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Who Owns Copyright on Recorded Lectures?

2016 February 10
by Richard N. Landers

The matter of who owns the copyright for a recorded lecture is not a simple one. The key issue here is that a faculty member’s institution may consider lectures “work for hire” and thus owned by the institution (e.g., college or university). If recorded lectures are considered work for hire, faculty technically do not have a right to their own materials without permission from the institution. This can even extend to materials a person creates and does not host with the university; rather it covers any product developed while employed in the course of job duties. The AAUP has taken a stance against considering most faculty-created materials as work for hire, and cite a particular case supporting this (Williams v. Weisser, 1969) but as usual, the law can be interpreted multiple ways.

For example, from the AAUP’s discussion:

While classroom lectures are generally considered the property of the faculty, and faculty are presumed to have the right to take them when they leave the institution, the advent of distance education has led to questions of exactly when concurrent teaching, for example, would violate understandings of faculty time commitment. (a) Arthur Miller, a well-know professor at Harvard Law School, became involved in a controversy with Harvard University after he provided videotaped lectures for the Concord University School of Law, an on-line law school, without Harvard’s permission. The controversy clearly raised intellectual property concerns. As Miller posed the query, “How much of Arthur Miller does Harvard own?” It also raised the issue of how conflicts-of-commitment policies apply to online education or “electronic moonlighting.” As one commentator noted: “[A]pplication of these general [conflicts of commitment] policies in the Internet era is not . . . straightforward. Why, for example, would the videotaping of a series of lectures for an online institution interfere with one’s teaching and research responsibilities, if giving a series of off-campus lectures would not?”

In years past, the idea of work for hire created concerns among faculty that their lectures could be recorded, with or without their knowledge, and then used as the primary instructional material in an online course without their knowledge, essentially ignoring the issue of lecture copyright entirely. My impression of what’s happened since though is that most administrators have realized that faculty tend to complain a lot, and loudly. So rather than outright ask adjuncts to reuse other faculty materials freely and risk the ire of full-time faculty, they just don’t try it in the first place. But that doesn’t prevent them from asking faculty for permission and recommending compliance with that request.

I wouldn’t recommend this, personally – it increases the possibility of your materials being used long after you are affiliated with that institution, and your materials could be changed/updated without your knowledge in some cases. You are essentially giving up your lecture copyright, willingly. The idea of a video of me lecturing to students for a university education they’re paying for when I don’t even know they exist? The idea of my lecture being repackaged into a certificate course or MOOC as a university cash cow without my knowledge? I am personally uncomfortable with that.

Importantly, some institutions have dealt with the work-for-hire issue by articulating specific policies to protect faculty copyright. See for example:

  • At the University of North Carolina, the video appears to be owned by faculty, although the university has nearly unlimited rights to reuse it at will (except when “commercialized”).
  • At Saint Louis University,  the video is more clearly owned by the faculty who created it.
  • In the University of Missouri system,  the video appears to be owned by faculty unless the university specifically asks the faculty member to make the video for broad university use.  This might even apply when “bonus funds” are awarded to faculty for designing new online courses.

As you can see, policies vary quite widely. But it’s also important to remember that institutions (or systems) that post such policies online are likely to have more faculty-friendly policies. If your institution doesn’t have an intellectual property section of its faculty handbook, particularly one covering lecture copyright, the interpretation defaults to however the institution’s legal counsel has interpreted US law, which is usually “university owns it.” If you aren’t careful, your lectures could end up in a MOOC or worse.

From the article cited above:

Two professors who previously worked at Arizona State University have sued ASU for using an online course they created, purportedly without their permission. The professors, Jeff MacSwan and his wife, Kellie Rolstad, who both now work at the University of Maryland, said they were told while developing the course that they would keep ownership of it. But ASU ultimately paid other people to teach the course, which relied heavily on recorded lectures and narrated PowerPoint slides MacSwan and Rolstad argue they created. The suit was dismissed by a federal court, but the two are now appealing.” “It really has big consequences for higher education potentially,” McSwan said. “If universities can take course content and do whatever they want with it, then faculty don’t control the curriculum any more.”

If you want to take this to an extreme, imagine these ideas applied to a graduate student, teaching her own course, discovering that her course will be included in a MOOC. The possibilities are troubling and extensive.

Note. I posted the original version of this content on lecture copyright to the PSYCHTEACHER discussion board but thought it would be of interest to the broader community.

