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Teachers beware!!!

February 19, 2006

Teachers beware!!

I am an occasional reader of  I say occasional because I don’t really have the extra money to become a member, which means I only read the articles that are past the per-pay window.  This is sad for me as I have been recently cited in one of their articles, to which I am yet unable to read.

I did find, though, an article about instructor copyright that piqued my interest.  I have taught online for about 10 years, ranging over some dozen or so courses and a half dozen institutions.  The majority of the schools have a set of course materials to which you may use or augment—some places allow much adaptation (even to the point of ignoring them), while others Bird U, for example, allow only strict adherence.  Paul Collins writes in the linked article about the possibility of losing course materials through a contract clause that would give the institution copyright of all materials in a course.  This would mean the university or college would own your lecture, tests, assignments, etc.  These could then be used to reinforce the core materials or, at worst, replace them.   The creator of the materials, under such a copyright clause, would have nothing to say about this use of his or her work.

I have personal experience with this.  I taught composition for a specific online college.  I created all of my own materials for this intro course, and after many iterations, I moved on to other courses.  After a year or so, I was again assigned the intro comp. course, which on a lark I skimmed over the core teaching set.  And there I was, my material, my assignments integrated into the core set without so much as thank you note.  At the time I didn’t worry to much about it…actually felt kind of appreciated (such is the nature of my beaten down status as an adjunct that I look for appreciation is all the wrong places).  

Would I again, though, be so pleased?  I don’t think so.  I value my expertise more now than I did as a newly minted professional.  I think I bring more to the class, which through effort and experience I rightly consider to be my own skill set.  I may rent these skills and materials out, but they are, in the end, my own.

I have not yet put a copyright notice on my materials.  After reading this article, I think I will move to a pdf format with the copyright plainly indicated my ownership.  I will also go back and review my contracts.  

Teachers beware.


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