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Professors Say Massive Open Online Courses Threaten Academic Freedom

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the work-for-hirelings dept.

Education 284

McGruber writes "The Chronicle of Higher Education has the news that American Association of University Professors (AAUP) believes that faculty members' copyrights and academic freedom are being threatened by colleges claiming ownership of the massive open online courses their instructors have developed. The AAUP plans this year to undertake a campaign to urge professors to get protections of their intellectual-property rights included in their contracts and faculty handbooks. According to former AAUP President Cory Nelson, 'If we lose the battle over intellectual property, it's over. Being a professor will no longer be a professional career or a professional identity,' and faculty members will instead essentially find themselves working in 'a service industry.' [Just like their graduate students?]"

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284 comments

Depends on the school (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994651)

Where I went to school the students always owned their own research. That's not always the case. Go to a University known for good research.

Re:Depends on the school (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995347)

Where I went to school the students always owned their own research. That's not always the case. Go to a University known for good research.

Just like the title of this article, your statement has absolutely nothing at all to do with the story.
Nobody is saying the courses threaten academic freedom, and nobody is talking about student research. Do you even bother reading the summary at least, or just scan the title and post some knee-jerk response?

First defense of oppressors, (1, Flamebait)

pecosdave (536896) | about 10 months ago | (#43994655)

Claim freedom is lack of. Claim right is wrong, claim truth is lies. Not news.

Maybe with a little academic freedom we can find higher education that isn't a left wing indoctrination institute.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about 10 months ago | (#43994675)

Claim freedom is lack of. Claim right is wrong, claim truth is lies. Not news.

Isn't that the opening monologue in "Drain Spotting" :D

Re:First defense of oppressors, (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#43994697)

Sure you can, you just have to go to a right wing indoctrination institute. Lots of those around too.

How about instead we just focus on facts, not ideology in education.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (5, Funny)

captbob2002 (411323) | about 10 months ago | (#43995093)

How about instead we just focus on facts, not ideology in education.

But facts have a well known liberal bias.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995119)

Sure you can, you just have to go to a right wing indoctrination institute. Lots of those around too.

A right wing indoctrination institute? I think that is called "reality", "market forces", "the way things are", etc. It is certainly not "your mother's basement .--
Another fine opinion from The Fucking Psychopath®

Re:First defense of oppressors, (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 10 months ago | (#43995123)

How about instead we just focus on facts, not ideology in education.

Sadly, because ideology directly affects what you consider to be 'facts'.

If people actually looked at facts, they might have to be faced with the idea that their ideologies are wrong. And people have no interest whatsoever in doing that, because their ideologies are Clearly Right, and those facts are Clearly Partisan spin.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (3, Insightful)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 10 months ago | (#43995511)

"Facts" are rarely the *whole* truth, on either side of any debate.

In other words, everyone cherry picks for their own benefit.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (0)

FilmedInNoir (1392323) | about 10 months ago | (#43994743)

I agree with your rant.
Ah, no, pretty sure Bob Jones University would be opposed to online courses to. This is about greed not climate change denial and gay marriage.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (5, Funny)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 10 months ago | (#43994749)

Maybe with a little academic freedom we can find higher education that isn't a left wing indoctrination institute.

If your university was a left wing indoctrination institute then you went to a very odd university. It must have had courses like:

Concurrency and Marxism.

Vector calculus and the worker will rise.

Small signal analysis and the evil capitalist pigdog.

Did you also start each lecture in "Partial Differential Equations" with a rousing chorus of "The Red Flag"...?

Re:First defense of oppressors, (5, Funny)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 months ago | (#43994791)

At Ayn Rand university, round-robin scheduling is strictly banned from the curriculum. The purpose of an OS scheduling algorithm must be to reward processes' individual merit, not to enforce discredited socialist concepts like "resource fairness" or "nonstarvation".

Re:First defense of oppressors, (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#43995237)

I think you're skimping natural sciences. What about "The D/L chjrality of amino-acids in nature and the imperialist's denial of reality"?

Re:First defense of oppressors, (0, Troll)

pecosdave (536896) | about 10 months ago | (#43995407)

Most people I've talked to who have been in college recently have had to take a "white people are automatically racist no matter what and minorities can't be because they don't have the power" course. Not to mention the well known cases of partisan ranting in classrooms by professors and even professors handing out pledges and requirements to vote Democrat.

If you want I'll give you links, but don't take my word for it, do some research on your own instead of relying on what someone hands you. I know that's counter to the modern educational indoctrination, but give it a try - true liberalism is about freedom of thought and freedom from oppression, not what modern people who call themselves liberal shovel at you.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (1)

coId fjord (2949869) | about 10 months ago | (#43994789)

And they plan to defeat this 'threat' to their freedom by making use of idea monopolies? IP seems to be worse for academic freedom than anything else.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (2)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 10 months ago | (#43994849)

No, what they plan to do is prevent the university's from claiming copyright on the coursework that they created.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994847)

So you think it's okay that a University gets to slap copyrights on course work created by their professors so they can profit from it? And professors who complain about that are using doublespeak and are leftists? lolwut?

