School Risk of Plagiarism in Creating your own Digital Curriculum

The LC Staff

In the rush to create digital materials, are teachers possibly plagiarizing copyrighted works? Just what is plagiarism?

An excellent understanding can be found here at

Teachers and professors commonly refer students to resources to guard against plagiarism, but what about for themselves? What risks are schools taking in having teachers create their own materials?

One idea is to use the same sources students can use to check for plagiarism. One well-known source is TurnItIn with their “ WriteCheck.”

TurnItIn provides a plagiarism checker, a grammar checker using ETS® technology, and a professional tutorial using Pearson Tutor Services.

What a school risks is not trivial if they are allowing plagiarism in the creation of digital curriculum, especially if it is largely synthesized from old textbooks and online searches.

Intellectual Property

Another common question regarding teachers creating their own materials is who owns the intellectual property rights to it? Some districts have their own IP policies, others do not.

For most schools, a teacher’s employment contract may assign copyright ownership of materials produced for the classroom to the teacher. Without any written agreement, however, the Copyright Act of 1976 stipulates that materials created by teachers in the scope of their employment are deemed “works for hire” and therefore the school owns them. As part of a digital curriculum strategy, whatever tactic the school or district takes regarding created works needs to be in policy and probably should be part of the employment contract. This may also include guards against plagiarism and certain guidelines on what not to do with materials and lesson plans. Any one school or district may also have to check in with the State level to make sure there are no over-riding policies.

The TeachersPayTeachers website has an excellent “FAQ” page regarding copyright and includes helpful links to crash courses on the subject you can send teachers or instructional designers to for knowledge on the subject.

Reselling Works

Another consideration around copyright is the possibility that a school, or the individual teacher, could recoup income for their custom digital curriculum creation. There are websites such asTeachersPayTeachers and WeAreTeachers that allow for the resale of materials to other teachers.

Part of a school’s strategy could be to solicit non-paid time for creation of materials on the consideration that the teacher can market it and receive the financial benefit. This may be a smart move purely because it will enhance the drive to create excellent work. Another tactic could be to retain those for the school to resell itself and recover their own investment in staff time. This could allow for the purchase of other materials that that are more difficult to make in-house, or for taking those same materials and purchasing the ability to render them to an “App” format by technical shops.

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