‘Bill Of Rights’ Wants To Keep Massive Online Classes From Being ‘Instagram Of Higher Ed’

Ann McClure's picture

Remember all the hubbub last month when Instagram changed its Terms of Service, outraging users who were concerned that they had become the product?

Well, to keep that from happening to the new wave of massive open online courses (MOOCs), a group of 12 educators, including MOOC-provider Udacity, has released what it calls a “Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age.” Apparently created at a “MOOC Summit,” which Udacity founder and Stanford Professor Sebastian Thrun helped organize, the point of the document is to lay out a framework for protecting the rights of online students.

As MOOC-mania sweeps the world, attracting dozens of universities and millions of students, the authors of the Bill say the new learning platforms are “so promising in possibility, and yet so ripe for exploitation.” In rather lofty language, the bill puts forth a set of “inalienable rights,” including the rights to access, privacy, personal data and intellectual property, as well as financial and pedagogical transparency.

Cathy Davidson, an English professor at Duke University and one of the Bill’s authors told The Chronicle of Higher Education, that discussion surrounding MOOCs tends to involve a lot of hype — and a lot of questions.

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