Course Development Agreements


Understanding the Miami Online Course Development Agreement

When you begin collaborating with Miami Online to develop a new course, you’ll be asked to sign a Course Development Agreement. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Agreement: if you have further questions after reading this F.A.Q., please reach out to the Associate Director of Online Learning. View the course development agreement template here.

Q: What is an Agreement?

A: It’s different from a contract. Unlike a contract, it’s not legally binding, but it does constitute a set of ground rules that all parties agree to abide by in pursuing our common goal–the development of a high-quality online course that meets the present and future needs of your Program, Department, and the University. You have responsibilities under this Agreement, but Miami Online and the University have responsibilities as well. When Miami Online sends you this document to sign, we signal our good faith and intentions. In return, we simply ask for your signature as a mark of mutual understanding.

Q: What am I really creating here?

A: You’ll collaborate with your Learning Designer and Video Producer to build a model course that contains all the elements of a great class: one that is tailored to your disciplinary orientation, program needs, and learning objectives. The course will be designed to last for a few years without a major overhaul, although it can be adjusted in minor ways each term it runs to keep it current and to better meet student needs. Although you will most likely be the one to teach the course in its first iteration (this is up to your department Chair and governed by departmental staffing needs and rules), it may be taught by someone else in the future if you’re not able to deliver every section yourself. Therefore, as a Course Developer, you’re really acting as the Subject Matter Expert (or SME) who ensures that the course is thorough, effective, and of high quality even if delivered by another skilled instructor at some point in the future.

Q: What kind of course am I building?

A: Canvas refers to “Course Masters”; however, we at Miami Online prefer to think of what you build as a model for future iterations. If another qualified faculty member were to teach your course in the future, that person would be able to adjust elements of it to infuse their own unique style, special expertise, and of course, their personal interactions with students. The Course Master designation is simply one that Canvas uses for courses that are not term-limited.

Q: Do I need to train other people to teach this course?

A: No. Your responsibilities are complete as soon as the course development is complete and the quality review process confirms that it’s ready to launch. As part of the development process, your Learning Designer will work with you to produce a Course Map and Instructor Guide that stay with the prototype course shell in Canvas. These tools, combined with the faculty development resources that Miami Online provides in Canvas and elsewhere, mean that developers don’t have to train or prepare other faculty to deliver the course.

Q: Can anyone just step in to teach my course? How do I know they’ll do a good job?

A: Your department will retain control of course staffing, including both hiring and course assignments. No instructor who does not meet your department’s existing standards for subject matter expertise and pedagogical skill would ever teach your course. No instructor would enter the course unprepared to deliver it because of the Course Map, Instructor Guide, and faculty development resources that Miami Online provides.

Q: Am I relinquishing my intellectual property (IP) rights?

A: No, but you are sharing some of those rights with Miami University. This is because the course design process truly is a collaboration: you contribute materials based on your subject matter expertise, but the Learning Designer and Video Producer play a transformative role in shaping those materials into something new for the purposes of the course. The Media Team will add graphics, stock footage, and other elements to your videos to differentiate them from self-recorded lectures. Your Learning Designer will build things like interactive knowledge checks to enhance your content delivery and will style the HTML of your Canvas pages using code designed to fit the aesthetic and student experience of other courses in your program. In the end, your learning activities, media, and even the appearance and navigation of your course will differ significantly from what you would likely create on your own. Under Miami’s overall IP policy, this collaboration constitutes a “significant university resource,” and this is why the University retains joint ownership (with you) of the course.

Q: Does the Agreement mean I can’t use content I brought into the course, either in other courses I teach at Miami or courses I may teach after ending my association with Miami?

A: No. You can reuse your content freely. Course materials that you bring to your Learning Designer–whether it’s a lecture script you wrote, a favorite assignment you created and have used for years, or an explainer graphic you made–are yours forever. In fact, you retain the exclusive right to re-use this kind of pre-existing content (content not created or shaped by Miami Online staff) outside the course you have developed with us. For more collaborative material–an assignment your Learning Designer builds for you, or a video the Media Team creates–and for the course in its entirety, you share rights with Miami. If you end your association with Miami, the University may continue to use this material. But so can you, wherever your professional journey takes you. The only caveat is that you cannot sell the complete course to a third party (someone other than Miami or your new employer) for use. Again, this is because you are not the sole developer of this material–the course is a result of collaboration with Miami Online. Miami University could someday choose to sell the course to a third party. However, if that were to happen, you (as course developer) would be paid 50% of the net proceeds. (If you originally worked with other faculty to co-develop the course, the 50% would be shared among you, and developers would decide among yourselves what cut of the 50% each of you would get.)

Q: What will I be paid to do this work, and when do I get paid?

A: You will be paid a stipend, determined by the Provost and your department, when the course development is complete and quality review confirms that the course is ready to launch.

Q: I have a special situation. Can I include an Addendum with my Agreement?

A: Unfortunately, no. The Agreement was developed by Miami’s Office of General Counsel, and Miami Online does not have standing to change or add to it in any way.

Q: I’m still not comfortable with the Agreement. Who can I talk to?

A: Please reach out to the Associate Director of Online Learning, who will be happy to discuss your questions with you and your Department Chair or Program Lead.