Maybe you should have gone to a real college instead of a diploma mill like Liberty University. You might have turned out to be less of a retard.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (5, Insightful)

slim (1652) | about 10 months ago | (#43994995)

My employer owns the copyright on work I produce on their time. What's different about universities.

Contracts, I suppose. So these professors should check their contracts before signing them.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 10 months ago | (#43995189)

That's because your employer is paying to you work. So whatever you do on the company's time belongs to the company. At University, you're paying to go and learn. I would expect to own anything I created while at University.

[John]

Re:First defense of oppressors, (2)

slim (1652) | about 10 months ago | (#43995419)

Er, this is about material created by professors -- that is, people being paid by the university.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (5, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about 10 months ago | (#43994949)

Interesting, but, you do realize that "left wing indoctrination" is what people in other countries call "education" right? Just because the facts don't back a conservative agenda does not make schools "left wing indoctrination institutes" it means that you're delusional.

Unless of course, serviscope, is right and the courses are titled like that.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | about 10 months ago | (#43995297)

I intentionally searched out a school that had a reputation for being as liberal as it gets, and while the students and environment outside classes were awash with left wing ideology, all the classes themselves were solidly fact-based. Sure, we might have had a slightly higher number of classes available in women's studies, say, but ideology certainly didn't bleed over into physics, math, computer science, or even English or art history.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (4, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | about 10 months ago | (#43995373)

That's primarily because reality has a left wing bias to it. Abortion, climate change, GLBT rights, economics, these are all things where the conservative agenda ignores research and fails to entertain the notion that there might be other possibilities going on there.

Which isn't surprising, seeing as conservatives in any system want things to remain as they were, and liberals want to progress into the future. So, of course, universities are going to appear to have a bias against conservatives, we don't yet know everything there is to know, which means that there's usually going to be a better way than what we previously knew.

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995625)

"Reality has a left-wing bias"?

I would ask if you realize how ridiculous that sounds, but I suspect the irony is lost on you.

Re:First defense of oppressors, (1)

pecosdave (536896) | about 10 months ago | (#43995587)

Sadly this is more common that let on [campusreform.org] . They did the right thing in this case, giving her the boot, but it's not the case across the board.

I'm not a Republican and I think this is wrong [poorrichardsnews.com] . Republicans and Democrats have the same major flaws rather they like to admit to it or not.

Limiting exposure to different types of thought is now mandatory [thecollegefix.com] in many colleges.

No, the term "Liberal Education" originally applied to the old definition of "Liberal" which encouraged independent thought, positive action, and a base of factual knowledge. The modern version follows the modern definition of liberal which is some blend of Marxist - punishing those who excel to benefit those who do not. The opposite of Darwinism, yet teaching Darwinism is very high on their agenda. I've yet to figure out why those who most adamantly demand the teaching of Darwinism are those most against it's implementation. The scientific method may be taught in the science classes, but outside of that enlightenment type classes have little to do with enlightenment and more often than not teach hate under the guise of the opposite.

fucking lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994661)

'nuf said?

Re:fucking lawyers (3, Insightful)

jehan60188 (2535020) | about 10 months ago | (#43994993)

and the for-profit college model in general. schools need to stop hiring MBA flunkies as their deans, and start focusing on academics again

copyrights and academic freedom (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994701)

I love how professors can claim copyrights on research done with my tax dollars.

Re:copyrights and academic freedom (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about 10 months ago | (#43995041)

Just because they work for a government funded school, does not give you the right to demand access to things that the teacher does to prepare for class. The school just pays for the contact hours and the assessment, not the creation of the materials. Typically if the school wants to own that, they have to pay for the materials to be developed.

The research OTOH, is a different matter, and it really depends where the funding comes from.

Re:copyrights and academic freedom (2)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about 10 months ago | (#43995239)

You can't copyright research (papers and publishing on the other hand are a different story). And the university gets the patents off research, if applicable. When you apply for a job at a university, you usually have to sign paperwork that says something to this degree.

headline a bit inaccurate (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 months ago | (#43994703)

They're not claiming the existence of MOOCs threatens academic freedom, but that the universities' IP grab, claiming ownership of course materials in order to license them to for-profit firms like Coursera, does so. The traditional IP agreement is that universities own a share of patentable inventions developed using university facilities, but do not own copyrights on materials, such as books, articles, course slides, tutorials, presentations, etc. produced by professors, which are supposed to be free of any university legal interference.

Re:headline a bit inaccurate (1)

Great Big Bird (1751616) | about 10 months ago | (#43995003)

A question from ignorance: Does a professor make material and get paid by the university, or does it come from grant money?

Re:headline a bit inaccurate (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#43995069)

They're not claiming the existence of MOOCs threatens academic freedom, but that the universities' IP grab, claiming ownership of course materials in order to license them to for-profit firms like Coursera, does so. The traditional IP agreement is that universities own a share of patentable inventions developed using university facilities, but do not own copyrights on materials, such as books, articles, course slides, tutorials, presentations, etc. produced by professors, which are supposed to be free of any university legal interference.

