Sebastian Thrun, founder of the massive open online course (MOOC) provider Udacity, recently organized a discussion on the future of higher education and how technology fits in. The conference produced a document, called “A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age” that provides a framework to protect the interests of online students.
The document lists the “rights” online students should demand of institutions and companies offering online courses and technology tools. The list includes the right to learn, to privacy, to create public knowledge, and to own personal data and intellectual property. The document also sets out a list of principles that online learning should try to achieve, including value, flexibility, innovation, experimentation, and play.
“The idea is to have a larger conversation about this so that MOOCs don’t become the Facebook or Instagram of higher education—where you sign up for some free service and it turns out that you’re the product being sold,” said Cathy Davidson, an English professor at Duke University who helped write the text.
The authors hope it will become the framework to guide schools on using online tools and platforms, but it’s not without critics. One issue is that no online students took part in the discussion.
“If the result is a big conversation that gets people engaged and involved, including self-learners, then it’s a success,” said Philipp Schmidt, co-founder of the open-education site Peer 2 Peer University and one of the authors of the Bill of Rights, to Inside Higher Education. “This is not intended to be anything remotely like a final version.”