That's the last sentence in the 4th paragraph of the article.
"Open" can indeed mean a lot of things. In this case of MOOCs, it just means anybody with an Internet connection can register and take any course - for free. Coursera and edX are prime examples.
Making registration a prerequisite for taking an online course does not invalidate it's openness. It's mostly an administrative thing. So the author's argument does not hold.
As a quick and unscientific experiment, I checked out the 12 courses listed on the edX.org homepage and none of them were CC licensed.
With Google I found a few CC licensed edX courses [0:2], but looks like they're the rare minority.
MOOCS would need to get into signaling and have employers take their signal seriously. I hate to sound classist, but unfortunately MOOCS lack of selectivity means they don't signal as much as a college with a low acceptance rate.
I myself did not go to an elite school, and realize that the above is a very broad generalization...
Though this may be true in practice for some MOOCs, I suspect that MOOCs are attempting to become the online equivalent of a university, rather than just lectures.
With an online university, you are paying for the course curriculum, online tools, office hours, graded results, certification, social network and the brand of the institution. The combination of those things holds more value than the lecture itself.
I think you misunderstand the author's argument. Daniel is actually a professor at something very close to the well-rounded online university you describe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Télé-université
I think he's arguing that by keeping the content closed to all but registered users, the MOOC's would seem to be saying that they believe the lectures are the crown jewels that need to be protected from onlookers. He believes this is silly, and instead (apart from moments of cynicism when he worries that universities merely sell credentials) believes that the value distance learning can offer --- and charge for --- is the same "full package" that you describe.
He's claiming that if the people running the MOOC's properly understood this, rather than restricting access to the content of their courses, they'd be making better use of their online content (the part that is very difficult to charge for) to recruit new students. I suspect that he's also motivated by the side benefit that this would provide free educational tools to those unable to 'attend' without doing any harm to the MOOC.
An essential thing missing from MOOCs is the feeling of being personally supervised and accountable to someone (our teachers or their assistants). It might seem just emotional fluff, but it is essential in getting people through long courses.
I think MOOCs should be paired with in-person supervision, the kind offered by a coach or an educational advisor. Other people should still be involved in the loop, it must not degenerate into a solely man-computer thing. MOOCs need more emotional grounding to help decrease the atrocious drop rate.
I see many people express concern about the drop rate of MOOCs, but I haven't seen any good arguments as to why it is a problem.
I've signed up for several courses, and not finished one of them! So what? I didn't cost me anything, and I didn't hurt anyone by taking up a spot in the class that would instead have gone to a more deserving student.
In a couple cases, it is simply that I've got a more than full-time job, and I just don't always have the time and energy to work on a class too. If I'd been paying money for it, I probably would have taken it more seriously, but oh well. I still learned something from most of them, and it was in general worth my time to at least listen to the lectures and look at the homework assignments.
I'm still working through one of them... slowly, interleaving it with all the other things occupying my free time.
This is too true. Anyone sufficiently motivated may teach generally any subject to themselves to whatever degree of proficiency they desire. This is especially true of CS. The degree, not the education, is what you're buying.
I made a substantial chunk of change this year delivering training. The difference is people can directly connect training to revenue. In my case I'm teaching Scala, where my course attendees either need it for their job, and know that getting Scala on their resume will open up some very well paying gigs. In this situation people will pay for a directed introduction to a topic, and also to clear the time on their schedule.
The problem faced by good Universities face is that they are teaching foundations not ephemera, and most people have difficulty connecting the dots from learning, say, mathematics, to revenue. Which is a real shame, because foundations are far more valuable in the long term.
FWIW, our Scala courses try to sneak in foundational material while no-one is looking. :)
Looking at this article makes me think of what if we made a course an open platform. Maybe take moodle or some other system and merge it with a wiki and create courses with it. Might be interesting.
College : Proper MOOC : Closed MOOC ::
Newspaper : Online Media : Paywalls
As the author himself notes:
"What colleges do not do, at least on campus, is to make money off course content. As it is, you can easily order all the textbooks you could possibly read on Amazon. You can join discussion groups about them. You sneak into lectures, or find tons of them online. There is simply little value in the course content."
And yet, the vast majority of people are paying for this content, rather than applying the author's cost-saving measures. Why? Because there IS little value in the course content. But that's NOT what colleges are selling. They're selling credentials. In this case, getting the content from Harvard IS different from getting it off a Github repository. Why? Because there's a mechanism at Harvard that signals to other people what kind of content you have learned from them. The reason that the analogy to newspapers isn't a perfect one is because accreditation solves real problems for consumers of college -- it lets them demonstrate that their credential has value.