Luckily, as the noble history of K-12 textbooks demonstrates, course materials produced by committee under a stifling haze of IP never suck!

...and not academic freedom (5, Insightful)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 10 months ago | (#43995139)

Yes, but speaking as a professor, this is not a case of academic freedom and I get _really_ fed up with academic unions claiming "academic freedom" for everything regardless of whether or not it is. Violation of academic freedom would the a university telling me that I had to use material X for teaching or that I could not do research on Y.

This is a simple question about owning the intellectual property rights on material produced. Frankly the way I think this should be is that I own the copyright but the university has a permanent license to use any material I generate for education of its own students. Since academic careers are built on reputation it's my moral rights - to be associated as the author of the material - that I care more about. I put all my material under a CC NC-BY-SA license. If 100k people found it useful enough to study from it and learn some particle physics I'd consider myself to be doing really well at the education part of my job!

Re:...and not academic freedom (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 10 months ago | (#43995601)

That's great, but how would you feel if the university made $1M/yr off your work by licensing it. And you got nothing. Or got fired.

Re:...and not academic freedom (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 10 months ago | (#43995619)

I understand your point, and it's fair to say this is not an attack on intellectual property in the same way that most civil societies don't absolutely forbid certain speech.

However, by an academic institution claiming ownership on an associate's speech, I would argue that a chilling effect is in play. Financial disincentive is a dangerous tool in the toolbox of the supressors of speech. Even if the intent in this case isn't explicitly censorship.

What's the difference between "you can't speak" and "you can speak, but you won't get your legal ownership of your speech"? Potentially, pretty slim.

Academic name recognition (2)

bsDaemon (87307) | about 10 months ago | (#43994715)

I've participated in a few 'MOOC's in the past, and have thought about a few more. The ones up until now all seem to be adaptations of courses offered by universities, and using the university's name recognition and NOT the professor's to attract students. It would be interesting to see how many people would be attracted to a class by "Dr. Joe Schmoe" and not "XXX 200 from Harvard University as taught by Dr. Joe Schmoe".

Will schools allow instructors to advertize their affiliation in the descriptions of their courses? Will sites like Coursera be allowed to group by university courses which aren't actually taught at those institutions, just taught by people who work there?

Also, this really seems more about the schools threatening academic freedom, not the 'MOOCs'.

Re:Academic name recognition (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 months ago | (#43994761)

In my corner of the world (CS), I think the professors' name recognition plays a fairly big role, though I could be wrong w.r.t. what the average person notices. When I see e.g. a robotics course by Sebastian Thrun, or an AI course by Peter Norvig, or a data-analysis course by Michael Littman, their names catch my eye more than the fact that they happen to be at Stanford, Google, and Brown, respectively.

Re:Academic name recognition (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#43995111)

If somebody considers the university rather than the person important, then they're just buying a brand. Likely they have no real knowledge of the field. Alas, such people are often the decision makers.

Re:Academic name recognition (4, Informative)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 10 months ago | (#43994817)

I've participated in a few 'MOOC's in the past, and have thought about a few more. The ones up until now all seem to be adaptations of courses offered by universities, and using the university's name recognition and NOT the professor's to attract students. It would be interesting to see how many people would be attracted to a class by "Dr. Joe Schmoe" and not "XXX 200 from Harvard University as taught by Dr. Joe Schmoe".

It's not a question of "advertising" a course (though with some famous professors it might occasionally be).

The point is that the professor is preparing his/her own version of a course, making all the materials, and now the university will claim ownership over all of it. In years past, when a professor taught "History of Western Philosophy" or whatever at university X, he/she designed a syllabus, made up his/her course materials, etc. Then, if the professor had to move to another university for whatever reason, he/she would take those materials and offer "History of Western Philosophy" at university Y, essentially with the same stuff (perhaps modified a bit to curriculum standards at university Y).

Now, with MOOCs, universities are claiming ownership over much of the course materials created. So, if a professor leaves university X, university X could still keep using all that stuff for the course. Professor X might not even be able to use the stuff he/she created at university Y, since it may be under copyright, etc.

Obviously this is not a clear issue, since the work done for university X was done while the professor was an employee there, so I get how the university can claim some ownership.

On the other hand, for lots of early-adopter profs with online materials, they have invested a lot of their own time and energy doing something that hasn't been immediately adopted everywhere at minor universities. If they do all the work to make their own distinctive courses but then can't take that work with them if they have to move to university Y, it really can hurt their teaching ability at a new job.

Re:Academic name recognition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994963)

Couldn't he just use his superpowers to force the university into letting him retain his copyrights?

Re:Academic name recognition (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 10 months ago | (#43995037)

Actually, I forsee a change in courses over the next few years, where the teaching material is a collaboration of those instructors creating the classes. This will mean that course design will become more favorable than being "Dr Joe Schmoe". And open source courses will invariably be more complete than closed courses offered from a singular professor.

Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer, should be.

