Collaborative Consumption Adoption Will Kill the MOOC Model

The adoption of collaborative consumption economic models and the role of reputation will kill the current MOOC model before it ever gains widespread acceptance. The reason collaborative consumption, or if you prefer the social economic and business model, will force the rethinking of the MOOC model are the same reasons collaborative consumption business models are crushing traditional business models and markets.

The Perfect Storm

Question: What do you get when you combine a global economic downturn with advanced social networking and crowdsourcing technologies?

Answer: You get peer-to-peer social business models that are legitimately disruptive to nearly every industry including education.

Collaborative Consumption Explained

I thought sharing Rachel Botsman’s Ted Talk from last month would be the best way to provide an explanation of collaborative consumption.


If you find that interesting, I would also suggest her 2010 Ted Talk on her earlier work in collaborative consumption.

Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons

The perfect storm has even made its way to the Supreme Court in the case of Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons. This case is challenging the first-sale doctrine of copyright law that has been recognized by the Court for over 100 years which could prevent you from selling things you already own.

In this case, can a student sell a textbook they bought overseas? Think Canadian drug re-importation.

But the First-Sale doctrine says a copyright holder only has the right to control the first sale of their protected works and the owner does not have to get the copyright holder’s permission to resell the product.

[Before I go on I suppose I need to disclose that I have done book reviews for Wiley & Sons.]

This is why you don’t need permission to sell your dusty exercise equipment, used romance novels and old baby clothes at a garage sale. It’s why I believe students have the right to sell their class notes, essays, and any other course materials paid for by their tuition or which are the fruits of their own labor.

More importantly, the first-sale doctrine is the entire basis for Craig’s List, eBay, and Amazon and your neighbor’s garage sale. And, until recently, it’s why students don’t need permission to resell textbooks at the end of a semester to each other or to the bookstore.

Ultimately, this is aimed at putting a stop to the surge in popularity of secondary markets that are eating into corporate profits which will eventually take aim squarely at ridiculously high costs and prices in higher education.

MOOCs Are Not Disruptive

MOOCs are not disruptive because they are a reaction to the real disruptive forces already at work creating pressures on the business model of higher education. MOOC’s represent the hope and prayers of the ivory tower like a finger in a dike.

Look, I understand the fear that Kahn Academy brings to higher education which is entrenched in institutional culture and tradition. Culture and tradition that survives largely on monopolistic and regulatory controls.

But people are clearly fed up with the costs-value proposition of traditional education and the outdated model that an education is best delivered in 1 hour increments, 3 times a week, over 16 weeks, twice a year, for 5 or 6 years. A delivery model designed solely to slow down the process, expand faculty staffing and preserve the system.

Institutional Control of MOOC’s

Some will say you simply cannot stop markets. That’s why online resale sites are so popular and why the barter economy is regaining its popularity. So why do colleges and universities feel they can or should control individual MOOCs or the broader MOOC model?

Institutional control of the MOOC model will not work any more than Wiley & Sons will be able to stop people from selling or trading their books regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision.

This is the central issue as to why a student be able to resell their online course like they can their textbook, CD, or car?

When extrapolated to the taxpayers and public, why are we footing the bill to develop and deliver the same course at multiple schools, by multiple faculty, semester after semester, year after year?

And so, the idea of an institutional MOOC model seems kinda like an oxymoron not too mention doomed to failure.

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7 Responses to Collaborative Consumption Adoption Will Kill the MOOC Model

  1. Some really interesting thoughts there… I appreciate the potential of the MOOC model but hadn’t considered how collaborate consumption might be a threat to it. Thanks.

  2. The Higher Ed CIO says:

    John – you are probably closer to this than most given the rise in popularity of sites like Favabank. IT seems to me MOOCs in their present form are a bit of a ruse, a bate and switch, for the consumer who might think they are getting something they really are not. Like everything else, nothing on the Internet is Free including MOOCs. More to come

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  5. Wilson says:

    I don’t see that Connectivism MOOCs are creating distributed knowledge either, although they are distributing new practice and asking new questions about learning. The participants seem to be acting more like Wenger’s’ Technology Stewards within evolving Digital Habitats , (who walk at 45 between hierarchies & networks) revealing new ecologies of learning, or at least new Personal Learning Environments and Personal Learning Networks . It is this networked learning potential that is really exciting in the hype-world that MOOCs currently exist in. Sadly the MOOC is becoming a box in which institutions are trying to capture this evolving practice so they can sell it; they are trying to build an e-education service delivery model.

  6. The Higher Ed CIO says:

    I haven’t read Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities so I will have to put it on my list.

  7. Vi Vescio says:

    Great job writing this post. I need to learn more about MOOC’s.

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