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Campus Threats Made in Online Courses—What’s A Faculty Member To Do?

by Kate Mangu-Ward

If a student threatens to shoot his classmates (or himself) on the online message board for his physics class, does that count as a campus threat?

That’s just one of the many questions purveyors of massively open online courses, or MOOCs, are asking themselves.

Universities have traditionally been asked to play many roles, and as the functions of those universities are disaggregated, the question of who picks up which pieces is a tough one. In truly massive online courses, like those offered by Coursera, Udacity, and huge public universities experimenting with online learning, teachers are not expected to read all the postings in a class message board. But students still act like students—fighting, falling in love, chattering about emotional problems, and generally acting in ways that would be considered inappropriate in other parts of grown up life.

Inside Higher Ed talked to some experts:

Scott Plous, a psychology professor at Wesleyan University, is preparing to teach more than 70,000 students who signed up for his class through Coursera, one of the popular MOOC providers. Plous, who worked at a Los Angeles suicide hotline before graduate school, is now trying to figure out how to

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