Re:Academic name recognition (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 10 months ago | (#43995245)

Actually, I forsee a change in courses over the next few years, where the teaching material is a collaboration of those instructors creating the classes. [...] And open source courses will invariably be more complete than closed courses offered from a singular professor.

You're probably right in terms of what will happen.

Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer, should be.

However, when we get to the point that most university curricula are exactly the same and using the same exact materials, we've lost a huge point of academic inquiry -- which is in part about individuality and creativity.

When I was an undergraduate, the department of my major was ranked as one of the best departments in the world for my major. I was explicitly told that if I wanted to go to graduate school in my field, I shouldn't apply there, despite the fact that they were also the highest-ranked in graduate studies.

Why? Because it was seen as two strikes against any applicant. The faculty rightly recognized that you only get new ideas when you get to talk with people who understand things differently... and students who were taught by you at your university are much less likely to have completely different perspectives on the field.

Yes, we already have some standardization with common textbooks, etc. But the distinctive teaching and approaches used by each professor can really bring out different ideas and responses from students. On a larger scale, those differences ultimately lead to new ideas emerging when a student taught by prof A argues with a student taught by prof B in graduate school.

I'm happy to see collaboration to create good course materials for intro classes, but I definitely think we'll take a huge step backward intellectually if all of these courses effectively become "the same" at every college.

Re:Academic name recognition (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#43995157)

Now, with MOOCs, universities are claiming ownership over much of the course materials created.

Boo hoo, you mean they might have to live under the same system as us peasants? That would be especially good for economics departments, where tenured profs preach about the wonders of "labor flexibility".

Re:Academic name recognition (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 10 months ago | (#43995453)

Now, with MOOCs, universities are claiming ownership over much of the course materials created.

Boo hoo, you mean they might have to live under the same system as us peasants?

It might seem obvious that employers should get to keep materials created by their employees. On the other hand, teaching is a specific kind of job with requirements a little different from many where this sort of copyrightable material is created.

One main difference is that teachers/professors are required to essentially do a very similar thing over and over and over again from semester to semester and year to year. It's not like they're creating custom code to solve a particular problem once or writing a specific set of documents for a company to deal with a particular problem.

They are instead creating materials that will allow them to do their job better again and again from year to year. In a way, I think it's more like "tools" for your trade. Every prof in a particular field has his/her "tools" for teaching the intro courses in that field, just a like a carpenter carries his tools from job to job to build a similar kind of deck on a different house.

I'm not saying the universities shouldn't claim any ownership -- in many cases of the big MOOCs nowadays, the universities are investing lots of money specifically to create these sorts of things, and that should be taken into consideration.

But in other cases, professors have spent years of their own time making their own online materials getting no special funding for their extra effort -- which may have gone far beyond those profs who did not adopt online teaching as early.

And effectively we're penalizing those who tried to innovate by saying -- "Those who kept the crappy handout and offline textbook model can take that stuff with them to their new job as usual (which can actually serve as a great point to build online materials in the future), but those who innovated and used cool new educational materials in an online setting will lose those if they ever leave their job."

Re:Academic name recognition (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 10 months ago | (#43995125)

I'd be more concerned with these classes displacing smaller classes. Apart from a relatively small minority of students, most students really do need much smaller class sizes. IIRC the drop out rate on CourseRA is something like 97% over the course of a class. Which means that for every 3 that successfully finish roughly 27 will fail to complete for one reason or another.

The largest classes you're likely to see in a normal environment are probably about 500, and those will usually have TAs and quiz sections. And even that's probably larger than normal.

Professors themselves aren't hired because they can create coursework, they're generally hired either for research or because they're good at interacting with the students. And usually the former. But, courses are not write once use for all eternity, you never get the same mix of students more than once, and the materials always require tweaking for best results.

Folks may be missing whats being said here (3, Interesting)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 10 months ago | (#43994717)

we are looking at a couple things

1 a School claiming copyrights on a teachers work (possibly preventing said teacher from posting the course on a free site)

2 folks wanting to get courses for free (maybe so that they know the material before doing the course for credit/paid??)

what i would do as a teacher is make sure that the vids/materials have several logos through out the course.

ftfy (3, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 10 months ago | (#43994739)

Professors Say Massive Open Online Courses Threaten Academic Freedom

threaten their monopoly on information... it's RIAA and MPAA whining of a different flavor.

Re:ftfy (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#43995231)

Professors Say Massive Open Online Courses Threaten Academic Freedom

threaten their monopoly on information... it's RIAA and MPAA whining of a different flavor.

I'm inclined to disagree: If anything, the universities (who are attempting to seize the copyrights on course material, because the new 'MOOC' format now makes course material valuable in absence of the person who developed it) are the ones in the position of the RIAA (a trade group that represents the owners of copyrighted music, not musicians.)

Professors have never(at least since printing became remotely cheap; maybe back in the early medieval university where technical constraints imposed a nearly oral-history model of knowledge transmission you could make a case) had a 'monopoly on information', you can get courses in established subjects just about anywhere, and new-hotness research will be encumbered by Reed-Elsevier, not Dr. Somebody. What they object to is universities(or online courseware companies) obtaining a monopoly on their specific teaching of a course. This hardly seems shocking, given that they could end up having to license back their own coursework if they change employers...