Paywalls are "bad" because they restrict sharing of content. For news articles, that's bad. People want to be able to share articles they find interesting -- on Facebook, on Twitter, on Hacker News and Reddit and via e-mail and so on and so forth. Paywalls reduce the number of people I can discuss content with, and thus reduce the value of an article to me. With credentials, you don't have that effect -- a credential is MORE valuable to me the harder it is to obtain, because the credential then gives off a stronger signal that I have demonstrated my worth.
Now, MOOCs target a wider audience than the people looking for credentials. But their revenue streams almost all come from credentialing. And so I don't think that closing a MOOC has the same effect as putting newspaper content behind a paywall.
So no, real colleges are not selling credentials. Sure, you can buy a degree online, if you know where to look, but that only gets you a useless certificate.
Sort of, ish. There'd be a lot fewer people going to uni for the abstract concept of "education", especially at what it costs in the US - the reason that many people go to uni is that you can prove that you've been educated under such-and-such a standard to future employers. That's credentials, and that's what people are looking for from a college.
Also, colleges have a lot of other societal value (like research) so I certainly hope they can still get funded.
A reasonable model is that they sell certifications in hard work, perseverance, and maybe intelligence to students and employers so that they can fund scientific advancement. They also sell "meeting peers who might be cofounders", "social experience of living closely with lots of young attractive people", and a number of other similar things.
And even the "premium" ones which usually offer full or partial degree accreditation cost significantly less than traditional eduction.
And while many of them might be too "closed" for the usual suspects and champions of freedom it's more to do with the fact that they do offer some certification and credit and so have to be monitored.
I understand why Coursera does for example require sign up and participation in a specified time frame this is so people can go trough the course as a group, study together and learn from each-other just as much as they do from the course.
The courses are also overseen by lecturers which offer help and guidance.
And since you do get a certificate(which value is yet to be determined) they do need to have a strict and repeatable curriculum.
I have a feeling that the writer of this article as many others confuses a MOOC with a library.
A MOOC is not an arbitrary source of information or a "lecture on demand" service, it's an education platform.
This is why the lecture library which Standford uploaded to youtube since like what 2009 is not a MOOC, in fact i would go as far as saying that most "examples" the author provided in his article (although nameless) are not MOOC's..
A "MOOC" is still a course whether it's online or not and to be so it has to provide a structured environment for it's curriculum.
It's should be seen as an evolution of the long distance courses many people have taken for over a century not some podcast you throw on your smart phone or tablet while you take the train to work.
People who treat MOOC's as educational materials and take them seriously benefit from them, people who take them as some instant "smart pill" content that they absorb on the tube can just as well read the free daily papers...
So yeah while bloated smarty pants like the author might bicker and moan about just how bad and doomed MOOC's are I'm sure the tens of thousands of people from Asia, Africa and the Middle East who are lucky enough to have internet access do find them quite useful.
Heck I've seen class A universities steal i mean "borrow" material from Coursera, edX and from Standford (and others) video lectures plenty of times. Especially in new subjects ranging from video game design to information security.
So i guess the material is good enough, and when the educational framework is actually structured people actually benefit from the materials and no only parrot them to feel smarter.
Help, help, I'm being oppressed?
Funny, I don't feel oppressed.
All of which may be perfectly nice if you're an interested-but-casual learner wanting to watch some courses that have had $100,000s spent on the video production. Or if you're a high profile university wanting to advertise your wares. But not so much use if you're a humble engineer-turned-CS-lecturer wanting to collaborate with your colleagues to make things better for your students (or, therefore, if you're one of their students!)
At UQ, my institution was a member, but with a curious process about how to get a course approved (and unlikely to approve a junior contract academic like I was). Moving onto faculty at the University of New England (Australia), UNE isn't a member so I wouldn't be eligible.
So, I'm busily working sharable course models, and making things open-to-contribution.
At UQ I co-designed a rather unusual studio course (with 200 students programming together on the same codebase). Initially I was looking into offering this as a guerrilla MOOC (without official backing) and opening the content up for reuse. I gave a talk at ICSE in July 2014, where I also tried to "get a gang together" to make it a community effort bigger than just me, and the response was interesting -- some other junior academics wondering about putting some of their students on our project.
And as I'm moving to UNE to help redesign their CS degree, I'm already going to be an early example of a "fork". Especially as where we had 200+ in-class students at UQ, many of the students at UNE will be remote, so I'd need to change a few things.
Most of the material I've put up online is about the studio course, but the sharable course model is also in progress
Recent talk I gave to OSDC:
Website about the studio course concept:
(due for an update -- 2014 course numbers jumped from 140 to 200 and had a different project)
Of course, Armidale NSW isn't exactly Silicon Valley, so I don't have VC rocket fuel or marketing/publicity/etc. So expect a little duct-tape-and-string early on. And I did way too much theatre as a PhD student in Cambridge, so apologies for the vanity hey-I-get-to-do-video-teaching-now aspect of it.