Online Teaching FAQ
On April 3, 2015, PIO co-sponsored a meeting with representatives from the WMU office of Extended University Programs (EUP) and the Provost’s office. What follows is the record of answers to questions and discussions about those answers provided during that meeting.
PIO Members: David Paul, Fredah Mainah, Doug Coulter, Tom Kostrzewa, Steve Cartwright, Deb Droppers, Peggy Sattler
EUP: Andrew Holmes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Provost’s Office: Nancy Mansberger (email@example.com)
[Note: “Online” or “EUP” courses are courses adapted for online or hybrid classroom/online delivery through WMU’s office of Extended University Programs.]
Who Can Teach Online/EUP?
Anyone can teach an EUP course and the decision made to select an instructor for a course rests with the department of that course. Further, the development of an EUP course is the same as the development for any other course. Anyone can develop a course, and the development of a course should begin in the department, but should involve a representative from EUP as soon as possible in the development.
What is the Compensation and Procedure for Development?
Compensation for the development of an online course currently remains $3,000, paid in two parts. Specific details of this payment are available through EUP. The prior practice established between AAUP and EUP remains the template for non-AAUP course developers. However, payment does depend upon appropriate protocols being followed, which requires the involvement of EUP personnel from the beginning of development. It is possible for anyone to develop an online course and receive no additional compensation for doing so.
Under something like normal circumstances, an instructor will approach the appropriate person in the department about the development of an online course. The instructor is empowered to suggest the involvement of EUP in this development. The instructor is empowered to negotiate with the department for payment for this development. The typical case of development of an online course requires approximately 4 months. A reasonable first step for an instructor is to make a request of someone in the department that the instructor be permitted to develop a course and paid to do so.
For Whom is an Online Course Developed?
Online courses typically fill and often take students away from brick-and-mortar classes. As a result, EUP looks for courses that don’t take students away from brick-and-mortar classes; the preference is that a new course be additive. The suggestion is for the instructor to approach the department with an idea for a course that will fit this criteria (high demand online, but not one which takes students out of another class offered on campus).
When a course is developed, one of the considerations of that development is the number of students intended for the course. There have been occasions when an online course, developed for few students is then proposed (by a chair, for instance) to be then used for many students. This is fraught with potential problems and EUP advises against it. The differences between, say, an online course designed for 20 students and an online course designed for 100 students are so potentially vast that even if the course name and subject are the same, they really may be considered two different courses. If an instructor is approached to teach an online course for a number of students for which the course was not intended, that instructor should consult EUP before accepting the assignment.
What Are My Rights?
If you develop the course on your own time with your own resources, you own it. Period. That said, there are important considerations. The most important of which, perhaps, is that since D2L (the platform on which WMU’s online courses reside) is licensed by WMU, all the parts that are part of the WMU hardware and software belong to WMU. The content might be yours, but, the rest might not be. (EUP’s analogy is “Western owns the movie theater and you own the movie.”)
There are legitimate reasons why a department might want someone to create a course that would then belong, in effect, to the department. You still retain the rights to that material and you still own it. So, you can take it with you and use it elsewhere. But, WMU can, with an agreement, remain able to use your materials. It is the responsibility of the developer of the course to negotiate this arrangement with the department. Included in this negotiation is a right to and responsibility of the developer to negotiate the value of that content.
Your retention of your property rights is independent of the $3,000 course development fee. There is no assumption that WMU can use your material without your permission. Chairs might not be aware that they’re in a position to have this conversation and EUP is available to assist in this negotiation. Any individual instructor could, therefore, be provided this information in a forum other than a department meeting (for instance). If any given chairperson has trepidation about these issues, a representative of EUP would be happy to participate in a meeting with the chair and the developer.
A course can be “taken away” from an instructor and given to a tenured professor. This is contractually possible. This is the kind of thing that should not happen but legally remains possible. It’s entirely possible that an agreement could be reached between various parties to prevent this from happening. As it’s a legal issue, it may require attention to the AAUP and PIO contracts or a memorandum of agreement. That said, no professor owns any course at WMU. Any instructor can be “bumped.”
Some instructors and professors at WMU speak of “preference” when speaking about courses. Legally, preference only exists for summer courses. That there is any preference at all may have an influence on decisions that individual departments make, but, preference is only recognized by the University as applying to summer courses.
If you are asked to teach a class, last minute, contact EUP (and maybe OFD), and definitely let your chair know that it’s reasonable for you to receive extra compensation for this.
Contact PIO with any additional questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.