Really rather similar to the position of a musician or band whose entire back-catalog is encumbered by that EMI contract they signed when they were small.

No, graduate students still even lower (5, Insightful)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 10 months ago | (#43994751)

[Just like their graduate students?]

In the U.S., graduate/research assistants generally aren't even considered employees under the law. Universities use the "they're students, not employees" thing to skirt even the most basic worker protections for grad assistants (similar to the way interns are exploited). They're so low that they can't even file for unemployment or count their work towards their Social Security (since they were never even "employed" in the first place, according to the law).

Re:No, graduate students still even lower (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#43994787)

Serfdom might be a good term, except that under traditional serfdom the lord of the manor had some reciprocal obligations to the serf.

Re:No, graduate students still even lower (2)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 10 months ago | (#43995047)

Serfdom might be a good term, except that under traditional serfdom the lord of the manor had some reciprocal obligations to the serf.

I don't know, professors have at least some recognized professional obligations for graduate students. For example, they are expected to write reasonable recommendation letters, a task that can be quite time-consuming.

A few years back, I knew this prof who was denied tenure at a major university. He was on the job market, and essentially ended up applying for the same jobs his graduate students and recent Ph.D.'s were applying for. Word got around that he was actually writing crappy recommendation letters for his own students (either because he wanted to look better or because he was just stressed and out of time while doing his own job hunt), and the academic community in the field didn't look kindly on him... it took him another few years to finally find a position, despite being highly qualified.

Of course, recommendation letters are supposed to be confidential, but particularly in small fields, word can get around if you aren't holding up your obligation to your students correctly.

Re:No, graduate students still even lower (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#43995493)

I don't know, professors have at least some recognized professional obligations for graduate students.

But what do they do for Boxing Day [wikipedia.org] ?

reciprocal obligations (2)

zoomshorts (137587) | about 10 months ago | (#43995247)

Yes, to keep that serf alive so you can work him to death.

Re:reciprocal obligations (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#43995399)

Yes, to keep that serf alive so you can work him to death.

Why did this get modded down from at least a +1 to a -1? It's a joke. Do the mods now lack a sense of humor in addition to being intolerant of different views?

Re:No, graduate students still even lower (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994935)

count their work towards their Social Security (since they were never even "employed" in the first place, according to the law).

The only advantage of this is that we don't pay FICA on our already low wages. Another 7.5% would hurt pretty bad. And because we're students, not employees, we are not eligible for many government aid programs. Subsidized housing, at least in my state, is explicitly not available to students.

Re:No, graduate students still even lower (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995531)

You can't count "work towards their Social Security" because you legally don't have to pay into it a graduate student. There aren't any sheganigans. You don't pay in, you don't get credit.

Good article on MOOCs here (2)

blarkon (1712194) | about 10 months ago | (#43994757)

http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/zunguzungu/the-mooc-moment-and-the-end-of-reform/ [thenewinquiry.com] - discusses that MOOCs haven't really been tested in terms of how good they are at educating people. The article also suggests that the push for MOOCs is coming because governments can no longer afford to provide college education, so by pushing to an online model, they can shrink the college sector. They still fulfill their responsibility of "educating people" - but they don't have to pay for all those expensive bits like college buildings and academics. The article suggests that a small number of people will get a "traditional premium education" which costs an arm and a leg and where they get to interact with an academic directly. The majority of people though will get their education in a way similar to how IT vendors do certification today. Students self study from MOOCs and then book themselves in for exams taken at authorized testing centers. Anyway the article is a lot more detailed - but the push for this stuff is coming because it's a quick way for governments to cut a lot of spending whilst claiming to be embracing "the revolution in education".

Re:Good article on MOOCs here (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 months ago | (#43994815)

governments can no longer afford to provide college education

It's more that they no longer want to pay for it, not that they can't afford it. California spends far less money on the UC system today than it did in 1985, for example, and it's not because the overall California budget has shrunk: they've just decided to spend the money on other things.

Re:Good article on MOOCs here (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#43995465)

It's more that they no longer want to pay for it

I know that's a good part of why tuition at public universities have shot up (SUNY went from the student paying 25% to 75%), but is it the whole story? It doesn't explain the cost increases at private schools. I'd love to see a decent breakdown of the reasons for the increase in the total cost of running a university (i.e. total cost regardless of who is picking up the tab). All I've ever seen is a few hand-waving "this has become more expensive" without specifying any numbers, let alone giving a complete breakdown. Considering how many people this affects, I'm amazed I haven't seen decent reporting on this. The budgets for public universities anyway should be open to the public, so that's not the issue.

