Moodlepreneurs often express the concern that when they put their course material online in a Moodle, it can be copied and sold by others. In this article we present five ways to combat plagiarism of your courses.
- Refer learners to external resources that only you supply, outside of Moodle. This will make any copied material harder to understand and it will seem incomplete, which will help to discourage plagiarism.
- Add a non-course bonus like a private Facebook group which you only add your customers to, and refer to it in the course in a way that makes it indispensable. People without access to it will feel left out and will know they are taking a recycled course.
- Split up your content into bite sized pieces. This makes it much harder for someone to copy it wholesale, and they will probably give up rather than go to the effort of grabbing all those separate pieces and then re-assimilating them. Another benefit is good instructional design practice anyway: small, digestible chunks of learning increase engagement and completion rates for your learners.
- Watermark your images and videos with your logo, web address, or other insignia that show that you created them. A faded watermark in the corner is sufficient. They are hard to edit out, and if your images or videos do wander off then you will still get the credit for their creation.
- Within any documents, especially PDFs which can’t be edited, insert links or references to your course, website, or both.
While these suggestions should go a long way to making sure someone doesn’t steal your Moodle course material outright, there are some other fundamental realities that should also be considered:
First, in this age of the internet, if someone wants to steal your content, they will. No matter how you try to protect it. Once you’ve put it out there, its… well… out there. You own the copyright to your course content and in theory you could pursue third parties who blatantly copy your material. But ask yourself – do you really want to get involved in the business of tracking your content down, sending notices, litigating, etc.?
Second, if you do find other are copying your materials or content in some way, ask your self if it is actually such a terrible thing. The only sure way to keep your ideas from being stolen is to keep them to yourself. Copyright laws protect your ideas from being copied wholesale in their original format. But you cannot stop others from taking your ideas, combining them with ideas from other sources and presenting them in different ways and formats. If others build on your ideas, it is actually a true measure of how good they really are.
Third, what should be truly creating value in your courses is you. You are the special sauce added to your courses in the form of your credibility as a subject matter expert that makes them desirable. If you have been following this series of Moodlepreneur articles, you’ll have read about using your marketing channels to entice people to buy your course by building value. Taken out of context, and delivered without your particular twist, your materials won’t have the same fizz about them.
Can you suggest, or have you used, any other techniques to protect your course materials against theft and plagiarism? Tell us in the comments below!