Policy IP03 COURSEWARE (Formerly RA17)

Policy Steward:  Office of the Vice President for Research


  • Purpose
  • Definitions
  • General
  • Policy
  • .... University-Directed Works
  • .... University Personnel-Initiated Works
  • Further Information
  • Cross References


    Penn State recognizes that information technology provides valuable new tools through which University personnel can enhance learning for residential courses and extend programs and courses to new students at a distance. The University strongly encourages the involvement of University faculty and staff in computer-based and computer-assisted instruction and in the development of computer-based instructional materials. The purpose of this courseware policy is to provide incentives for the involvement of University personnel in courseware and courseware module development while also protecting the University’s interests in its educational programs and in controlling costs to students.

    This document focuses exclusively on the University’s instructional intellectual property policy for courseware. Patentable software developed for courseware purposes will be handled under existing University policy IP01.


    Courseware: For the purposes of this policy "courseware" is defined as a substantially computer-based package of content, assessment materials, and structure for interaction that permits a course to be taught without requiring physical access to a student. In other words, it is an entire course, fully transportable, minus the specific discussions that may occur between faculty and student or among students within a specific offering of the course.

    Courseware modules: For the purposes of this policy a "courseware module" is defined as computer-based or substantially computer-based materials intended to enhance or supplement a Penn State residential or on-line course.


    Courseware and courseware module development must be consistent with the primary obligations of University personnel to teaching, research, and service to the public.

    Conflict of interest and/or commitment can occur when University personnel develop courseware and courseware modules for personal financial gain rather than for the benefit of their teaching responsibilities at Penn State.

    The Vice President for Research, in consultation with the Chair of the University Faculty Senate, will appoint an advisory committee for courseware to monitor the effectiveness of the policy, to recommend updates as necessary, and to provide guidance for other courseware issues (including appeals) that may arise from time to time. The committee shall consist of five (5) faculty members representing a variety of disciplines, and members shall be appointed annually for a term of one year. Members may be reappointed for a maximum of three consecutive terms, but will be eligible for reappointment after a one year hiatus.



    Directed works are those created at the specific direction of a University unit for the University’s ownership and use.  Courseware or courseware modules will be deemed University-directed Works if they are created pursuant to a written agreement between the faculty member or staff member and the University unit or if the work is considered University-directed by the standing policy of the unit.

    Employees in staff positions should clarify with their supervisors as to whether a particular project should be considered a University-directed work as part of the employee’s normal duties.  In cases of University-directed courseware or courseware modules, the University will own the copyright.  Even in the cases of University-directed works, the Penn State author(s) will be granted a non-exclusive, royalty-free right to use the materials for their own limited purposes outside of the University. Rights of authors are subject to University policies on consulting activity and other activities external to the University, as well as to unique contractual obligations related to the production of the instructional materials.


    In some cases, University personnel may initiate the development of courseware and courseware modules independent of specific direction by the University. The author(s) of these materials will own the copyright. However, for works within the scope of the author’s University employment, the University will be granted a non-exclusive, royalty-free right and license to use the materials for instructional purposes within the University. Rights of authors are subject to University policies on consulting activity and other activities external to the University, as well as to unique contractual obligations related to the production of the instructional materials.


    For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Vice President for Research.


    Other Policies may have specific application and should be referred to, especially:

    HR91 - Conflict of Interest,

    IP01 - Patents and Copyrights (Intellectual Property)

    IP04– Royalty Payments for Course Materials, and

    IP06 - Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurial Activity (Faculty Research).

    Effective Date: January 7, 2013
    Date Approved: September 14, 2012
    Published Date: January 7, 2013 (Editorial changes- November 19, 2015)

    Most Recent Changes:

    Revision History (and effective dates):

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