Switching to online classes has been a hard transition for a lot of people. For the most part, students still prefer in-person teaching – as do the teachers themselves. However, the pandemic has made remote learning non-optional for pretty much everyone.
One student at Concordia University recently discovered their online class was even more unusual than the others, however.
Concordia University student, Aaron Ansuini, wanted to contact his professor to clarify something from a video lecture he’d watched as part of the class but realized that the Blackboard site (Blackboard is a commonly used online teaching platform) didn’t list contact information for his professor. When he went to Google the professor’s name, François-Marc Gagnon, he quickly realized that Gagnon was no longer living.
A surprising revelation
Ansuini admits that at first, he thought the obituary he found was a strange coincidence – that the man who had passed just happened to have the same name as his professor. However, after a little more digging it became perfectly clear that there was only one François-Marc Gagnon.
Ansuini told The Verge, “It was weird and very scary” also adding that he doesn’t, “really even want to watch the lectures anymore” citing that it makes him sad to watch. He attempts to combat this by spreading out the lectures between work & lectures from other classes.
Ansuini also points out that this class now feels more like a website class like Skillshare than it does a university course. Without the ability to talk to a teacher there’s no access to expertise or assistance when necessary – the whole point of having a professor instead of just handing out textbooks is to have the guidance of a real person.
For many people talking to a professor regularly is a critical part of their education. This can either be due to a need to ask clarifying questions, a desire to learn more information about the subject, or a way to show professors they’re accountable even if they’re struggling to keep up with coursework due to personal issues or a disability.
Having recycled coursework administered by a teacher’s assistant is not at all useful for these people.
Is this legal?
Some people are wondering if using the professor’s recording post mortem is even legal. Most think that while it might be incredibly distasteful it’s not necessarily illegal.
One professor on Twitter pointed out that the Blackboard platform often won’t allow you to delete videos once you’ve uploaded them. Another professor stated that if they record class lectures through Blackboard the university owns the copyright . . . but if they record the video through a third-party and then upload the content the professor retains copyright.
Each university has different policies but various folks from higher education stated that many universities lay claim to intellectual property created by professors. This means that the university can use any materials created by a professor however they please – whether the teacher is dead or alive.
What’s the point?
University students have been lamenting the rising cost of education for a long time now and it isn’t unheard of for them to ask what exactly their money is paying for. It would seem the class “taught” by François-Marc Gagnon has even more reason to ask this.
Not only are they not utilizing the Concordia University campus, but they’re also not using any learning materials or even the time of a living professor. At this point, it seems a worthy question to ask exactly why they’re paying for the course when they could just as easily buy a used textbook from Amazon and read it in their free time for far cheaper.
What do you think? Is using a deceased professor’s class material distasteful or do you think it’s a logical thing for Concordia University to do? Let us know in the comments below!