Copyright training with clickers – evaluation

By Matt Cornock

As part of the Social Media for Social Policy short course I run for students at the University of York, one of the key introductory sessions is on copyright. This session aims to inform students about digital copyright and ensure they do not infringe copyright using third-party works when creating their social media projects.

Teaching copyright is not about the law

After running the copyright session as a straightforward lecture with only minimum discussion in the pilot and second year of running the course, it became apparent that whilst the facts of copyright were being delivered, the session may not have appropriately affected the behaviour of the students. I noticed that some students may hold an ethos where traditional copyright protecting creative work was discordant with the digital age. Unilateral sharing and repurposing of third-party material may be common place behind closed doors and on personal social media, but I was keen to point out that when working as a professional and as part of an organisation, an awareness of copyright is very important in a litigious society (aside from just being morally correct).

Discovering that a change of students’ attitudes may be required, I redesigned my copyright session to enable students to reflect more on their own judgements of what is acceptable when using other people’s creative works. To do this I took an idea that was passed to me by colleagues from the University Library* and that I had used as a starter in the previous incarnations of the session: a short quiz based on the way a movie-maker’s film was used illegally. However, this scenario did not relate well to a typical student. They wouldn’t be mortgaging their homes to fund their social media projects and their work is unlikely to circulate the pirate DVD market. I wanted to find something more nuanced, more realistic and so built upon the original teaching aid to construct a scenario based upon a holiday photo that was posted on a social network.

You can see the full set of scenarios and questions on the slides for this activity available on Slideshare. Please feel free to use this for your own copyright training session:

Enhancing the session with clickers

In-class clickers, or poll tools, are becoming an outmoded technology with the increase of smart-phone based online polling tools, but the argument in favour of clickers stems from the equality of access they provide, independent of a student’s personal technology or connectivity in the classroom. Clickers have to be incorporated into a session with care however. A pop-quiz approach may lead to the session dragging on, and have students learning little but a random stat for a fleeting moment. They can be better used to allow students to express an opinion, without having to admit publicly their point of view. From this, a discussion can follow into which new material can be introduced. This was the approach I took, drawing upon my own experience of music copyright from my radio days, generating and using creative commons resources and copyright advice from the University Library*.

After establishing the overall purpose of the activity, for each scenario the students were asked whether they approved or not of the suggested use by a third-party of a photo they took on holiday (see the slides). Students were given 10 seconds to decide and vote using the clickers,¬†encouraging a ‘gut’ reaction¬†. The results were instantly displayed and for the most part the class collectively swayed one way or another. However, it was the differences of one or two students (and in the case of one question a 50/50 split) that prompted discussion. This immediate polling and structure to the session made an engaging discussion possible.

On the back of each scenario, I asked the students to explain their voting decision. Taking in these considerations, I then explained the applicable copyright law. The students were given the legal context, but more importantly heard perspectives from either side of the argument from their peers. In considering how others may react to a (mis)use of a creative work, students were able to understand how individuals may wish to assert their rights differently. It is this recognition of different perspectives of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ use of material that may encourage students to be more appreciative of copyright law.

Student evaluation of the session

At the end of the short course students were asked to evaluate the sessions by written survey, once they had had a chance to contextualise the content and apply it to their project. There were 12 responses, with 10 giving consent for research use (results below). The copyright session received positive open comments, with two students suggesting improvements by increasing specific detail. In addition, I wanted to know whether the clickers added value to the session and asked students to rate out of four categories the impact of the clickers on their engagement and also their overall enjoyment of the session. The questions were phrased as follows:

The use of clickers on your engagement in the session:

  • Reduced my engagement
  • Made no difference
  • Improved my engagement a bit
  • Improved my engagement a lot

N/A did not attend session

The use of clickers on your enjoyment of the session:

  • Did not enjoy at all
  • Made no difference
  • Enjoyed a little
  • Enjoyed a lot

N/A did not attend session


Bar chart showing student feedback to use of clickers. 10 respondents. Enjoyed a lot: 5. Enjoyed a little: 4. Made no difference to enjoyment: 1. Improved engagement a lot 6. Improved engagement a bit: 3. Made no difference to engagement: 1.

The results show that the use of clickers in this particular session and in with this particular teaching approach were very positively received. 90% said they enjoyed the session (a bit of a feat for copyright, surely?) and 90% said that the use of clickers increased their engagement. One student wrote, “Informative, clickers were useful” and another cited the interactivity from the clickers as a positive.

Whilst I did not categorically ask whether the students felt they ‘learnt’ anything (I do not think that would be a valid question anyway and is better evidenced by their excellent use of creative commons material in their projects), increased engagement and increased enjoyment I believe would lead to more acceptance of copyright awareness as an important element of social media and media project training.

Your experiences

If you teach copyright or include copyright training in your media projects, please do share your experiences using the comments box below.


* Thanks to Susan Halfpenny, Copyright Advisor, University of York Library.

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