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Learning, Authenticity & Online Policy Primers

This year I’ve been enjoying designing and implementing a series of new assignments and assessment techniques with students in our Internet Studies programmes.  One of the most challenging things about working in Internet Studies is trying to make assignments authentic – which basically means doing assignments which can end up being meaningful and, ideally, viewable by the world-at-large on the Internet.  One assignment that has worked particularly well and I thought worth sharing is from the unit Online Politics and Power, which looks at power in various guises and instances online. 

One of the most interesting ways power is deployed online is through those infamous Terms of Use and Terms of Service which 95% of people never read, but always agree to, when signing up for a new service.  So, I thought it’d be useful to ask students to really interrogate the Terms of Service of some online tools and platforms.  More to the point, I wanted this to be a useful assignment beyond the confines of a university unit.  So, I asked students to find a way to communicate the core elements of some Terms of Use in a way that would be accessible to the general public, hence an Online Policy Primer.  (If you’re interested the assignment outline and requirements are online here.)

I have to say, I was blown away by how good the Primers are, and how, ultimately, useful they are, too.  Also, while we did discuss the Creative Commons, I didn’t stipulate that students had to use a CC license, but I was delighted that many chose to do so.  Of those that did, I’d like to share three stand-out examples. 

The first, by Paula (@MXYZ_), takes a close look at Flickr’s Terms of Service and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attributions Share-Alike license [CC BY SA]:

The second, by Simon (@whoisimon) explores the Terms of Service for Slideshare and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike license [CC BY NC SA]:

And the third, and final, policy primer I wanted to highlight is by Chea Hwey Yea, looking at Twitter’s Terms of Service and is also licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike license [CC BY NC SA]:

These are just three examples of the many, many wonderful primers students created; while not everyone used a Creative Commons license, three more Primer’s worth highlighting are a machinima presentation exploring Second Life’s Terms of Service created by Rhys Moult,  Renee Bird’s close look at the Terms of Use for the Multiplayer Online Game Evony, and Veronica Fry’s analysis of YouTube’s Terms of Service.

As you can see, these students have a lot to be proud of and have, in many cases, created Primers which are likely to be useful well beyond the confines of the unit!

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  1. Not sure if my last comment went through to moderation or it didn't work when I posted from iPhone but here goes again.

    Hey Tama, Thanks for the mention. It was originally my intention to post my video as CC BY Share Alike but I could not figure out how to do that using youtube and a download is not permitted under youtube TOS. Having said that I am more than happy for anyone who would like to use my video outside of Youtube to contact me and I would be happy to make it available under a CC BY SA license. f anyone knows a way I can do this on YT I would be happy to be educated.

    Well done to my fellow students 🙂 this was a tough assignment to do well and I think the fact that @MXYZ_ has had so many views is testament to the viral nature of Slideshare as well as her excellent use of CC images from flickr. The philosophy behind the CC movement (if that is what it is) also seems to aid the viral nature of presentations in this media. What I mean is, if you use Creative Commons content and reference it well you are harnessing the networks of the people who's content you use… Just another reason to go CC? It would be interesting to do a study on that….

    • Hi Rhys, Explicit licensing with YouTube is a real hassle and it would be nice it they actually implement the ability to explicitly license with Creative Commons (which they've said they're looking into several times, but no cigar yet). You can always add the license details in the textbox to the side, and add a slide/credit at the end of the video stating the CC license. Otherwise, I prefer to use blip.tv which has no 10 min. limits and allows explicit licensing. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the mention Tama 🙂

    I was ecstatic to find my primer well received on SlideShare and it was also great of Rhys' video to be highlighted in Massively! The assignment allowed us to explore not only the TOS of various websites, but also to explore our creativity and dealing with things like licensing. It's great to be able to share your work online and help benefit others in an engaging way.

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