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Distance Learning Issue for Faculty


Dear FSU Members,

The punch line: We write to alert faculty to a de facto change in university practice that has eliminated any incentive/reason for faculty to select the “departmental” model when creating Distance Learning courses.   With very few exceptions, faculty should select the “individual” model going forward.

The back story: As many of you know, faculty currently have two options to choose from when creating Distance Learning Courses – the “individual” model and the “departmental” model.   With the individual model, the faculty member who creates the course is paid a $3k development fee, retains the intellectual property rights, and has the right of first refusal to teach the course; if the faculty member who developed the course elects not to teach it, another faculty member may teach it without substantial adjustments in course material – with the originating course developer being paid a stipend of $500 every time the course is taught.  See here for details.

With the departmental model, the Department retains the intellectual property rights and the stipend is negotiated between the Department/University and the course developer (faculty member) – and approved (or not) by the FSU.   The idea is that the course developer creates something of a template for a course that will then be taught by multiple and varied instructors.

The working assumption when this agreement was created was that the departmental model would pay more than the standard $3k for the individual model – precisely because the faculty member was giving up the intellectual property rights, giving up the $500 per offering (when/if the course was taught by someone else), and was essentially delivering a template to the university/dept for a course that the university could subsequently offer (in theory) indefinitely.   These were more of “template” courses, and money makers – with the course developer getting more compensation upfront since the university would control the course and profit off it down the road.

So what has changed?   The university appears to be longer negotiating the stipend for the department model, and instead simply offering the standard $3k – which is what you are paid under the “individual” model without giving up intellectual property rights, or losing the additional pay when someone else teaches it, or handing over a course that the university can offer indefinitely.  There is no longer incentive/reason for faculty to select the departmental model (over the individual model).

Regulations on DL courses are governed by Article 35 of the contract as well as a few other memoranda of agreement between Admin and the FSU. You can see all of that information here.

NOTE: The Covid crisis and the ensuing transition to all distance learning has complicated the operative DL regulations. The FSU has recently filed a grievance regarding the Administration’s assertion that there is a distinction between distance learning and remote courses for purposes of applying Article 35 of the contract. We will keep members updated on the progress of this grievance and how it will impact the current distance learning regulations (see more here).


Steve Striffler

FSU President

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