I have no reason to think that Coursera, or any other MOOC, has anything but noble intentions when it comes to data collection and data mining. I certainly believe that the leaders of the companies are motivated by a desire to improve education. But Coursera is a for-profit business, backed by venture capitalists. Sooner or later, it will have to make money, and, given the current excitement in Silicon Valley and elsewhere about the commercial potential of “Big Data,” it seems inevitable that the company and its investors will explore “other business purposes” for its data, including ones that would bring in revenues.

In their excitement to join forces with MOOC providers, university administrators and professors may not be giving enough thought to all the data that’s going to be collected and all the research activities that are going to be pursued. It’s an oversight they may come to regret.