Protecting your Training IP: It's About Respect

Training content development is a time-consuming process.  Like developing good software, good roads, good buildings, or good books, a lot of time and skilled effort goes into the planning and execution of course content.  Once developed, the content is sent into the wilds of the training class with students who are eager to learn.  Trainers and instructors, spending countless hours prepping for the class, deliver that class in a fraction of prep time to the student in an effort to help them retain as much as possible in their long term memory while using the memory aides provided by the course material.  Factors like cognitive load, timing, multiple training and learning styles, even colors and fonts are agonized over for months before good training materials are released.  A reflection of this dedication to the student is the price of the materials, often spread out across the target audience. Some books can cost up to hundreds of dollars because of the limited scope, yet unlimited quality.  

And then someone goes and photo-copies the book, sneaks in students into a class without paying, and thinks that's okay because they are somehow entitled.  

I'm a firm believer in the idea that knowledge should be free.  Society has nothing to lose and everything to gain by sharing knowledge, providing information in an easy to share format and spreading it as quickly as possible.  But just because knowledge is free doesn't mean that efforts made by those who put tremendous effort into developing their course materials, preparing the presentation of that material, working hard to develop an environment that fosters learning, exchange of ideas, and provide value to the attendee should be devalued.  When someone sneaks into a class without paying the requisite fee (if one is required), that person immediately devalues the trainer's and the course developer's efforts by making them worthless.  It's akin to saying, "I don't owe you anything for your work, because that work isn't worth anything to me but consumption".  

Perhaps it's because of some misguided attitude toward education in general in this nation, where for some reason achievement is met with scorn and ridicule, teachers are regularly dismissed as ineffectual because students refuse to achieve, and people are quicker to place blame than look for solutions.  And yet, even in the corporate environment were *everything* has value, this same position is taken.  Training is something that can be dismissed as a luxury, because employees should "just know" or "figure it out".  

It's been a very long time since I've posted anything about the development of training materials, mostly because life experiences with autism in my family have taken the foremost position in my focus outside of work.  But now, with my new position at Training Delivery Manager for the Americas at ServiceNow, the importance of respecting the training material, trainer, and presentation has been weighing heavily on my mind.  I've dealt with situations in the past where, after spending months developing training materials at the University of Utah were devalued as students would take my manual back with them, photo-copy it, and then "teach their own class".  They use the work I put into my craft for their own ends, not taking into account my efforts or the rights of the University, who directly owned that intellectual property.  On the other hand, when I assisted in developing exercises for the Apple Training materials on Server Essentials, I was paid for those efforts.  I'm sure in some areas the same thing happened, though at this time the publisher (Peachpit Press) was the wronged party, because they paid for my intellectual property.  

Some developers release their training materials under the GPL or similar licenses, which means they release it into the public domain.  I commend their choice, and respect their own valuation of materials.  Some release knowledge in this format, yet the books still cost money (cost of editing, printing, etc.), which explains the cost of the physical materials.  The content, on the other hand, can be freely copied for the purpose of the user.  But this is a rare occurance outside of the Linux realm.  Most training materials are not released this way. 

Why do I bring this up?  Because every training class I have ever written, developed, or delivered represented a real cost in labor and materials.  They represent real value to the student, and therefore deserve respect.  Stealing training by copying training materials against copyright, or sitting a class without paying, all represent a poor valuation of training and those that work so hard to make sure you learn what you need.  You wouldn't expect to pay nothing for a good meal which feeds you for a day, how can you expect to pay nothing for knowledge that can feed you for a lifetime?