Gamify Online Blackboard Courses with Quick, Fun Polls

2016 January 27
by Richard N. Landers

From my research on gamification, one of the major conclusions that I’ve come to is that gamification must be implemented for a reason. Blindly throwing game elements into a course without carefully considering why you’re doing so – specifically, planning out the changes in learner behavior and attitudes that you’re targeting and choosing elements to create those effects – is the quickest way to annoy and frustrate your learners. If you gamify a course in a way that feels gimmicky, it is hard to escape that perception, which will color everything innovative you try to accomplish in the eyes of your students from that point forward.

One of the biggest challenges when designing online courses is ensuring you create a sense of relatedness with other students. In an in-person classroom, this is much easier – you can use interactive activities that require students to talk to each other, and often that interaction will lead to more serious learning relationships, like the formation of study groups. Online, you have a more limited set of options. These courses are typically offered precisely because the timing and location requirements of in-person courses are too inconvenient (or impossible) for many students.  That means instructors need to find ways to encourage casual interactions between students to facilitate these sorts of relationships, and you can gamify to accomplish this.

In my online undergraduate course in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, I gamify the content in several ways. First, I use videos that demonstrate key concepts – but in a slightly goofy way. For example, I use the video below to start a discussion of “how do you define good job performance?” although I use a clip with higher video quality than is available on YouTube.

Dwight will do whatever it takes to get the sale – so how would you evaluate that, as a supervisor? This is not a super-realistic example, of course, but it highlights the challenges faced when rating someone’s performance. There are always shades of grey and matters of interpretation, but at the end of the day, there needs to be a number, and that number’s going to determine who gets fired, who gets raises, who gets promoted, and so on.

In my in-person course, we have a great discussion about this point. Online, I can’t do that as easily. What many instructors do in this situation is post the issues to talk about in a discussion board, but discussion boards are quite hit-or-miss. If you happen to hit a semester without critical mass (i.e., without at least 10 or so “power users” that love talking on the discussion board), then that board will sit dead silent. You can require participation for credit, but then most posters aren’t really going to care about anyone else, and you end up with a lot of noise that doesn’t contribute – everyone just posts for credit and then never looks back.

This is not helped by the fact that the Blackboard discussion board platform is horrible, from a usability standpoint. Maybe they should gamify making their platform work better!

So what to do? This is where I can gamify. I add a human interaction element by polling students mid-class with simple questions. In my lecture video, the clip above plays immediately followed by a question on a PowerPoint slide:

Dwight works with a medium-sized company focusing on selling  paper products.  He works as part  of a sales team, all focused on selling  the company’s products.  He will do whatever it takes to make a sale, including sabotaging team members and lying to customers, and these efforts have made him the top seller in the office.  How would you rate his job performance?

Respondents are given options from 1 (Very Bad) to 5 (Very Good). When they click to vote, it opens up a new page with the voting distribution where students can also add comments, if they so choose. Over two semesters, this has produced a distribution exactly like what I see in-person:

Gamification Poll on Dwight's Job Performance

Opinions are almost evenly distributed among all available options, which is the ideal situation to stimulate discussion.

With 129 responses, I have 19 comments – 15% of students have voted and commented on their vote despite absolutely no class reward for doing so.  That is the sort of effect you want when you gamify – making an optional learning task interesting!  I use these polls in almost every week of material, as a way to encourage students to think more deeply about course material while connecting with other students in the class. I recommend you try it too!

Now for the technical nitty-gritty – how do you actually go about adding polls?  Fortunately, it’s quite easy with freely available tools:

  1. Create an account at
  2. Choose whether or not you care that students will see advertisements when they visit  If you do, it costs $40/year to remove them.
  3. Click Create a New Poll at the top right.
  4. Enter your questions and answer choices.
  5. Customize your poll using the options on the left.  For Blackboard, I tend to choose a 500px poll width but leave everything else at the defaults.
  6. Click Get Poll Code.
  7. You’ll see a textbox full of code.  Click on it, then Copy with your favorite approach (press Ctrl-C, find it in the menus, right-click and select Copy, etc).
  8. In Blackboard, create a new Item wherever you want the poll to appear.
  9. Within the item editor, click the HTML button, which will pop up a window for editing raw HTML.
  10. Paste the code you copied from the Poll Code website.
  11. Optionally, if you want the poll to pop up a new window instead of navigating away from blackboard, add the code target=”_blank” to the form line, so that the start of your code reads:
    <form target=”_blank” method=”post”
  12. Click through to save the content and create your Blackboard item!

