Policies for the Creation and Use of Online Course Materials

Princeton faculty members retain ownership of the copyrights in the materials they create for online courses, including those offered through Princeton’s partnerships with Coursera, edX, Kadenze, NovoEd, and other online learning platforms. These materials include recorded lectures, presentations, assignments, exams, problem sets, messaging, and other tools used in online courses. This policy is consistent with the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty, and also with the recommendations in the 2013 Report of the Committee on On-line Courses.

Below, we offer further guidance regarding the key issues surrounding the creation and use of online course materials at Princeton. If you have questions, please contact Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu, Director of the McGraw Center,.

What resources are available to support the development of online course materials?

The McGraw Center coordinates the design, production, and delivery of online courses offered through Princeton’s partnerships with online course platforms. McGraw staff with pedagogical and technical expertise work closely with faculty members to develop course proposals and build materials for use in an online learning environment. The McGraw Center also manages Princeton’s online offerings with platform partners.

Does the University seek reimbursement for the use of University resources in creating online courses?

Yes, if the resources are substantial. As provided in Rules and Procedures of the Faculty, the University is entitled to reimbursement when faculty members use “substantial” University resources to create copyrighted materials. However, in the case of online courses, the University will seek reimbursement only if the course materials actually generate revenue, so there is no financial risk for faculty members who wish to take advantage of the resources that the University offers. Costs that the University may recover will make it easier to sustain its program for offering online courses over time. This policy is consistent with the recommendations in the 2013 report of the ad hoc committee on online teaching.

Will the University seek more than reimbursement for its costs?

After full reimbursement, the University would seek a negotiated percentage of the revenue if – and only if – the faculty member invests time in the actual teaching of an online course to a degree that constitutes “teaching elsewhere” under the RPF. (As provided in the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty, all faculty members must have permission from the Dean of Faculty to teach online courses if doing so would constitute “teaching elsewhere” as defined in the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty). As explained in the 2013 report of the ad hoc faculty committee on online teaching, the University’s justification for participating in this revenue stream – after it has been fully reimbursed for its costs – stems from its larger claim on the undivided teaching time of its Faculty that informs the general rule against “teaching elsewhere.”

Will the University monetize or distribute online course materials without the permission of the faculty member who created them?

No. However, the University may use the course materials to promote online course offerings in various mediums, such as websites and social media. The University also may use elements of a course that are authored by McGraw staff to support other Princeton University courses, and it may use excerpts for a range of internal educational purposes.

Does Princeton only allow professors to contract through Coursera, edX Kadenze, and NovoEd to teach online courses?

No. The University currently has agreements with Coursera, edX, Kadenze, and NovoEd, but those agreements are non­exclusive and do not in any way constrain the University’s or individual faculty members’ right to use other platforms for delivering online courses.

Does the University offer certificates or other credentials to students who complete online courses offered by Princeton faculty members?

The University does not issue fee­based certificates or other credentials for the online courses that our faculty members offer on Coursera, edX or NovoEd. However, in a few limited cases, Princeton faculty members have been allowed to offer Statements of Accomplishment (SoA) to students in online courses so that we may better assess whether the use of SoAs enhances student engagement with the course. SoAs are free, do not include the University’s trademarks, and include a standard disclaimer.

Does the University require faculty members to sign a contract before using University resources to develop online courses?

Yes. Faculty using University resources to develop online course materials must sign an agreement with the University that articulates the arrangement for the use and production of online course materials. The agreement licenses the University to offer the faculty member’s intellectual property in connection with an online course through the University’s partnerships with online platform providers. The agreement specifies the substantial University resources that may be invested in the production of copyrighted materials, such as the use of video production facilities, and whether those costs are to be funded by the University or by the faculty member, either independently or through outside production. The production arrangement sets the terms for any reimbursement of costs should a course generate revenue.