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A distinguishing feature of online teaching and learning is the potential for creating permanent assets, such as lecture recordings, images, screenshots, and electronic resources that persist outside the classroom, across semesters, and beyond the borders of the University. The core considerations of asset creation for online courses versus other learning formats are the same: Intellectual Property, Conflict of Interest, and Student Confidentiality. 

This page includes relevant Penn policies that faculty should consider when creating and sharing course assets for teaching online, as well as frequently asked questions for faculty interested in teaching online. 

Potentials and Risks

Permanence of Recordings & Re-use of Assets

The reusability of these assets creates the opportunity to reach new audiences. A lecture recording can be used in multiple semesters, to reach alumni, as part of a collaboration with another institution or for marketing purposes, and more.  These benefits also entail some risk. While the existing University policies on Intellectual Property, Conflict of Interest, and Student Confidentiality all apply to this environment, care should be taken to apply them in this context.  

Ownership of Intellectual Property

Special considerations for online teaching: assigning Intellectual Property (IP) rights  

It is hard to foresee all potential uses of an asset. Therefore, it is important to assign IP rights upfront for all future, even unforeseen uses, so there is no doubt about ownership going forward. 

According to the Penn Policy Relating to Copyrights and Commitment of Effort for Faculty: 

“[The] creators of intellectual property own the copyright to works resulting from their research, teaching and writing and have the individual right to apply for; own all right, title and interest to enforce, profit by and transfer to other parties, such as publishers, copyrights in their works under the laws of the United States and other jurisdictions.  

"Exceptions to this policy arise when the faculty create works that make substantial use of the services of University non-faculty employees or University resources. When such support is provided the works produced shall belong to the University unless there is explicit agreement otherwise.”  

This covers most cases of creation of MOOCs and Online Degree Programs and signed agreements with faculty should reflect that. 

Additionally, the Policy states:  

“Any videotapes or other recordings of classes or courses intended for students at the University of Pennsylvania belong to the University and may not be further distributed without permission from the appropriate school dean. Such audio-visual works may not be used commercially without the permission of everyone who appears in the final program.”  

Conflict of Interest with Other University Responsibilities

Special considerations for online teaching: durability of online assets

If a faculty member has interest in teaching at an institution other than Penn and given that online assets can be used many times. Extra attention should be given not to conflict with the presumption that “a full-time faculty member's primary commitment in teaching and research is to the University of Pennsylvania.” As the policy specifies: “ The dean and faculty of each school should decide upon those academic activities (currently engaged in or reasonably likely to be engaged in by the school in the foreseeable future) other than teaching and research that are subject to the above restrictions.” While creating these assets may only take a day of work or occur during the summer months, the durability of these electronic assets makes it more likely that a conflict of interest may arise in the future. The Dean may therefore be more cautious in granting faculty requests. 

The same policy goes on to state:  

“A full-time faculty member's primary commitment in teaching and research is to the University of Pennsylvania. Any substantial teaching carried out in another setting, regardless of medium, for which students receive academic credit, must receive prior approval of the faculty member's dean. Any teaching, research or other activity in which the faculty member's department or school is actively engaged will presumptively claim the faculty member's primary effort, and carrying out these activities in another setting will also require a specific release from such commitment by the dean. The dean and faculty of each school should decide upon those academic activities (currently engaged in or reasonably likely to be engaged in by the school in the foreseeable future) other than teaching and research that are subject to the above restrictions.” 

Confidentiality of Student Records

Special considerations for online reaching: recording students  

In reusing such assets faculty should take additional care to ensure the confidentiality of student records. Faculty should not reuse recordings of synchronous lectures across courses unless student participation can be excluded in order to comply with the confidentiality of student records. A record of a students’ participation in a course, through sharing of their name or image, as well as any answer or question they pose during a course, is part of the student’s academic record and should not be included in future uses of a class recording. 

Students are not allowed to record an online course or a Zoom lecture. You may record it and share it with the current cohort of students in a password protected platform, such as the Canvas learning management system. 

The University recognizes that as faculty, staff and students create, use, and store more information in electronic form, there is growing concern that information the user or creator considers private may be more vulnerable to invasion than information stored in more traditional media. 

This is especially important as it pertains to student records. The University is bound by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to protect the privacy of students and not disclose students’ records to unauthorized parties. This includes not sharing students’ responses or questions made during one course to members of another course. Hence recording of students should not be used in subsequent courses. 

Academic Freedom

Special considerations for online teaching: students recording faculty

Be aware that the student CAN make such recordings, even if it is indeed a violation of student conduct. Because of the technical ease with which such a recording can be made, it is important to remember the university stand on academic freedom and responsibility: “The teacher is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his or her subject...but should note that a special position in the community imposes special obligations.” As a person of learning and a member of an educational institution, the teacher should remember that the public may judge the profession and the institution by his/her utterances. Hence the teacher should at all times show respect for the opinions of others, and should indicate when he or she is not speaking for the institution. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. You must receive approval from your Dean. See the Policy Relating to Copyrights and Commitment of Effort for Faculty referenced in the Conflict of Interest section above. This policy is particularly important given the durability and reusability of recorded assets and the Dean may therefore be more cautious in granting faculty requests. 

Work with your school’s online unit and the Office of General Council to create an agreement that clearly specifies the roles and responsibilities of each party, IP rights for current and any future use of these assets, and any resulting compensation. Because recorded assets have potential for future uses, even if currently unforeseen, extra care should be given to creating a clear contact or memo of understanding. 

Although students are not permitted to record your Zoom lecture, be aware of the technical ease with which a student can make a recording even if it is a violation of the student code of conduct.

You may record it to share it with your current cohort in a password- protected platform, such as the Canvas Learning Management System. In this case, consider FERPA Policy and  the university stand on academic freedom and responsibility, referenced in the Student Confidentiality section of this page.

Asynchronous recordings belong to the faculty member and can be used for future courses at Penn without special permission. Do not use synchronous recordings that include students’ images, names, or participation, as this would be a violation of student privacy. 

The Fair Use Policies are the same online as they are in in-person settings.