Online courses offer skills and knowledge the learners need, and provide course completion certificates that can be added to the learner’s portfolio. However, if a learner consumes the pirated course content from some torrent site, they have no way of proving their claims on course completion with an appropriate certificate they can demonstrate to a potential employer. As a result, many online courses offer certificates for small costs or any other way for the author to earn money and cover the expenses of online course creation.
Quite opposite, in corporate training keeping certain information available to a strictly defined range of learners can be crucial (company know-hows, sales hacking techniques, etc.) For example, the aforementioned scandal with Udemy offering pirated courses affected the platform's popularity greatly back in 2015. This is why many companies devote significant effort to developing means of content security. One such effort is Content Security xBlock from Raccoon Gang, which is currently under development. We will update you once it’s ready.
There is much more to this. Information by itself is no longer a value, as even NASA patents catalogue 2017-18 is available for public use. Anyone can get literally any educational information on their own and master any skill, given enough time and effort. The problem is that there is a lack of motivation, as the learners nowadays can rarely concentrate for prolonged periods of time, needed to consume all the content of an online course.
The effort devoted to completing the paid course leads to accomplishing the training goals in full, which is rarely achieved using pirated materials
This is where the opportunity for the course authors lies. They can provide subject matter consultancy or paid courses that ensure that the learner who decides to take them will get the needed result. In addition, when people get something for free they do not appreciate it as much as the course they paid a significant sum of money to attend. This is a strong motivational factor.
Benefits of paid courses vs pirated content
When the learners decide to take a paid course or attend a paid seminar/webinar, they take into account several important factors, which mean much more than just content quality:
- Usefulness. The learners want to get the skills and knowledge they need
- Assistance. The learners need guarantees they will be able to comprehend these skills and knowledge (the SME will help them understand complicated moments if need be)
- Engagement. Gamification in terms of scoreboards, rewards for achievements, friendly challenges within the community — all of this helps keep the learners focused and trying their best to achieve good training results.
- Motivation. The learners need guarantees they will not lose focus (lack of inner motivation can be replaced with strict external motivation: deadlines for tests, grading, scores needed to pass the exams)
- Collaboration. People are social beings, so the learners expect intense communication with the course staff and collaboration with other course participants. This builds self-esteem and satisfaction from feeling oneself a part of a team.
- Completeness. Completing a proprietary course grants lifetime access to the materials and allows reassessing them at the point of need. Practical tasks oftentimes form a complete project that can be added to the portfolio.
This means the effort devoted to completing the paid course leads to accomplishing the training goals in full, which is rarely achieved using pirated materials.
Online course content security measures
Thus said, while online courseware is widely pirated, there are certain actions the course author or admin can do to safeguard their content, as described in the aforementioned article on online course security against piracy. Here are certain actions a course author can do to safeguard their content:
- Adding watermarks to the videos so they cannot be distributed under another brand so easily
- Regularly mentioning the name of the MOOC platform the course is deployed to
- Separating teasers and pleasers, where videos contain only teasers and pleasers are stored in other units, like in Problems.
- Making forum collaboration an essential part of the course completion
- Delivering certain important pieces of the course material via online events (webinars) only, so avoiding attending them renders the course obsolete.
- Adding the learner’s personal details or credentials to the video, so screen capturing will disclose the private data, etc.
However, even if your courseware is pirated — it’s not bad as this content shows your expertise in teaching certain knowledge, while applying this expertise (for consultancy or evaluation) provides income.
For example, Microsoft provides their courses for free, but charges for the certificate. Why do people strive to obtain it? Because being a Microsoft-certified specialist means being a true subject matter expert. When your expertise is so high that a certificate issued by you becomes a sign of quality - you don’t need to sell the content, you can earn by providing your evaluation services.
And if your expertise is not high enough — maybe you shouldn’t try to instruct others?