Blended Learning | Features
Creating a Course-Specific EULA
End user license agreements can allow professors teaching online to go beyond the syllabus by requiring students to agree to terms set forth before they even begin the class. Anderson University Associate Professor Emmett Dulaney explains how.
- By Emmett Dulaney
Expectations from faculty and what students deliver often differ greatly. No matter how many attempts a faculty member may make to convey the requirements of the course or explain the essentials, there will always be one or more students who revert to the all-too-familiar excuse that they did not know or understand what was expected of them.
One method of nullifying these excuses is to have each student agree to the requirements and expectations upfront. In a course that includes an online component--whether it is wholly online or a hybrid model--one possibility for obtaining agreement is through the implementation of a course-specific contract modeled after the end user license agreements (EULA) that accompany software. Upon first accessing the online component of the course, each student would be required to agree to the terms of the agreement before being allowed to enroll in that module.
Traditionally, an end user license agreement is a contract that dictates the limits of a user's interactions with a particular piece of software. The EULA discusses what rights the user has, what the user's license to using the software entails, and limits or forbids a user from doing certain things to or with the software. Essentially, the EULA is an agreement between the end user and the people who made and distributed the software and is something that anyone familiar with computing has encountered on a regular basis. While an individual user may argue that they never fully read a EULA, the fact remains that they had to agree to the terms of it before being allowed to use the product.
A more formal definition of EULA states: "An End User License Agreement (EULA) is a legal contract between a software application author or publisher and the user of that application. The EULA, often referred to as the "software license," is similar to a rental agreement; the user agrees to pay for the privilege of using the software, and promises the software author or publisher to comply with all restrictions stated in the EULA. The user is asked to indicate they that "accept" the terms of the EULA by opening the shrink wrap on the application package, breaking the seal on the CD case, sending a card back to the software publisher, installing the application, executing a downloadable file, or by simply using the application. The user can refuse to enter into the agreement by returning the software product for a refund or clicking "I do not accept" when prompted to accept the EULA during an install"
It is important to note that the EULA, as defined here, is a bidirectional covenant, and this serves as a key distinction separating it from a syllabus. A common syllabus for a course spells out what is expected, but lacks an ability for the student to "promise…to comply with all restrictions" and indicate that they "accept" the terms.
Professors who teach online or have online components to their courses have a unique opportunity to create a course-specific agreement, or EULA, and deliver it electronically through their course management system the first time students access the course. That agreement can specifically address the unique issues associated with the particular course and what is expected of the students. The discussion should include information on what the student can do individually, what they must seek approval for, and the communication expectations for the course.
Having a EULA presents an opportunity for professors to tailor the agreement to fit his or her beliefs about student motivation. For example, as students grow to understand the significance of the correlation between workplace skills and the learning environment, they can be inspired to actively pursue their personal motivation to learn (D'Aloisio, 2006). As described by Forsyth and McMillan (1991), individuals react to intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivators are things such as the love of learning or a deep appreciation of the material. Extrinsic motivators are rewards and punishments. If, for example, a professor believes students are lazy and motivated only by fear, then the professor would draft an agreement that states students are required to communicate updates every day or lose a grade for each day they fail to do so. Similarly, if the professor believes students are inherently dishonest, the agreement would address issues associated with that.
Research has shown that students who are faced with frequent extrinsic motivation, such as list of rules and regulations constantly tossed their way, are actually harmed academically (Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 2001). The motivators are often perceived by students as a lack of trust on the part of the instructor. The advantage of the EULA is that it provides all of the necessary information one time in one location and does not require constant reminding.
The agreement can also be modified depending on the level of the class being taught. Typical undergraduate classes need more structure than advanced ones. Adults tend to be self-directed and adult learning programs should accommodate that.
As an instructor, the benefits of implementing a course-specific agreement are plentiful. The agreement provides professors a venue for students to agree to specific terms prior to enrolling in their courses. Professors can then counter excuses of not knowing with proof of acknowledgement at the first sign-in.
Below is an example of a course-specific agreement for a social media course to be delivered electronically the first time students in an online class, or students participating in a class with online components, log on to their course management system. Students must agree to the terms specified in order to participate in the course. The draft includes expectations that can be linked to objectives and agreement that what is listed there is vital to success (Caboni, Mundy, & Deusterhaus, 2002). By spelling these issues out in the agreement, there cannot be any "hidden" expectations.
