Below we provide answers to frequently asked questions about MOOCs at UW-Madison.

What exactly is a MOOC?

A massive open online course (MOOC) is a type of online learning experience aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a development in the area of distance education and a progression of the kind of ideals suggested by prior open education efforts.

What is meant by open access?

Learners may freely access MOOC courses via a web browser.  MOOC participants do not need to be registered students and typically are not required to pay a fee.

Is there a limit to the number of participants in a MOOC?

There is no limit to the number of participants.

How many weeks is the average MOOC?

On average, MOOCs typically last between four to eight weeks, although this can vary from course to course.  In phase two, UW-Madison MOOCs will last four weeks.

Who can teach a MOOC at UW-Madison?

In phase one,  UW-Madison’s four pilot MOOCs  were taught by faculty.  In phase two, faulty and instructional academic staff will teach MOOCs.

How can a faculty member/instructional academic staff possibly manage an unlimited number of learners?

Course materials are designed and organized for learners to guide themselves and there is generally a mechanism for participants to assist one another rather than relying solely on the faculty/ instructional academic staff member for guidance and feedback (peer-to-peer mentoring).  In addition, MOOCs make considerable use of technology to provide assessments and feedback.

Do MOOCs have teaching assistants?

UW-Madison MOOCs have had dedicated teaching assistants who are active within the courses, answer questions and guide course discussion.  Teaching assistants have been integral to the successful production and delivery of MOOCs.

Will UW-Madison offer MOOCS for college credit now or in the future?

In phase one and phase two  UW-Madison will not offer MOOCs for college credit. A committee will explore if UW-Madison wants to offer MOOCs for college credit in future years and how this might be done.

Enrolled students are currently paying tuition for courses being taught by similar faculty across campus — why is the university offering “free” access to the general public when UW-Madison students are paying tuition?  Will I be able to take a MOOC and reduce my tuition bill?

In phases one and two, UW-Madison will not provide MOOCs for credit. Further, many UW-Madison faculty members and instructional academic staff already provide similar presentations and share their expertise in a variety of public seminars, lectures or programs. If UW-Madison moves to additional phases of MOOCs beyond phase two, we will be looking at the question of credits, how MOOCs might benefit on campus students and the ‘correct’ price point for receiving credits.

What are the benefits of UW-Madison participating in MOOCs since they provide no additional revenue?

MOOCs provide a number of benefits.  They are an avenue for outreach and public service on a global scale.  By experimenting with MOOCs, we gain enhanced knowledge of assessment techniques, technologies, and learning analytics that may be transferable to our on-campus teaching and learning processes.  MOOCs showcase our talented faculty members and instructional academic staff and provide positive visibility for our campus and degree programs. UW-Madison has a long tradition of supporting outreach through the Wisconsin Idea and supporting pedagogical innovation as evidenced by the Educational Innovation effort.

How will MOOC course development and implementation be funded?

During phase one, the funds to support the creation and implementation of UW-Madison’s MOOCs came in large part from philanthropy dollars and Educational Innovation funding.  As we enter phase two, we will continue to ensure that funds supporting MOOCs do not come from either tuition dollars, or state support dollars.

For phase two, who decided which campus courses would be featured?

The Educational Innovation Core Team developed criteria for selection of faculty/ instructional academic staff for phase two and engaged the Educational Innovation  Advisory Committee to make a recommendation to the Provost and Chancellor.

Why is UW-Madison partnering with Coursera instead of other delivery platforms (i.e., edX, Udacity)?

A large number of our peer institutions are already working with Coursera, thus Coursera offers an excellent alignment for delivery of our MOOCs.  We will also be learning from our peers throughout this experiment.  In addition, Coursera has stated that MOOCs will remain accessible at no charge and will be delivered without advertising. (See details at:  Finally, Coursera does not require an up-front institutional fee to join.

Is this an exclusive agreement with Coursera or can we join other delivery platforms in the future?

The university’s relationship with Coursera is non-exclusive and UW-Madison will retain the right to utilize other service providers.

Who will manage the relationship between UW-Madison and Coursera?

UW-Madison’s Office of Administrative Legal Services and other experts have reviewed and will continue to review Coursera contracts and associated materials. The Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, Vice Provost for Lifelong Learning and Dean of the Division of Continuing Studies, and Associate Vice Provost of Learning Technologies and DoIT Director of Academic Technology will serve as project champions and will be the points of contact for governance groups, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the public at-large to Coursera. Division of Information Technology (DoIT) Academic Technology will provide the project manager, who will be the primary contact on technical matters between UW-Madison and Coursera and will ensure that high quality course design occurs.

What does Coursera expect from its university partners?

Coursera expects university partners to provide a serious commitment to offer high-quality and accessible MOOCs that are developed and taught under the direction of committed faculty/instructional academic staff.

What is Coursera’s business model?

Coursera is a startup company that received $16 million in venture capital from several foundations along with support from Stanford University.  Current forms of revenue come through career placement services (for which students must explicitly opt-in), certificates, book revenue share, and course reuse.

Can UW-Madison terminate the agreement with Coursera?  If yes, how and under what conditions?

UW-Madison can terminate the overall agreement with 90 days’ notice without cause and 30 days’ notice with cause. In addition, each course has its own lifespan.  Each course has an initial course offering period.  After that period, the course remains on the Coursera website until the overall institutional contract agreement terminates or a request is sent from UW-Madison to Coursera to remove an individual course.  Upon receipt of the removal request, the course will be removed from the platform within ninety (90) business days of a removal request.

What intellectual property policies should govern course development and ownership?

Intellectual property developed as part of the faculty member’s/instructional academic staff’s university appointment carries the copyright of the UW System Board of Regents.  Authors’ contributions will be properly attributed and cited. Coursera states its policy on course materials as:  “We take no position on whether this is owned by the academic institution or creators; we do not own it.”

Who is responsible to ensure that our offerings are fully complaint with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Coursera is responsible for making its course delivery platform compliant. UW-Madison is responsible for ensuring that the content in our courses is compliant.

Who is responsible for securing the approvals for use of copyrighted materials?

UW-Madison is responsible for securing the necessary approvals for copyrighted materials in our courses.

What is the business model (including campus, school/college, and faculty) if revenues accrue from the monetization of the Coursera MOOCs?

For each UW-Madison MOOC, a UW-Madison representative, Coursera representative, and faculty/ instructional academic staff will specify the monetization model.

There are many empirical questions about the instructional effectiveness of, for example, Coursera’s peer-to-peer evaluation model or the efficacy and impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations in achieving their intended purpose. Who is responsible for carrying out such research, and will initiative partners, like UW-Madison, have a potential role in conducting such research?

In phase one, UW-Madison faculty/instructional academic staff and course designers plan to conduct applied educational research as time and resources allow.

Will Coursera require regular updates/revisions of course content?

Yes, one of the stipulations of the agreement is that Coursera courses have a “shelf life” and will be periodically reviewed and rotated out of circulation. UW-Madison course content will need to be revised over time.

Does Coursera have a requirement that courses be provided in languages other than English?

It is not a specific requirement in the agreement.

Can UW-Madison use the Coursera platform to deliver content for UW-Madison credit courses?

Yes, UW-Madison would have free use of the Coursera platform within UW-Madison for our enrolled students. Current course tools available include video course delivery, online quizzes, auto-grading, and community blogs.