UPenn Penning Conflict of Interest Guidelines

This article is cross-posted from edtechtimes.com, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

Inside Higher Ed brings us a new wrinkle in the discussion about professors and MOOCS: The University of Pennsylvania is working on new guidelines to dissuade their professors from working with the competition – outside vendors of online courses.

The university publicly released new guidelines Tuesday that illustrate how its existing conflict of interest policy applies to this situation, saying that outside ventures “may create the potential for conflicts of interest that did not arise in the past,” due to Penn’s expansion into its own online offerings.  A strongly-worded bullet point reminds faculty that their “primary professional obligation is to the University. This includes both a primary commitment of time and effort to University activities and a commitment not to compete with the University without advance permission.”

IHE spoke with Edward Rock, a senior advisor to Penn’s president and provost and the university’s director of open course initiatives, who said Penn was thinking ahead and not reacting to a particular incident.  Penn says professors who want to teach online courses or freelance their talents should first explain why they can’t do so through Penn’s existing online opportunities both within the university and through Coursera.

Universities are looking to protect their unique brand – the faculty members they have hired to provide educational experiences.  Professors are wondering whether their personal brand belongs to their universities or to themselves.

Read the full article on Inside Higher Ed.

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