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MOOC / Coursera FAQ

SUNY was one of ten public university systems that announced an agreement with Coursera that enables use of their platform to deliver massive, open, online courses (MOOCs). Under the terms of this agreement, SUNY campuses have the opportunity to work with Coursera to deliver courses to students within SUNY or across the globe. MOOCs are not entirely new to SUNY, and in addition to a new course delivery option, this partnership enables SUNY faculty to join a community of researchers to investigate and assess the impact MOOCs may have on education and student learning.  SUNY recognizes that MOOCs are a tool that may play an important role in learning opportunities of our students, alumni, and others, in response to our common mission of access, completion and success. Several questions have arisen concerning the Coursera announcement and the role it plays in SUNY Online.  

What is the relationship between SUNY and Coursera?

The SUNY-Coursera relationship is part of a broader state university systems initiative that enables US state institutions access to Coursera’s delivery platform (portal) and support services.  As part of these agreements, system offices are required to ensure course quality, coordinate activities of their campuses utilizing the Coursera platform, and coordinate with other state systems where appropriate. Within SUNY, this will provide the necessary institutional flexibility and access, while also providing opportunities for System level collaboration.

What is the difference between Coursera and a traditional LMS (Blackboard, D2L, Moodle) to deliver online courses?

Just as major media content providers deliver programs to millions of people simultaneously, Coursera’s technology platform enables distribution of course materials at a global scale that would not be feasible for any single campus LMS platform to provide. This platform offers a new mechanism:

  • to deliver instruction to global students on a non-credit basis,
  • for faculty to “flip classroom content” for students regularly enrolled in credit bearing courses,
  • to encourage collaborations with other educational partners to develop and deliver unique learning opportunities.
Will credit be awarded or available to students taking a class delivered on Coursera?

Campuses will determine what credits will (or will not) be awarded for a MOOC that they offer. Several university systems have elected to experiment with offering credit-bearing general education courses or entire degrees through Coursera to their students.

Is my campus required to make a course internationally available if using Coursera?

No.  Several state systems are using Coursera to provide flipped-classroom course content within their systems, and in some cases licensing content from institutions that have courses available on Coursera.   It is also possible to enable access only to SUNY faculty and students. 

Who owns the course content?

Faculty delivering courses on the Coursera platform are required to sign an “Instructor Agreement”.  By signing the agreement the faculty member agrees to:

  • Give your university the right to use the content produced for this course;
  • Give your university the right to use any new features (e.g. software, interfaces or assessment features) that you create for the course;
  • Give Coursera the right to use these same features, but only in connection with the course and only as long as the course is running;
  • Make reasonable efforts to ensure that information you provide in the class accommodates people with disabilities and does not include inappropriate content;
  • Not hold Coursera responsible for any legal claims – either yours or someone else’s – related to your use of the site.

By default, course content is protected by an “All Rights Reserved” license under which the content owner has full rights to ownership and access to the material.  If you wish others to be allowed to reuse or repost your content, you may license your content through a Creative Commons license. Faculty control whether their course is listed on Coursera, and although repeating the course offering is encouraged in this environment, it is not required.

I understand MOOCs are very expensive to produce. What resources are being provided to campuses to develop a course?

The cost of MOOC production varies considerably depending on the course design.  As with any course on any platform, it is up to faculty members to work with their campuses to ensure that the course is designed as a quality student learning experience.  As one option, a campus may apply for Innovative Instruction Technology Grant support to assist with content development that is openly shared throughout SUNY.

What is the cost to use the Coursera platform?

There is no cost to the campus to use the Coursera platform.  Coursera provides services for transcription and captioning of course content. Coursera also conducts extensive marketing research to identify course content that learners are seeking, and the faculty and course development support team have access to extensive analytics about how learners are attending the content.

Coursera is committed to providing video content to all learners, but encourages learners to access richer learning materials as part of a verified certificate from Coursera.  Should a student elect to enroll in a course that verifies their participation and grade, they will pay for the course.  The revenue from any paid learners is evenly shared between Coursera and SUNY.

Is there a revenue stream provided back to the campus or the instructor from Coursera?

The contract includes a revenue share model that provides for the portion of the revenue generated from a course to go back to the delivering institution. 

How is Coursera delivered content designed to be pedagogically sound?

Any content considered for MOOC distribution should follow local campus support processes and procedures that ensure solid course design and pedagogical soundness. The same principles used to ensure quality course design in online environments guide MOOC course creation, but there are some design differences that are outlined in the faculty support section of the “About Coursera” materials.  Institutions experienced in MOOC delivery describe how significant attention is drawn to a campus offering this content.  As we work to learn more, it is imperative that local campus processes be followed to ensure all concerns are well aligned.  The Course Development Agreement outlines minimum quality standards, but the campus may have content development standards that exceed those required by Coursera.  

What types of courses does SUNY expect to offer through Coursera?

Campuses will determine which courses they believe are appropriate to offer on the Coursera platform.  Due to the contractual requirement for the System office to coordinate campus proposals, and to ensure Coursera’s quality standards, campus requests to utilize the platform may need to be prioritized based on resources, the technical ability of a campus to deliver content, and strategic alignment of the proposed course with SUNY goals.

Delivering a MOOC requires extensive advance planning. How are those efforts coordinated between SUNY and a participating campus?

A faculty member who is interested is delivering a MOOC should first work with departmental and campus governance to gain approval through the existing campus procedures.  But a MOOC may also require additional campus personnel and material resources such as course design (including assessment) expertise, quality video production support, and teaching assistants sufficient to meet the course demands. Once a course is identified, a meeting is scheduled between the campus stakeholders and the SUNY-Coursera Project Manager for a production review.  Resources provided by SUNY include a Coursera Learning Commons site, facilitation of conference calls and listserv support, as well as advocacy for any issues that arise during normal production circumstances.

What happens to revenue generated by Coursera and returned to SUNY?

Coursera manages the funds generated by students seeking verified certificates from around the globe.  Whatever revenue is generated by a course will be split 50/50 between Coursera and SUNY.  SUNY System Administration will retain 25% of the revenue to offset the administrative overhead, with the remaining 75% returned to the campus to distribute according to their campus policies.