Ferris Online
Development and Ownership of Online Courses

How do we determine if a program is feasible to offer online?

When there is interest in developing a program (or degree completion program) for online delivery, both EIO and the offering college will work in collaboration to determine feasibility.  In general terms, we need to determine if there is sufficient interest to successfully launch and sustain a program fully online.  In addition, a close review should be conducted of:  costs for development; advising needs; student support services needed; courses required from other colleges, such as Arts and Sciences; technology needed, etc.  This is of course in addition to basic program feasibility such as industry needs, faculty availability, etc. 

A Online Program Evaluation and Planning Guide was developed by EIO to assist colleges and departments in answering some of the common questions.

How are decisions made about who gets paid to develop online courses?

Historically, Extended and International Operations paid for the development of online courses that were designed to meet the off-campus and online audience needs. In the academic year 2009-10, the development rate was $1,857.64 per credit.The Course Development Agreement and process that was in use at the time is part of the FFA contract.  In that process, EIO in consultation with the Office of Academic Affairs determined whether funds were available to develop the course, and whether it served our distant students. Not all requests were honored. Each course was only paid once, and then it was to be available for other faculty members to use when the developing instructor chose not to offer it or there were more sections that need to be covered.

Several changes occurred since this process was implemented which impact the ability to pay for course development.  EIO no longer receives funding for online courses, and as a result does not have 'venture capital' to spend on course development.  In addition, the E-Learning Management Advisory Team, also faced with scarce resources, did not recommend budgeting funding for online development. Instead, they proposed a system for development of modules and strategies that would have broader appeal for online and blended courses. Paying for course development has not resulted in the sharing of full courses that was originally envisioned and seems counter to the Ferris and academic cultures, where individual faculty want the freedom to create their own instructional materials.

At this time, faculty interested in expanding their program to broader (online) audiences have participated in course development as a part of their faculty position.  Reassigned time is occasionally utilized for development, but has the added complication about course ownership that we encountered with direct payment for course development.

Who owns the online course?

If course development has been paid for by the University, the University owns the course. If the faculty member has developed it independently, it is owned by the individual faculty member, except as noted below. When a faculty member’s course is used by another faculty member, the faculty member may request to be paid a royalty for the use of the course for a limited time, as long as the faculty member keeps the course updated.

The University’s Intellectual Property policy is included as Appendix C in the FFA contract and explains the ownership provisions. It can be found at this location:


Cutting through the legalese, the University owns all of its courses and has the right to review the content of them. However, course materials used exclusively by the faculty member are considered to be owned by the faculty member, according to the “academic exception.” If substantial university resources have been used in the development, or if the faculty member has been paid or given re-assigned time for development, the University owns the course materials.