Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources

A MOOC at Virginia Tech

by Philip Young, posted on June 17, 2013

The participation of a Virginia Tech faculty member in a recently completed MOOC has been well documented in the Virginia Tech news, a Roanoke Times article, and in a blog about the course.

Tom Sanchez co-taught the TechniCity course with Jennifer Evans-Cowley of Ohio State, which has an agreement with Coursera. Thinking of Kevin Smith’s recent post in which article archiving saved the day for a Duke professor’s MOOC, I e-mailed Tom about the availability of course materials and he was kind enough to respond.

Naturally, materials (like journal articles) that might have cost the students money were avoided. Negotiating for copyright permissions or digging up previous versions were both deemed too time-consuming. The course did use some archived articles (the suggested readings on the course page links to two articles by Evans-Cowley from SSRN). Tom also noted that “we have a Mendeley group set up for the course topic(s), which is also a source of the content.”

While MOOCs are currently dependent on open content (and therefore provide an incentive to archive articles), that may be changing soon. Around the time the course was taking place, Coursera entered an agreement with publishers to provide licensed content to students (with many caveats, as the article notes).

I also asked Tom about the issue of course ownership. University ownership of MOOC content is viewed as a threat by the American Association of University Professors, as recently reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. Tom replied, “from what I’m told by the Ohio State people, we are free to use all of the course materials however we’d like. We used several ‘guest’ presentations and Coursera didn’t ask for copyright releases for these. I can imagine this will change over time.”

Thanks again to Tom Sanchez for sharing some of the behind-the-scenes details of the course.

[Update: see my interview with Tom Sanchez in August 2014 that goes into more depth about the course.]

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