By Carl Straumsheim
Three elite universities’ debates about whether they should join — or stay with — the massive open online course providers Coursera and edX have brought familiar concerns over revenue and intellectual property rights to the surface, even though those issues overshadow many faculty members’ and most administrators’ pragmatic approach to distance education.
For Cornell, Princeton and Yale Universities, MOOCs represents a shiny new toy in the toolbox that is their online education offerings. Yale, for example, has run Open Yale Courses, a catalog of free introductory courses. Princeton publishes free lectures through iTunes U, YouTube and its Media Central, and creates programming through its alumni association. Cornell has extended its reach through eCornell, a spinoff that offers corporate training and online certificates. Adding a MOOC provider is, in other words, less of an investment and a risk than for a public institution facing dwindling public funding and calls to improve student outcomes.
Cornell is still weeks away from launching its first four MOOCs as a member of the edX consortium. But in a report released earlier this month, faculty members of its Distance Learning Committee urged a balanced approach to online education. It recommending the university “pursue a diverse portfolio of distance learning avenues, continually rebalancing it as evidence emerges.” And at faculty meetings late last year at Yale and Princeton, some instructors wondered aloud whether building courses for Coursera is worth the time and effort required to establish a presence on yet another platform.
“The more and more people think about the other kinds of potentials for distance learning, the more they think, great, let’s experiment,” said Richard W. Miller, the Wyn and William Y. Hutchinson Professor in Ethics and Public Life who was the lead researcher and writer behind the Cornell report. “Diversity is important. I have no idea what this is going to look like in five years, but it’s going to look a lot different.”
[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/02/21/elite-universities-face-lower-stakes-familiar-concerns-mooc-space ]