"From a student point of view, a MOOC is a wonderful opportunity to try something for free, with no obligation if it doesn’t work out, or if circumstances force a change of mind."
Comment: Sharon is absolutely right, open content, free course are great resources, valuable supplements to what there already is out there. I myself have dipped my toes into MOOCs - never fully completed them, though - and even today was tempted to subscribe to the SpanishMooc.org [Correction added later: spanishmooc.com]. And I think many of the academics getting involved in MOOCs look upon them in this way too: hey, is this an interesting channel to use for sharing my thoughts or expertise with the rest of the world?
But remember, academic publishing in the eyes of academics is free too, by and large. It is the publisher that make money and the institutions that pay. Likewise with MOOCs, it is the institutions that have invested in the professor's salary that helped her become the expert she now is; it is the platforms and their funders, the venture capitalists, which reap the benefits, or at least intend to. Before we know it, they run the show, as publishers do with the impact rankings that in many countries at least in part dictate research policy (cf. the UK's research excellence framework). We should beware not to make the same mistake with something which is even more vulnerable and should be even more dear to use, the way we educate our children. While I understand Sharon that is why I would like to underscore something she says in parenthesis, namely that we should _not yet_ fear MOOCs. Indeed, but once we realise we should have, we may find ourselves in a Faustian pact with the devil. Already MOOCs turn out be not so open as their names suggest. (peter sloep, @pbsloep)