Supporting Students’ IP Rights at KPU

I currently serve as the Associate Vice Provost, Open Education at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), a public post-secondary institution in British Columbia that is Canada’s leading institutional adopter of open textbooks and other open educational resources (OER). My role involves supporting open educational practices across the institution, which includes the creation, adaptation, and adoption of OER. More specifically, this includes enhancing the discoverability of OER, managing an OER grant program, and co-coordinating an OER publishing program with the library. However, a good portion of my attention is also focused on supporting the growing interest in open pedagogy. This includes leading learning communities on open pedagogy, offering regular workshops for a range of open education technology tools and platforms that support open pedagogy (e.g., Pressbooks, WordPress, H5P,, etc.), and overseeing an Open Pedagogy Fellowship program that focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For more information about these and other initiatives see:

As open educational practices have gained more traction at KPU more and more of our faculty have been working with students on OER projects. In some cases this has been by hiring student assistants to work on their OER projects (supported by our OER grant program) but in others by integrating renewable assignments or other forms of open pedagogy into their courses. The active and increasing involvement of students in OER creation has prompted a number of questions in my mind, including about how student agency ought to be respected in the context of open pedagogy projects, how the various Creative Commons licenses might be simply and clearly explained to students (and faculty), and how to avoid exploiting student labour in the name of pedagogical innovation.

The main principle which I have attempted to uphold through these deliberations has been the respect of author’s rights, something that is consistent with the values and practices of Creative Commons. In the case of works that are created by students during a program of study there are of course additional complications, including that these works are being created at the direction and with the guidance and feedback of an instructor. Nonetheless, our institutional intellectual property policy (IP) at KPU is clear in specifying that students retain the copyright to works that they create in the course of their program of study.

But the questions that remain include how one might ensure that students are properly informed about their own IP rights (which they may not have considered before), how one might enumerate the options available to the students for licensing their course work, and how one might encourage the use of Creative Commons licensing for open pedagogy projects while ensuring that there is no real or perceived pressure on students to apply a Creative Commons license to their IP.

Over the past six months I worked with my colleagues to help advance two initial strategies to tackle these issues. The first concerned a revision to our institutional IP policy (which was spearheaded by our AVP, Research, Dr. Deepak Gupta) and the second the development of an agreement that a student may use if they wish to apply a Creative Commons license to any works they create in the course of their program of study.

The revised IP policy and procedure (which was adopted earlier this year) includes the several relevant provisions, including:

  1. Students own the IP that they create (including assignments, projects, papers, theses, dissertations, and examinations submitted to the University for evaluation) during their term at the University for which they have not received any Consideration, such as employment income.
  2. Pursuant to the terms of the Copyright Act, copyright protection is automatic for eligible works in Canada.
  3. University Members are encouraged to submit a copy of their copyrighted work in an appropriate repository operated or endorsed by the University, such as Kwantlen Open Resource Access (KORA) or Kaltura.
  4. University Members are free to license or assign any IP they own while preserving the rights of the University associated with that IP, and fulfilling all related legal obligations and commitments.
  5. University Members are encouraged to create and adapt open education resources, publish in open access outlets (including by submitting pre-prints to KORA or another open repository, as permitted by scholarly journals or as required by funders) and adopt open science practices (e.g. pre-registering hypotheses and data analysis plans or sharing research data or materials in an open repository) to maximize access and impact.

Admittedly, that final provision is one that I am especially proud of, because it not only encourages the creation of OER, open access scholarship, and open science practices, but it does not mandate any of these practices.

Our Student Agreement to Publish Course Work under a Creative Commons License (also published earlier this year) was developed in consultation with General Counsel. It includes a set of guidelines for instructors that emphasize the values outlined above while also providing information about the six Creative Commons licenses and the CC0 tool.

Interestingly, one question that arose during its development concerned whether the template ought to include only those Creative Commons licenses that qualify as OER (that is, neither of the licenses which include the ND clause). However, upon reflection, the desire to facilitate informed consent lead us to include all six licenses.

While these two initial strategies are important and practical, there is little doubt in my mind that much more work lies ahead if we are to create an environment in which both our faculty and our students are fully aware of their IP rights and conversant with Creative Commons licensing. Among the options that one might consider are the integration of relevant instruction in our institutional open access repository (where many student-created works will be stored), the prominent display of examples of student-authored works that carry Creative Commons licenses, and the development of brief videos featuring faculty and students involved in open pedagogy projects.

Creative Commons License

Supporting Students’ IP Rights at KPU by Rajiv Jhangiani is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.