This template can be freely modified and expanded to meet the needs of individual institutions or professors.
Student End User License Agreement: Social Media
A. Student responsibilities
- Comply with all rules of the University and student handbook and any amendments to this agreement
- Comply with the course syllabus
- Attend all classes or online sessions
- Log into the University email at least once per day
- Log into the course Blackboard at least once per day
- Submit homework assignments by 11:59 pm on the assigned due date
- Complete tests by 11:59 pm on the assigned date
- Come prepared to each class session
- Utilize quality sources for research
B. License to use your submitted materials and your warranty
- Student submissions are property of the university to use. By accepting this agreement, you grant a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sub-licensable, fully paid up and royalty-free right to the university to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, process, analyze, use, and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, any information you provide, directly or indirectly to the university, including, but not limited to, any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques or data to the services, you submit to the course or University, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or to any third parties. Any information you submit to us is at your own risk of loss.
- Further, you warrant that by providing information to us, you represent and warrant that you are entitled to submit the information and that the information is accurate, not confidential, and not in violation of any contractual restrictions or other third party rights.
C. Sign-in credentials
- You agree to: (1) Keep your password secure and confidential; (2) not permit others to use your account; (3) refrain from using other users' accounts; (4) refrain from selling, trading, or otherwise transferring your university or course account to another party; and (5) refrain from charging anyone for access to any portion of the course, or any information therein. Further, you are responsible for anything that happens through your account until you close down your account or prove that your account security was compromised due to no fault of your own.
D. Course application software
- This course uses third party software such as Blackboard. Access to this software is licensed by the university. The student is responsible for due care when using University software and adherence to the third party license agreements.
E. User-to-user communication and sharing
- All information communicated whether required by the syllabus or spontaneously done of the student's own volition is the responsibility of the student.
- The information must comply with this agreement, the student handbook, and intellectual property laws.
- Blogs and chats conducted within the online classroom setting must comply with sexual or racial harassment laws and student handbook rules.
Our Rights and Obligations
- The university complies with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), as amended.
- The professor will keep confidential all student information, except those required by the university or governed by law.
- The university reserves the right to monitor, save, and retrieve any and all information and communication using school property, including email and course content management such as Blackboard.
B. Third party sites
- The course or materials may have links to third party sites. These links are provided for educational purposes only and are not necessarily an endorsement nor is all content specifically approved by the course, the professor or the university.
- The student assumes all risks in assessing these sites. No warranty is implied and the student will hold the University and the professor harmless in the event of any harm or cost incurred with such access.
A. Misuse of the services
- The instructor may restrict, suspend, or terminate the account of any user who abuses or misuses the services. Misuse of the services includes abusing the course messaging services, infringing on intellectual property rights, or any behavior deemed to be infringing under the United States Copyright Act.
B. Effect of termination
- Upon the termination of your account, you will lose access to the services.
Acknowledgement of the Agreement:
Please acknowledge that you have read and understood this agreement and that you agree to abide by it by clicking the accept button.
Kathyrn Chambers of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Rick Gascho, Jr. from the Business Development Center in Brno, Czech Republic, Brad Gatlin of Bryan College, Eric Green at Ivy Tech State College, Shawn Newhouse of Cornerstone University, Daniel Sterkenburg of Cedarville University, Ryan Whisler at Ohio Christian University, Charles Williams from Southern Wesleyan University, and Brian Zinser of Lake Superior State University contributed to this article.
Caboni, T.C., Mundy. M.E., & Duesterhaus, M.B. (2002). The implications of the norms in undergraduate college students for faculty enactment of principles of good practice in undergraduate education. Peabody Journal of Education, 77(3), 125-137.
Cassidy, S. & Eachus, P. (2000). Learning style, academic belief systems, self-report student proficiency and academic achievement in higher education. Educational Psychology, 20(3), 307-322.
D'Alosio, A. (2006). Motivating Today's College Students. Peer Review, 9(1), 18-21.
Deci, E.L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R.M. (2001). Extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation in education: Reconsidered once again. Review of Educational Research, 71(1), 1-27.
Forsyth, D. R., and McMillan, J. H. (1991). "Practical Proposals for Motivating Students." In R. J. Menges and M. D. Svinicki (eds.), College Teaching: From Theory to Practice. New Directions in Teaching and Learning, no. 45. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.