Textbook requirement goes counter to spirit of MOOCs

I recently enrolled in the Coursera Drugs and the Brain MOOC. After the first few lectures I soon discovered that my non-existent knowledge of organic chemistry was a major deterrent and I have ceased following this excellent course.

However, when I started the course I was personally disappointed that a  textbook albeit reasonably priced at USD50 figured in most of the background readings. This seemed to me to go counter to the spirit of a MOOC where open should mean all educational material not provided by the instructor should be free and open access on the web.

It should be said that the textbook is described as an optional requirement but many students have decided they need to have access to the book. While I am opposed to pirating copyright material it seems inevitable students would attempt to acquire free copies of the textbook. So it has proved as indicated by this fragment of an email from the Drugs and the Brain course staff:

It has recently come to our attention that there have been copyright infringements both on our forums and elsewhere, including closed Facebook groups. We have removed all the posts offering or requesting copies of copyrighted materials such as textbooks from the class forums…

It is good to see Coursera upholding copyright as they should but instructors should take note that students expect materials used in MOOCs to be freely accessible on the web.

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