How 'Open' Are MOOCs?
Nov 08, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The attendees at EDUCAUSE 2012 turn their attention to MOOCs and open educational resources (OERs), asking, finally, how open are MOOCs? As Clay Shirky noted in his leynote,  the most provocative aspect of MOOCs is not their massiveness, it is their openness. But what does that mean? Ian Bogost says, "'openness' is less often a virtue or even an activity than it is a declaration, a rhetorical framing, a kind of branding." My own view is that the 'openness' in open courses means rather more than 'without charge'.  And if you look at the commercial MOOC providers, Coursera and Udacity, 'open' doesn't mean very open at all. Now I don't go so far as to say everything must be licensed just-so in order to be 'open' - open doesn't mean the same thing as 'reusable by publishers to make money off free stuff' either. 'Open' is, well, open. Drop in, have a look around, make some friends, do some things, and please don't make a mess on the furniture. But nobody seems to get that because they're all deferring to the businessmen and the lawyers. See also: the Chronicle. Also Tim Klapdor, writing about the same thing.

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