Making MOOCs safer

Universities should be clear about privacy regulations for online classes.

Daily Editorial Board

Public universities across the nation are embracing a method of learning in online education known as Massive Open Online Courses. According to a The New York Times article published Jan. 23, Arizona State University, the University of Cincinnati and the University of Arkansas systems will begin offering selections from their normal online classes as MOOCs for credit. Students registering for these MOOCs will be able to get credit for them and even use the credit toward a college degree. The program, called MOOC2Degree, aims to attract online students by offering them a free first MOOC in the hope that they will continue to enroll in university-sponsored, for-credit classes.

What originally was an idea to increase university enrollment may well become a very real form of degree attainment. However, many have expressed concern at the lack of a standard of regulations surrounding online courses. An article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education on Jan. 23 reported the gathering of well-known online educators in Palo Alto, Calif., to discuss student and consumer rights in the sphere of online education. They even drafted “A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age,” listing some of the privacy rights and regulatory measures students should ask from the companies providing the courses.

There is no question that all forms of education are becoming increasingly social. Universities should be wary of efforts to enhance enrollment if the method sacrifices quality, integrity or individual privacy of students. Higher education is not a packaged product, and regulations should be put in place to ensure privacy and fairness for students taking online course.