by Niklas Wikström
If a teacher, whose lectures and other course material are featured on a MOOC, moves to another employer, who owns that content? That's the question posed in an Inside Higher Ed article last week, When MOOC Profs Move. Most universities accept that if a faculty member leaves then they take their material with them however there are also rules in place allowing universities to retain rights to material that they have made significant investments in, such as a major MOOC. One case is described of a teacher, Cathy Davidson, from Duke University moving elsewhere and keeping the right to use her MOOC material in her new post.
“I own my own course content,” Davidson said in an email. “No one at Duke (or anywhere) can teach with my videos without my permission. I can reuse my videos and course materials at CUNY, but need to acknowledge that they were produced at Duke.”
The article looks at several cases that were solved amicably but there is always the risk of less easily resolved conflicts of interest. Interpretations of copyright vary from country to country making harmonisation difficult within multinational MOOC consortia like Coursera or edX. The university can be correct to keep the rights to material developed with internal funding and the teacher can also be right to retain control of their own material. However it is important to remember that digital learning resources are seldom the product of one teacher. Most video productions involve a team with other teachers, students, educational technologist, media production specialist, librarian and maybe web designer adding their expertise to the mix. It's simply not the teacher's sole property any more though the discussion all to often focuses on the teacher as copyright holder. The teacher may want to take their recorded lectures to a new university but the production team must also be involved in the discussion.
If the university is bold enough to adopt Creative Commons as a basis for resolving rights issues then the situation becomes immediately more flexible and to everyone's advantage. If the resource is shared under a CC license then the university retains the right to use it in the future, duly acknowledging the author(s), and the teacher can take the material with them. The resource is available to all as long as they attribute correctly, and the potential for disputes described in the article evaporates. Switch the focus from owning to sharing.