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Coursera Contract with UT System Released; History Chair Says No MOOCs at Knoxville This Fall

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee system, will not be providing massive online open courses for the Silicon Valley tech startup Coursera in the coming semester, says UT Knoxville history department chair Thomas Burman.

“This decision does not affect us at all,” he wrote in an email.

Only two classes will be offered on the Coursera platform across the entire UT system in fall 2013: an introductory music course at the Martin campus, and freshman English composition at UT Chattanooga.

The Tennessean reports that the Coursera partnership is an internal pilot program designed to familiarize faculty with online courses and new technology. The courses offered by the program will only be available on a for-credit basis to already-enrolled UT students.

No history courses are planned to be offered under the program.

“When the topic [of online education] came up for a wide-ranging discussion among campus leadership [in 2011],” Bruman wrote, “the widely-shared view, including among the central academic administrators, was that on-line teaching has a place in a limited number of areas here, especially in the professional schools, but is not what this campus is about.”

Nevertheless, according to the Tennessean the Knoxville campus is expected to join the pilot program in the spring of 2014 with a college algebra class.

Chad Black, associate professor of Latin American history at the Knoxville campus, has posted the entire contract between Coursera and the UT system on his blog after filing a public records request.

Under the provisions of the contract, instructors developing MOOCs will be responsible for creating and editing video lectures, class assessments, and "software development on any special-purpose assessments," while Coursera's responsibilities include "assisting the instructor in course development; [providing] available templates and software for problem sets and assessments; and [facilitating] data collection on Registered Student learning."

The actual content of the course will remain the intellectual property of the university system and/or instructors, while "Content, software ... [and] technology ... jointly created or developed" by Coursera and university instructors "will be jointly and equally owned by the Parties." The conversion of existing courses for use on Coursera, the contract notes, "will not constitute a joint work," but is unclear if software development conducted by instructors for assessment falls under this rubric.

Correction: In an email, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Sally J. McMillan writes that UT Knoxville will be joining the pilot program in the spring of 2014 with the course "Math 119 – College Algebra." The article and headline have been updated to reflect this new information.

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