Udacity Prohibits Editing, Remixing of Freely-Available Content

Udacity, a premier massive open online courses (MOOC) provider, offers videos from its courses free on YouTube, but the ability of instructors to remix and adjust the content is limited, according to David F. Carr of Information Week.

It is still unclear how far a teacher or professor can go with mashing up or remixing content because of a tangled relationship between MOOCs and open educational resources (OERs). MOOCs offered by companies like Udacity, Coursera, and edX are open in terms of access and are offered for free.

By most definitions, open educational resources (OERs) are also free, in the sense that they can be altered or remixed. MOOCs sometimes take advantage of OER materials such as freely downloadable textbooks to keep the overall cost of a course down, but the courses themselves are not typically available under the same permissive licensing.

Educators need to understand the rules of access and use of the materials offered by MOOC providers. When asked about licensing terms, Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun said that "his company is different."

"Everything we do is available on YouTube under a Creative Commons 3.0 license," Thrun said, meaning that the videos can be viewed independently there. Creative Commons licensing provides a legal framework for encouraging sharing, while respecting the rights of content authors. The only content not independently shared, Thrun said, is the "quizzing part, the interactive part — because there is no other platform that could run it other than ours. It's a technical problem, more than a licensing problem." Even there, he expressed hope that the interactive elements could eventually be freely shared, perhaps as open-source software."

Thrun added that "the remixing is a good point — you certainly can take our videos." But Udacity course videos on YouTube are all labeled with a Standard YouTube License, and the company's terms of service specify that content is published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License, the most restrictive version. It means Udacity videos are sharable only for non-commercial purposes, and derivative works are expressly prohibited. Nobody is allowed to edit or alter Udacity videos on YouTube even though they are freely accessible.

This is being treated as a gray area, where a teacher or professor who did a little sampling in support of a particular homework assignment would be fine, but someone who created their own online course using a significant percentage of Udacity material would be in trouble.

Millions of students around the world are taking high-quality massive open online course (MOOCs) for free, an education revolution that blossomed in 2012 and has helped deliver higher education to underserved populations worldwide at no cost.

But companies do need revenue to continue their projects, so MOOC providers are now looking for a viable business model, according to David Raths of Campus Technology. MOOC providers' current business models are not reliable, and a sustainable model is required to remain in the market. Many colleges and universities say that the "current environment more closely resembles a high-stakes game of musical chairs — everyone is terrified of being left without a chair when the music stops."

08 27, 2013
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