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What's a MOOC?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. Essentially it is a self-contained course, run online, for all members of the public across the world to access and learn about a subject of their choosing. Quite often, taking a MOOC will result in accreditation from the university that is delivering it.

What has copyright got to do with it?

As courses are open, online, and delivered to a worldwide audience, universities have to ensure that the content included in their MOOCs does not infringe any third party's copyright. The UK's copyright law permits certain acts done in the course of teaching, for example the playing or showing of films and music for instructional purposes. Most of the permitted acts do not extend to online courses, and teaching staff need to be able to create their own original resources without drawing on others' material unless they have negotiated permission to use it.

What about Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OERs) will play a significant role in the development of MOOC content. Many OERs exist, but MOOCs will also give universities the opportunity to develop their own OERs using a mixture of their own original content and Creative Commons licensed material. Universities which are monetising their MOOCs need to ensure that any external material they use is appropriately licensed (i.e. for commercial use, such as CC-BY) or all originally created by their staff.

What if I want to use some material that isn't my own and which doesn't have a CC licence?

You have several options:

  • Contact the author/publisher of the material and ask for permission to use it
  • If the material is already online, link to it rather than include it in the course (make sure it isn't behind a paywall or a university subscription)
  • If you can't get permission to use it or you have to pay a hefty fee, replace it with something that you can use

MOOCs are an excellent opportunity to advertise open access research and individual research outputs in the institutional repository CentAUR. Use 'open' resources wherever you can and link to materials to supplement original course content.