of commercially marketable concepts plucked from the “voluntary” contributions of the participants. Colonization of the collective brain for benefit of the few? Sounds very new-economy.

    That doesn’t seem so good though who’s to say it is so different from the current systems of education? Isn’t student work at least partly the property of the university? Or am I mistaken?

    As a simple citizen in the middle here do I side with traditional academic values that lock valuable contributions to human progress behind journal pay walls and high tuition? Or do I side with the free market crowd who turn everything into a commodity, even learning? Since neither side serves my interests without some sort of “payment”, why should I care for one over the other?


  3. Thinking about what I said above a problem comes to mind over layering more and more ownership restrictions on knowledge. Hate to think this but it might be possible our whole society becomes frozen in disputes over who owns what, which will always resolve back to who holds the most power. This is a difficult problem, especially since universities believe themselves to be protectors of “open inquiry” when in fact they are vaults of proprietary ownership hoarded for their own benefit. Maybe pirate ships will be the next providers, plundering both the academic and corporate fleets, steps ahead of litigation and the hangman’s noose?

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