Second hand shopping for elearning

Hand pushing virtual search bar

I have a passion for secondhand shopping. I often find useful, quality, beautiful items discarded by previous owners just waiting for me to breathe life back into them. The same goes with content that already exists in places like the internet.

Once the learning objectives for a course are sorted, I start hunting for what exists already so I don’t have to create everything from new. One of my favourite places to secondhand shop for content is YouTube. There are millions of videos on YouTube, most without copyright conditions, and some very high quality that would take hours to develop.

When I find relevant content this doesn’t mean my development and instructional design is done for me – I now need to think of how to utilise it. Is it pre-course work or a motivator? Will it be used to introduce a point, emphasise a point, tell a story, will it be used as an activity starter, or even as a summary? There are a multitude of ways to use already existing content.

When using ‘second hand’ content always keep copyright in mind. Check if the resource has copyright on it – most YouTube videos are fine but a few do have copyright or viewing conditions. Acknowledge the source, this may be as simple as making sure the original source can be tracked back. Look at the embedded videos later in this post you will see you can track them all back to YouTube where they were originally uploaded.

Below are a couple of examples of my latest secondhand content finds. For each of these videos I designed an activity around it that directly related to the learning objectives of the course. Imagine the time it would have taken to create each of these from scratch.

This video supported a learning objective about information overload:

This video supported a learning objective around advantages and disadvantages for ICT information sharing:

Do you partake in secondhand content shopping? What strategies do you use for re-purposing other people’s content?

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No-one likes a cheat!

No-one likes a cheat!


I recently saw a disgrunted tweet from a big elearning company because another smaller elearning company had blantantly copied a significant amount of their blog word by word then posted it in their own blog the next day. Needless to say they were taken back that another company had copied their hard work without even acknowledging the source! The sad fact is that this sort of behaviour is not uncommon… I’ve come across this kind of cheating frequently where people pass off others work as their own. For example, I worked for one agency where an instructional designer created course content directly from the web by copying and pasting the text from different websites to create their “own” content for their training guides.

This kind of cheating is wrong and unnecessary. Especially when we can create original content easily and without having to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel. Here are a couple of ways in which you can use what already exists without cheating.

Acknowledge your source

The first most obvious way to avoid cheating or plagiarising is to acknowledge your source (University 101). If someone has a good idea paraphrase them or directly quote while acknowledging the source. It is perfectly acceptable to do this as you are illustrating how you are using someone else’s idea to build your own.

Also, when using someone else’s web content, such as a Youtube video, you can link directly to the external content from within your elearning course. This way the learner can see who produced the video as it hasn’t been embedded (and potentially changed) in your course.

Use stock sites

Looking for free images can often be a false economy with the extra time spent searching for the right image that doesn’t have copyright restrictions. Graphic images, sounds and music are often heavily copyrighted and rightfully so. For this reason it makes sense to put aside a budget in each elearning project to purchase images and/or music off a stock site. Purchasing off a stock site means that you don’t have to worry about copyright. Also stock items are high quality and relatively cheap in comparison to the effort of initially creating.

Here’s some stock sites I frequently use:

In short you don’t have to cheat to produce a low budget elearning course (or blog for that fact). What strategies do you use to avoid cheating while still working smart?