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Let's Start Off the Right Way!

Updated: May 6, 2021

May 6, 2021, Thursday

When presented with the opportunity to design an online course from the ground up, it can be exciting researching web 2.0 tools, software, and other resources to help deliver the instruction and content of a course. However, it is also extremely important that instructional designers follow ethical practices to ensure that they do not violate copyright and fair use laws during the design process, and when the course is published and fully operational. Copyright and fair use laws were created to protect the interests of publishers or content creators so that they are able to retain control of how their creations or products are used, and so that they can receive financial compensation for the extensive work they have completed to produce content.

I am a firm believer in acknowledging sources, and giving credit where it is due. There are a lot of assumptions about the use of content created by second and third parties that are not always correct. I have found that this is particularly true within educational institutions. One assumption I have been confronted with several times is that content can be borrowed, copied, edited, and freely distributed if it is for educational purposes, as long as the source is cited. However, this is an incorrect assumption. Many publishers and content creators are enthusiastic about sharing their products freely for educational purposes, but you cannot always assume that will be the case. It is best to employ best practices by actually securing official permission to use content (Deshpande, 2020), and to receive specific information about how content can be used, edited, and distributed so that you don’t unintentionally violate copyright and fair use laws.

Fair use law, Section 107, requires that four specific factors are taken into consideration in determining the fair use of content. These four considerations have to do with the purpose for which content is being used (commercial, nonprofit, educational), the type of copyrighted work, how much of a whole copyrighted work is being used, and the possible effect your use of the work will have on the market in terms of the value of the copyrighted work (Deshpande, 2020). This is definitely an issue that instructional designers should develop familiarity and competency in.

If we want to be trusted as instructional designers, let us start off the right way! Let us obtain content for our course designs through ethical practices. If we really are as good as we confidently claim to be in our field, then we should have no cause to cut corners and shortchange other professionals. So I repeat, let us start off all of our instructional design projects the right way!


Deshpande, P. (2020). Content curation: copyright, ethics & fair use. Content Curation

Marketing. Retrieved October 24, 2020, from http://www.contentcurationmarketing.


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