Last week Coursera announced that they updated the enrolment and grading option of their courses. No longer you can have free access to the full course:
Starting today, when you enroll in certain courses, you’ll be asked to pay a fee if you’d like to submit required graded assignments and earn a Course Certificate. You can also choose to explore the course for free, in which case you’ll have full access to videos, discussions, and practice assignments, and view-only access to graded assignments.
Most Coursera courses never used an open licensed. So they were not open in the common use of the definition of open. David Wiley wrote a very clear blog post about this. If you look at the defintions open open content, OER, open access, open data, open knowledge, open source and open standards, they have 2 things in commons:
- Free access to the content, resource, journal article, data, knowledge artifact, software, or standard, and
- A formal grant of rights and permissions giving back to the user many of the rights and permissions copyright normally reserves exclusively for the creator or other rights holder.
Although Coursera used to follow the first thing, they never did for the second one. So formally they were never really open. EdX followed the same line of reason, but last year they added a creative commons plugin, so universities can change the rights from all rights reserved to an open license. Unfortunately, I don't have stats on how many courses use an open license. One of thing I know is that all TU Delft MOOCs use an open license (CC-BY-NC-SA). Recently we decided that the course Topology of Condensed Matter (starting Feb 8th) will even have a more open license: CC-NY-SA (I expect an applause from Cable).
With the removal of free access to the assessment part of the course, I would say that we can no longer talk about a free course. You get free (not open) access to learning resources, but you have pay to for access to the course. According to Insight Higher Education Coursera is creating a mismatch between their mission of provide universal access to the world’s best education and their business model. I agree with George Siemens that Coursera is “playing a short-term venture capital game” instead of focusing on the larger goal of improving access to education. We have seen this with the other Silicon Valley company Udacity.
I think it will be interesting to see what the university partners of Coursera are going to do. They have to show their cards: are they in the MOOC business for the greater good of universal access to education or just for making money! At least show that you find open education important and become a member of the Open Education Consortium!