You may find yourself deciding to provide your coursework over the internet or from a remote location, since it is much cheaper to go down this route. However, both of these routes are risky.
If another provider gave the same information which you put together for a lower price, then this would significantly reduce your earnings. So, if nothing else scares you as a course provider, then the loss of your current and potential income should as it would mean all the time and resources you spent creating the content will be for naught.
So, if you are remotely providing your course material, you have to protect yourself from the above eventuality.
The first step would be to categorize all the information in your course, depending on the controls you would need to apply. For example, it would be pointless to protect a document in your course that contains information freely available in the public domain. If you do protect such documents, some customers may feel as though they are paying for more than they are getting.
Also, you need to consider which documents you will allow the user to print or not to print? Remember, once they print a document, they can scan it into a PDF and share it as their own and so you have to be very picky with that. If you did allow printing of some documents, it would be good to add dynamic watermarking so that each user’s details are displayed whenever he or she prints or uses a document. This will discourage the sharing of any printed material as you can trace the piracy back to a specific individual.
Copy prevention should be a top priority. Computers and other electronic devices have made copying and pasting rather easy and so you cannot blame your users for taking full advantage of that capability. What you can do is use DRM to reduce that functionality, making it impossible to copy and paste or use proprietary screen grabber apps.
Often, you will find that you need to provide the course for only a limited amount of time. If availability is unlimited, someone might use that time to copy the work manually. This necessitates setting an end date by which users need to finish with the coursework. Also, if they are aware of such an end date and its enforcement, the users will be much more likely to take the course more seriously.
All the above restrictions are still not enough. Some people will still attempt new ways to get around the controls. After all, it may even provide them with a revenue stream. In such cases, monitoring how they use particular documents would be ideal. And, if any red flags come up, then the capability to revoke user access instantly may come in handy. You are better off giving a refund than allowing someone to take away your revenue stream. Revoking access may also be useful when you are giving out trial periods on your course.
If you work in a school, then you may go a step further to lock a document’s use to the school premises. This will ensure that the students do not go home with the coursework and they will thus have to study in the school building. You can even widen this circumference to a country if you so wish.
Not everyone has an internet connection. So offline and online use is something you have to consider. For those who do not have internet access, using USB sticks with the security measures described above, document viewer, and the documents in question could be an option. Some providers offer such capabilities and this should be at the top of your list when you pursue your coursework security.
Once you have defined appropriate controls for each document in your course, you are ready to accept students. They will subscribe to the course and all the documents in it will be available to them with the security measures in place. One significant advantage of this type of security is that there is no need for passwords as document DRM systems generally use public key technology with transparent key management. This means there are no passwords for users to enter, share or forget or for you to manage. Good DRM systems also make sure no temporary files are created on users’ devices. As such, no unsecured versions of your course documents will be available when you use DRM.
Finally, with your livelihood on the line, investing in a document DRM system to enforce all the above controls should be a no brainer. The initial cost might not be all that appealing, but the benefits offered by them will make the investment worth it.
What are your thoughts on the matter?