Re:Good article on MOOCs here (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#43995019)

The article also suggests that the push for MOOCs is coming because governments can no longer afford to provide college education

By governments do you mean governments in the US? I don't know if universities elsewhere have seen the same sort of insane inflation in costs that we've seen in the US.

by pushing to an online model, they can shrink the college sector. They still fulfill their responsibility of "educating people" - but they don't have to pay for all those expensive bits like college buildings and academics

If MOOC's do prove to be effective, then it's a good thing not to have to pay for all those expensive bits. The structure of universities is quite literally medieval. The main change since the middle ages is that they now only wear their (literally) medieval costumes on graduation day. It would be nice if in the 21st century we could find a more efficient way of doing things, like we have with almost every other part of the economy.

Academic Freedom (2)

intermodal (534361) | about 10 months ago | (#43994771)

Academic freedom is something most professors are hardly in a position to speak of. In my own college courses, students were afforded very little opportunity to think freely if they wished to get grades that would sustain their scholarships and academics-based assistance. And this was at a right-wing private university, where I caused endless arguments in one of the few "academically free" courses I took for having libertarian views (much to the amusement of the professor, who successfully masked his own politics to encourage discussion, but in private, I found him to be a likely independent or (L|l)ibertarian rather than a Republican or Democrat). I've heard it gets even worse in such ways at the more common liberal-dominated universities, where one of my friends reported a class began with the professor announcing on the first day that if anyone was a Republican, they may as well leave right now and drop the class because they would be given a failing grade if they were discovered.

Contrast this with my online courses that I took, where I found that instead of sitting through a lecture where a professor stood on his soapbox for an hour, I could actually craft proper responses to queries and interact much more openly in ways that fostered an environment where people could learn from each other as well as just whatever the instructors' opinions expressed happened to be.

Most professors, when referring to "Academic Freedom", usually mean "freedom for professional academics". I'm not sure the ivory tower deserves the protection it has enjoyed for so long at the expense of students' ability to actually use their minds.

Re:Academic Freedom (1)

Great Big Bird (1751616) | about 10 months ago | (#43995061)

Dare I ask what kind of course that was at a "liberal-dominated university"? I go to a University in Ontario, and I would not call it leaning any which way, in fact the main politics are simply internal ones.

Re:Academic Freedom (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 10 months ago | (#43995309)

I believe it was an English course. I don't remember specifically which one. I don't know if the situation is as politically dominated in Canada as it is in the United States.

That's remarkably sensible (4, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 10 months ago | (#43994825)

Guy's right. We're all basically being reduced to cogs in a machine. There's a really tiny group of super geniuses that will do the basic research. Maybe a few hundred thousand out of 6 billion. The rest of us will be replaced by robots and software. The fun part is sitting back watching all the rubes convince themselves their part of that tiny fraction of geniuses and that this doesn't apply to them.

Re:That's remarkably sensible (4, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 10 months ago | (#43995017)

The fun part is sitting back watching all the rubes convince themselves their part of that tiny fraction of geniuses and that this doesn't apply to them.

Hee hee;

You're right, it is fun!

Re:That's remarkably sensible (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995307)

Well, he did place himself in the cog category like the rest of us.

Re:That's remarkably sensible (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#43995233)

The rest of us will be replaced by robots and software.

Because the Singularity is just around the corner. I know that's true because the Singularity has always been just around the corner.

Tenure (2)

jlbprof (760036) | about 10 months ago | (#43994877)

What it really is affecting their freedom through tenure to do whatever they please rather then trying to serve the public as they should be by teaching. I hope this kills the concept of tenure, having absolute job security is analogous to having absolute power, IMHO.

Falling costs in the free market (1, Interesting)

udachny (2454394) | about 10 months ago | (#43994887)

This is what drives prices down, prices for everything: freedom.

Freedom to try and freedom to fail, freedom to innovate, freedom to try and make your life better by providing an excellent product or services to a large subset of the population.

Freedom is what government takes away every day. Freedom is what various professional unions also try to take away, but they succeed when they get government on their side. Government protects the buggy and whip makers in every industry.

Relative freedom allows computers and electronics to fall in price or at least not to go up in price as the rest of the consumer products to with inflation going up (so in real terms the prices are still falling).

Freedom used provide Americans with best CHEAPEST health care in the world, where they paid very little money for routine things out of pocket and the rest they could insure against for 2 bucks a month. How was that a problem that needed to be 'solved' by government?

Freedom used to provide Americans arguably with best and cheapest education in the world as well, but then again, they had to pay for it out of pocket and if they did take loans, those were tiny compared to what happened once the government stuck its nose into that.

Medical care would be falling in price (in real terms, I am not talking about the inflation that gov't also causes because of destruction of real money by stealing people's freedoms to deal in real money) with more and more innovation coming on line.

Pills that replace costly surgeries, new types of treatments and diagnostics tools, computerisation... all of this makes things LESS expensive over time, not more expensive.

If government was in charge of building vide cards, well, first of all you wouldn't have any real innovation there, secondly prices would be constantly going up. Why? Because, they would tell you, those things provide you with more computing power.

Same with education. The technology makes education cheaper and more affordable, FREE MARKET DOES THAT, not government, not professional unions, not the whip and buggy makers.

Sure, this guy is complaining, but that's his problem, he IS the whip and buggy maker in the world of Ford and Lamborghini.

