I will be teaching a new course for the first time. Fortunately, I found a massive open online course (MOOC) on edX which is similar to the course that I want to teach. However, the difficulty of the MOOC is significantly higher than the level of the students at my institution. Consequently, I will be teaching 4 basic topics which I will develop own my own, in addition to 4 topics which I will adapt from the MOOC.

For the 4 topics which are covered both in the MOOC and my course, I am thinking of using some of the same or similar material (e.g., ideas + slides + assignments) from the MOOC. There are two advantage's of this approach: It will lessen my workload, but also reduce the chance that something will go wrong.

Are there any (copyright / ethical / other) issues with this?

Edited in response to comments

  1. [Karl] claims that "There's surely nothing wrong with borrowing some problems like you say in your original question, but just using a complete existing course is very low. How big do you think the chances are you will have time next year to put more work into it?"

    I have edited my question to make it more clear that I am adapting the existing MOOC rather than copying wholesale. However, is there a problem with using very similar material for the topics which are covered in both the MOOC and my course?

  2. Brian Borchers mentioned one potential problem which is "that students can find solutions to the problems in the MOOC and submit them in response to your assignments. Mixing up the sources of your questions is one way to stop this kind of cheating."

    To complete the assignments, I will ask the students to submit both the code as well as the answers. I could also change some of the problem parameters so the answers are not found directly in the MOOC.

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    No offense, but if you want to be a good lecturer, you will benefit more by making your own questions (or at the very least adapting and then answering existing ones). You have a great responsibility: to teach others a subject correctly. You should therefore be an expert in the subject you are teaching, and given that you think "something might go wrong" I deduce you are not. This is fine because it is your first course, but you will learn nothing form stealing/borrowing questions. Make your own and become the expert you should be. Use the opportunity to learn something! – louic Dec 22 '17 at 8:39
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    @louic Thank you for your opinion. I have thought about this issue before. I think the safer option is an incremental approach, where I use an existing course in the first year. In subsequent years, I can tweak the course slightly each year to make it more my own. – I Like to Code Dec 22 '17 at 8:53
  • There's surely nothing wrong with borrowing some problems like you say in your original question, but just using a complete existing course is very low. How big do you think the chances are you will have time next year to put more work into it? – Karl Dec 22 '17 at 17:02
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    Re copyright issues -- check the site's information carefully and if in doubt write to them. // I think this would be fine -- I see this as analogous to following a textbook closely. But do make sure to work through any problem you're thinking of assigning, anticipating difficulties students might have. – aparente001 Dec 22 '17 at 22:08
  • One problem that you'll probably encounter is that students can find solutions to the problems in the MOOC and submit them in response to your assignments. Mixing up the sources of your questions is one way to stop this kind of cheating. – Brian Borchers Dec 23 '17 at 3:54

Check if the MOOC has a license assigned to it. If it is for example Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) you are allowed to use the questions as long as you give a reference to the original creator. You don't need to ask the MOOC in this case. CC-BY-NC (non-commercial) might be a difficult case, because you teach this course as a business and earn money for it. A second option is to directly ask the MOOC creators. Adapting the question significantly is a third option, as long as you don't copy directly texts from the original question and just base it on the general idea this would be fine.

"some of the same problems" - fine and then you add others, re-work some to highlight some specific parts of the course and before long those ones you started with are in the minority...

You can even mention, if you want, where some problems come from - if the solutions are not supplied in the book or maybe that is an advantage... That all depends on how you see the students working - copying / regurgitating existing solutions by rote or having to apply themselves...

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