The future of MOOC platforms? Money money money

I always enjoy reading Alex Usher’s “One Thought to Start Your Day” which uses a dollars-and-cents lense to look at important issues in higher education.  In his post The Future of MOOCs: Coursera and EdX, Usher ponders the likelihood (high, in his view) that venture capital fueling Coursera may dry up soon unless Coursera finds a way to make its investors money, fast.  “…Unless [Coursera’s] Signature Track enrolments jump 20-fold, or [venture capital] burn rates fall significantly, or unicorns arrive with magic revenue streams,  …Coursera has got maybe 15 months before the VCs pull the plug.”

Should that happen, this will open the door for EdX, Coursera’s main remaining competitor in higher-ed (and not funded by venture capital) to pick up the pieces.  Usher see the benefits: “Once we clear the VCs out of the MOOC discussion, we can ask clearer questions about the uses of MOOCs, without getting tied up in ideological debates about whether they are neo-liberal whatsit, and yadda yadda.  And that’s important, because the potential benefits of these tools are worth examining.”


Who enrolled in U of T MOOCs and why?

Are you surprised that about 70% of all those enrolled in U of T MOOCs already had undergraduate or graduate degrees? And that the primary reasons for enrolling in courses was to further job-related skills and/or because the course looked like fun?

These initial demographic trends remind us that there are many reasons that people sign up for MOOCs. They may take a little or a lot from the program. They may only watch one or two videos — and get precisely what they needed or wanted. They may complete the entire course and seek credentials. Or not.

See the June 16 2013 Demographic Report on Coursera MOOCs


Online course “New Librarianship Master Class” features library leaders

Coming in July, the New Librarianship Master Class offers librarians the opportunity to “go beyond finding library-related uses for information technology and the Internet” to discover new foundations for library practice in the digital age. Led by core faculty at the Syracure University iSchool with international reputations: R. David LankesJill Hurst-WahlMegan Oakleaf and Jian Qin. Take the course free online or get continuing education credit for a small fee.


Recap: OCLC MOOC Conference, Philadelphia, March 18-19 2013

On March 18-19, OCLC sponsored the first conference to bring together librarians supporting (or planning to support) large-scale MOOCs through major providers like Coursera, Udacity and EdX.  I was able to attend the conference, and learned much about the challenges and opportunities for libraries and librarians to support MOOCs

The video/audio archives of the conference are here:  In particular, I highly recommend the panel Copyright, Licensing, Open Access (59:39) featuring Kevin Smith (Duke U), Kenny Crews (Columbia), and  Kyle Courtney (Harvard).  These experts provided great examples of how we can promote open resources, use provisions of fair use/fair dealing to permit (very careful) use of copyright content in videos, and recommendations for procedures and policies regarding transactional licenses.

Many libraries have had challenges connecting to their campus agencies that are developing and supporting MOOCs.  We’re so fortunate at the U of T to already have great linkages through CTSI to our Director of Online Learning, Laurie Harrison, and through our Chief Librarian, Larry Alford to the provostial Open UToronto committee and its chair, Vice-Provost Cheryl Regehr, who is providing overall MOOC leadership and direction.

How has the Library participated in MOOC development? Laurie Harrison provides me with the list of upcoming MOOCs.  I then make an initial contact with instructors and their Ed-Tech support team to offer Library services in copyright advice, resource curation, and in-course link troubleshooting.  Not all courses require library support or resources. Our greatest involvement to date has been in Jean-Paul Restoule’s course  Aboriginal Worldviews and Education and Charmaine Williams’  Social Context of Mental Health and Illness.

Liaison librarians Sara McDowell,  Jennifer Toews, and Jenaya Webb have been involved in resource verification (mainly verifying open access for recommended links) for these courses.  Librarians at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health were involved in resource selection for Social Context of Mental Health and Illness.  I’ve coordinated the initial contacts with instructors and fielded their questions on copyright and permissions.  We’ve secured 4 transactional licenses (1 paid, 3 not).

What surprises have we encountered along the way?  I’ve had to spend considerable time persuading potential licensees of the value of giving us free access to their content in exchange for the eyeballs of thousands of interested viewers. I’ve also been surprised by a couple of “geoblocked” videos — in particular 4 from our own CBC which are geoblocked outside of Canada.  There was no way we could have known that in advance, and it’s mildly shocking when thousands of students find that they can’t get access to linked content and report it on the course web site. In the case of the CBC, the instructor quickly responded by licensing the content and streaming it on unblocked Coursera servers for the duration of the course.

Being involved on the “ground floor” of MOOC development and support has been a great experience.  We’re learning a lot about deploying large-scale online courses, flipping the classroom, and other aspects of effective online learning.  Those experiences will translate well to U of T’s own courses in the coming months and years.


JSTOR’s “Register and Read” program permits free access to content of 1200 journals

Although the announcement was first made in March 2012, this project is not yet well known in the user community.  Learn more from this article in Inside Higher Education. Reference librarians serving members of the public, as well as liaison librarians verifying the openness of information resources for Coursera MOOCs will be particularly interested in the options available.

JSTOR to offer limited free access to content from 1,200 journals | Inside Higher Ed.