Re:Falling costs in the free market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995265)

(you gotta) blow you heart out for freedom's sake, run yourself into the ground
(you gotta) blow you heart out for freedom's sake, run yourself into the ground
(you gotta) blow you heart out for freedom's sake, run yourself into the ground
(you gotta) blow you heart out for freedom's sake, run yourself into the ground
it's either robber barons trickling down or bureaucrats pushing you around
(you gotta) blow you heart out for freedom's sake, run yourself into the ground

hey, Mr. Rockefeller,
you were not born in a state of nature
where life is miserable, poor, nasty, brutish and short
where other human beings are hunted for sport
it's either robber barons trickling down or bureaucrats pushing you around
(you gotta) blow you heart out for freedom's sake, run yourself into the ground

Re:Falling costs in the free market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995615)

Sensors indicate the presence of Bratva.

There are people involved in providing those decreasing cost services, you know, HUMAN BEINGS? These are running themselves into the ground. There are an army of HUMAN BEINGS running themselves into the ground for their pittance meanwhile costs for necessities like food, clothing and shelter do not decrease like the services that these HUMAN BEINGS provide. You suck their life-blood.

You look down from your glass-walled high-rise office upon all the "human ants" in the streets scurrying about engaging in heart-killing dollar chasing while you think yourself a god, lord and master over other HUMAN BEINGS. If you think yourself better that the rest of us, what you are doing is calling yourself something other than human. Laws protect only humans and thus unwittingly you remove yourself from the protection of those laws. That is why you need a private army of thugs from SADF to Spetznaz to protect you from reality.

Fredrick Douglass (4, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 10 months ago | (#43994937)

I didn't know I was a slave until I found out I couldn't do the things I wanted. - Frederick Douglass

How many university professors will now change their mind about imaginary property and how many will still claim, "but if only we can tweak it thusly, for my benefit, it'll be all better?"

Academic copyright can be a bit bizarre (4, Interesting)

edremy (36408) | about 10 months ago | (#43994987)

Read any contracts carefully before you sign

A number of years ago I worked with a professor who was writing a textbook. I wrote a quiz engine and a question bank to use with it. The professor owned the copyright to the textbook. The university owned the electronic stuff I developed, both text and code, even though it was an adjunct to the text.

You might think about the fact that.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995031)

....when the cases were going through the courts about the protections of the legal rights to works produced by employees in other fields (programmers jumps right to mind) there was no support or protection for them, or for anyone who works for anyone but themselves. In just about every case of which I can think, the person cutting the check owns the rights to the work for which they paid.

Suck it up, academia nuts. This is life in the big, bad, modern world. No whinging allowed.

Protect those buggy whips at all costs, boys! (5, Interesting)

pla (258480) | about 10 months ago | (#43995059)

Welcome to the 1980s. The world no longer needs people to stand in front of a group of 20 year olds and read a book to them.

That said, plenty of classes do benefit greatly from a live instructor. But virtually any "core curriculum" class really only requires a professor as the equivalent of a janitor - Count the filled chairs, sweep in the homework every week, polish the doorknobs and desktops, refill the quiz dispenser, and do a quarterly inspection of the knowledge sieves.

So the real question here needs rephrasing - Instead of figuring out how to pay professors for "producing" the same course material year after year when we have the ability to completely automate that, how about:
1) Find the "best" professor for each class in the world, buy the rights to his materials and make that "The" foo-101 course,
2) Refocus the in-person college experience around classes that actually involve thought rather than rote, and
3) Use the savings to cut tuitions back to a level that doesn't leave people in debt for the first 40 years of their professional careers.

I know, I know... Crazy talk.

/ Player Piano.

Only proffesors are 'professionals'? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995073)

What a load of crock. Under Cory Nelson's definition the only 'professionals' are professors. Most of these guys are paid by the state, which means US. It has always irked me that they took their salary and then patented and copyrighted the work they were paid to do by the public. Now they are whining that their institutions are treating them like the rest of us professionals are treated. I still think it is wrong that the institution can claim ownership of the fruits of public money, but the way Texas is treating it's universities funding-wise (and I imagine other states as well), the universities have to seek other sources of revenue, in this case it is coming from perks long held by professors and so is a net zero impact on the rest of us.

Huh? (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995087)

It IS a service industry. Get over it and start competing.

some universities are real cash grabs (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 10 months ago | (#43995095)

And some things they do are.

a overload of required classes (some even still have swim tests and PE classes that you have to pay universities prices for)
makeing interns pay full price for credits for there work.
ripping pages of out books in classes to stop people from buy a old copy of book for class. Have the page ripped out before hand you get a lower grade.
upping the number credits to get a degree.

Forcing people to live in dorm with room mates and even shared bathroom for a full floor at a price that costs more then renting on your own (year round).
makeing transfer students retake OUR math and other gen eds. Some states had to pass laws saying that they must take (community college credits)

required classes that fall in the way that you end taking 5 years for a 4 year degree.
Some schools force you to buy there laptop (that is not that much of a good deal or does not have the power for all kinds of classes)
High priced and or low priced low max mini-med insurance that if you get really sick does not help you at all.

some fully majors that should not be at an university and or should be 4 years.

