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Is collaborative learning violating professors’ rights?

By Dr. Lester A. Lefton
June 24th, 2015

Can a student’s knowledge dissemination be an intellectual copyright violation?

notes-professor-copyrightIs note sharing is an infringement on professors’ intellectual property rights? And can this way of thinking be justified in the age of collaborative, peer-to-peer learning?

What most professors do in the classroom is try to explain their discipline, whether that’s history or mathematics. Professors simplify, organize, and create coherent lessons so that students can become creative, deep thinkers on their own. They provide information so that students can develop their own approach. We call this critical thinking.

However, if we really want students to create new knowledge, to interpret the world, and to truly become critical thinkers, we must allow them to express themselves not only in the classroom – but also with other students – using the information that we guide them to.

The issue over note sharing

We have learned over the last two or three decades that collaborative learning can be very effective in higher education, and peer-to-peer learning is really the next frontier. This can come in a variety of different forms like online tutoring, one-on-one meetings, and it can also come in the form of sharing notes. To a certain extent, the sharing of notes is just a different kind of collaborative learning that’s been going on for centuries.

However, as note sharing has become an increasingly popular at higher education institutions across the country, it has been met with some resistance. Though a small minority, some professors believe that note sharing is an infringement of their intellectual property rights. I disagree with this notion. I also believe that professors are limiting students’ ability to succeed if they are not allowing them to help each other learn.

(Next page: Facts as copyright and artistic license)


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