Copyright, Questions, and Open Source Education

Copyright, Questions, and Open Source Education

NOTE: Much of this content is antiquated as we've moved to a BYOB policy and currently use student blogs as a communication and assessment tool. Also...we never used iPads, we started off the program using Chromebooks and have always been using GAFE. Follow the IT&DML tag on this blog to see the evolution of the program.

One of the more pressing issues we’ve been weighing as the Instructional Technology & Digital Media Literacy (IT&DML) program scales up is the issue of protecting ourselves, students, and the work of others while using ICT tools. First, a little bit of background…

The IT&DML program is pushing to be as “open source” as possible. Additionally, course curriculum for the program will be offered via iTunesU, and students will be required to use an iPad. Instructors will make as much of course content and instruction openly available online as possible. In each class students will be required to post work product from class on the program wiki. It all seems very simple, but in essence it boils down to big questions about copyright and protection of the work of instructors and students of the program.

I’ve whittled down the questions to a few “basic” ones, of which I’ve obtained some answers so far. To obtain these answers I’ve emailed most of the heavy hitters of open curriculum, and also big users of iTunesU. I also participated this week in a webinar on copyright which was put together by my University. The webinar and time with the “experts” was not helpful at all.

Here’s what I’ve been wondering so far:

First, in building course materials in iTunesU and making them available for the world to view, how do I deal with PDFs and research publications? All of our course content will be compiled by the instructors. These materials will be composed of research materials, PDFs, and content freely available online, or through the University libraries VPN. I know that I cannot take a research PDF that I downloaded from UNH, or as a student at UConn and include it in materials and upload to iTunesU. I have been trying to find a better way to deal with this situation. The best I can think of is a citation and a link to each individual PDF and document in iTunesU, and then force our students to use the library VPN. Not exactly the sexy way that iTunesU has it running on the iPad…but it’ll have to work for now.

Second, how do we protect the intellectual property of instructors in the program? As an educator, frequently we have great ideas and share them with our students. I foresee this happening also in our programs, but these ideas will be blasted to the Internet and discussed openly. Personally, I don’t have a problem with this as I possibly share a little too much openly online. I have had colleagues in the program express concern about protecting themselves and their ideas as they teach “online”…or at least openly online. Our plan to address this is two-fold. The first is the use of Creative Commons to license all works by the instructor. We’re pursuing experts on Creative Commons to fully understand and utilize the protections that this would offer faculty and staff. The second initiative would be to launch, University -wide a webpage or two that detail our “terms of service” for information and products we make available online. Two examples of this are currently being used by Yale.

The third question, or area of concern is protection for students as they complete work and post it openly online. This work product could be blogs posted openly online, or work posted to the program wiki. The intent is that students in the program post work online to build awareness of the programs and themselves…but more importantly to spark discussions about the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary as we construct online content. The nature of the program is one that pushes the paradigm of teaching, learning, and the classroom…but we still want to protect students in the program. We’re still considering the implications that FERPA would have on work that students post online. We also would expand the use of Creative Commons licensing, and the “terms of service” to also protect the intellectual property…and opinion of our students.

All in all, it seems that the more questions I ask, the less I receive in terms of answers. As we continue to unpack these questions and come up with short and long term solutions…I’ll continue to document them here.

Leave a Reply