Re:some universities are real cash grabs (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#43995145)

"ripping pages of out books in classes to stop people from buy a old copy of book for class. Have the page ripped out before hand you get a lower grade."

This one is complete bullshit. Why are students not complaining hard to the administration about this?

First Musicians, then Authors.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995127)

Those professions still exist. Professors will still be required. Maybe the weaker ones will get weeded out, that's all.

If you were a professor and all you did was teach, then you deserve to be in trouble. My best professors were all involved in independent research and sought to get published and get our (us students') names attached to as many projects as we could so we would have a full resume. I didn't go to a large university, yet my professors managed to understand this is what we were supposed to be doing with our time there. College is not the 13th grade.

Just a little reminder (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about 10 months ago | (#43995131)

The very earliest beginnings of what is now ( still ) known as "universities" lay in Athens, in the Stoa where Aristotle taught. I can not remember having heard or read any of the "teachers" emitting whatsoever claim to the "rights" or "ownership" of the materials they taught. Another forefather of the universities is the model that Greek physicians had for teaching: the student would pay for the education, and be able to earn a living from his trade by letting those patients pay who could afford it. His craft, however, was to be put without discussion, without payment, to the disposal of the poor. Moreover, the future doctor would oblige himself, under oath, to accept any pupil wishing to learn the same trade, as long as the pupil was apt.

The first time we had, within universities, claims to truth and property was in the first "real" universities - "real" because they were the first ones to sport the name "Universitas" - of the high Middle Ages, in Europe. These claims came not from the educating personnel, they originated within the then and there omnipotent Roman Catholic church. It took us 600 years to get rid of that domination. Do we want to go back to the dark dungeons we came from ? I suppose not. Therefore, the AAUP's stance is not only ridiculous. It is condemned to die where it belongs: forgotten by all, in the last ditch.

Professors whining.... News at 11. (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#43995135)

I will give Professors some slack as soon as they stop being assholes and publishing their own textbooks every semester and sell them for $250 with a requirement that you must have it for their class.

Hint: you are a service industry (3, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 10 months ago | (#43995181)

The only people who think professors are some entitled class are ... professors. You provide a service, for pay, just like a doctor, or lawyer or barista.

You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake just because you have a PhD. I know that's what all the other PhDs told you when you joined the club, but reality is knocking on your door.

Re:Hint: you are a service industry (1)

JRowe47 (2459214) | about 10 months ago | (#43995565)

Khan Academy amply demonstrates why they're feeling so threatened. It's available for free, teaches individuals the subject matter in a clear and measurable way, and mitigates the need for individual tutors or teachers.

The Khan Academy model is probably applicable to any subject, it just needs the right series of lessons. Most MOOC's will probably tend toward the Khan model, and this means that teachers and professors have been made mostly obsolete.

This is an awesome thing. Imagine a world where kids get the best teachers for free, instead of the crapshoot that exists today; some math teachers are idiots. Others are boring as hell, and others vindictive assholes who will pick on students for arbitrary reasons.

Give every kid equal opportunity to learn in a system that objectively measures how well they've learned it. Put them in a Khan Academy system and let them compete for points and badges. The teacher's job becomes one of helping those students who are struggling with individual bits and pieces, rather than trying to shoehorn a lesson plan into the students' heads. The smart students won't get bored, the others will have the chance to learn core subjects effectively.

Competition, What a Horrible Concept (1)

astapleton (324242) | about 10 months ago | (#43995305)

I'd say I feel sorry for professors who feel threatened by the online education courses, but only because I feel sorry for anyone who refuses to find a better solution that to file for IP rights for their teaching material and processes. That's just going to create yet another money-making outlet for patent trolls and their lawyers. Everyone loses that game except the lawyers.

Build a better business model and get with the program, sirs and ma'ams.

Just like programmers (1)

anyaristow (1448609) | about 10 months ago | (#43995485)

I don't own the code I create for my employer. I am not free to post it on the internet, publish it, give it away or sell it.

Universities: Get Ready to John Classified Ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995535)

Just another market segment whose profit model was destroyed by the Internet. Just as no one should pay for a Classified Ad when Craigslist is free, in the future very few will pay for a University education (at least for most undergraduate courses) when the same or better education can be had online for free.

Oh, they'll linger for a while, as centers for research, semi-pro football teams, and scams for high school graduates to get their parents to pay for 4 years of drunken hookups, but the writing is on the wall, and the smaller and more marginal schools will start closing a lot sooner.

Tenure is going away for just about all non-superstars (think Nobel Prize winners and the like, and those that can bring in $1 million+ in hard money research projects annually.) The very best university professors will have more marketing opportunities. Mediocre or worse professors will have to find other employment.

Higher education is about to go through a huge upheaval. Adapt or enjoy your unemployment check.

The "math" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995545)

The academics true fear:
Online courses = less jobs in academia.

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