That’s it! The poll will now be live. Importantly, Blackboard is as usual sort of broken, so you won’t be able to click the “View” button while Blackboard’s “edit” mode is on.  If you want to follow the view link to see what the poll looks like to students, you’ll need to turn off edit mode (use the button at the top right) and then click on it within that view.  When you gamify, always think about the “user experience” – how do students see your gamification and how would they react to it?

If you want to reset the responses between semesters, head back over to and trigger a reset whenever you want it. I have so far chosen to leave the responses so that even the first student viewing the poll sees a distribution of responses, but you might want to reveal one class and one class only.

Top Ten I-O Workplace Trends for 2016

2016 January 6
tags: , ,
by Richard N. Landers

Top Ten Workplace TrendsThe Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) has once again released its top ten list of anticipated top workplace trends for 2016 based upon a vote of the current SIOP membership. Here they are, with a little commentary and comparisons to both the 2015 and 2014 lists:

  1. Using Social Media to Make Employment-Related Decisions. Technology is always all over this list, in one way or another. Last year, it was mobile assessment – this year, social media. Personally, I think it’s interesting that it falls at #10 when I’d say what’s driving its reemergence on this list is the #1 trend – Big Data has made the information contained within social media much more interesting.
  2. Building Healthy, Diverse Workforces (down from #8). Steady interest, year over year. Organizational focus continues to be on finding value in diversity rather than diversity for diversity’s sake. Token hires do not signify a healthy organization. What you want is an organization that identifies and integrates how diverse viewpoints, histories, and perspectives can improve employee’s work lives.
  3. Work-life Balance Across Generations (down from #3). Work-life balance has dropped down the top ten list a bit. Perhaps that means we’ve solved it? Nah. But the additional wrinkle this year is the “across generations” bit. Older workers are increasingly being asked to be constantly connected, and younger works like being constantly connected but not necessarily to work.
  4. Increased Focus on Business Agility and Flexibility in Work and Business Processes. That model of the steadfast, concrete organization that knows exactly what it does and does that thing effectively, increasing its accuracy and precision over the year? Basically dead. Organizations these days need to react. The market changes, customers are fickle, and a cautious degree of risk-taking are what keep your business alive these days.  That’s a lot of change, and not everyone is ready.
  5. Increasing Focus on Health and Wellness in the Workplace. As occupational health research takes a firmer and firmer foothold in people’s minds, we’re increasingly realizing that a healthy, happy workplace is a productive workplace. It’s not enough to stick a foosball table in the breakroom.
  6. Employee Engagement. Engagement is one of those workplace buzzwords that we just can’t seem to escape. Is it motivation? Is it something new? Who knows, but clients want their employees to have it.
  7. Changing Nature of Performance Management and Development. Something I’ve been saying for years – annual performance appraisals represent a broken system, possibly more harmful than helpful to many organizations. As all other parts of organizations have sped up, the slow and inefficient nature of appraisal has become all the more obvious. Effective performance management should be an on-going, continuous process. Don’t wait a year to tell your employees that they did something harmful, and don’t tell them in the context of a high-pressure meeting that could result in them either getting a raise or getting fired. There are better ways.
  8. Managing Virtual Teams. As an academic, it’s easy for me to forget that many organizations don’t have extensive telework systems incorporating virtual teams. I only see the research team I supervise once a week, but we still get quite a lot done. The reason is the Internet. We can coordinate, communicate, and work together without physically being in the same space. It’s not that hard these days from a technical perspective, but it does require you trust your team, and that’s where I/Os can help.
  9. Trends in Technology Are Changing the Way Work Is Done (up from #4). There’s my lab’s work again, at the top of this top ten list. Technology is fundamentally changing how people work, and it’s unclear how much of our research and how many of our standard practices still apply in this brave new world. But at least now people are recognizing the problem.
  10. Leveraging and Maximizing Big Data and Applying Correct Analytics to Make Better Business Decisions (up from #2). Nothing is as trendy right now as big data. In fact, it’s so trendy that many I-Os want to claim big data as their invention. To be clear, pretty much any I-O that says that doesn’t know what big data is. If you’ve never needed to worry about real-time curation and interpretation of datasets, or datasets with billions of cases, or iterative approaches to data analysis, or interactive visualizations, you’re nowhere close to big data. Big data is inherently interdisciplinary; it combines the social science that I-Os know so well with computer science that most I-Os don’t know at all. That can change, but we’re a long way from it now.

And there you have it – the top ten hottest topics for I/O in the coming year. Once again, technology plays a major role across the list, and I bet it will continue to do so for years to come. But as gamification appeared and disappeared from the list, and then mobile assessments the year after that, will big data vanish in 2017?