Trouble in Free for Teacher...

Blog Post created by Administrator on Aug 6, 2019

Tl;dr Some people are abusing public courses and we need to stop that.


One of my favorite things about Canvas, when I discovered it back in 2011, was and is Free-for-Teacher (FFT went live back in 2010).  For anyone not familiar, FFT is a fully-featured production instance of Canvas where anyone in the world may request to have a teacher role user account, create as many courses as they choose to that will remain open as long as the teacher chooses, and invite as many students and fellow educators to sign up and participate.  FFT lets anyone try Canvas for free and brings an egalitarian element to Canvas that we think is an important element of Instructure’s DNA.


One quality of FFT is that teachers can choose to have their courses only accessible by participants, accessible to anyone who is logged into Canvas, or publicly viewable by anyone with access to the Internet (documented here).  Many educators like the option to open their courses up to anyone who might want to follow along, for any reason.  Other people use Public courses as a way to showcase their instructional design skills or as a kind of eportfolio. Unfortunately, some people also use public courses for more nefarious purposes including sharing pirated intellectual property, SEO/spamming content and also other content that goes against what Instructure and the Canvas Community stand for.  The Instructure Security team spends a saddening amount of time cleaning up these abuses which unfortunately seem to be affecting a growing number of people reporting the abuse.


So, the question before us is how to maintain the best aspects of FFT while also making it impossible or at least much more difficult for some people to abuse what we have.  Could the community play an oversight role? Are there technology solutions that could be brought to bear? What do you think?