Concerned Learning Material Developers


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    Nigel Shipston

    Hi All,

    This has been something of an enlightening year regarding unethical practices coming to light in the training industry, in particular with regard to Learning Materials. I figured this would be a good time to let all fellow developers be aware of these practices and to take the necessary precautionary measures.

    In April I was to discover that a long standing client training provider, some 11 years, had resold materials which he originally purchased from me, without either my knowledge or consent.  This PE based Lifting Machinery Operator training provider, was confronted regarding this and came up with all sorts of stories and lies to cover their actions, all of which have subsequently been proven otherwise with physical evidence.  Then, lo and behold, evidence comes to light that this same training provider supplied my materials, SmartScript materials and free SETA materials to another start up training provider for some horrendous amount of money!

    I have subsequently rescinded my authorisation for this training provider to use my materials and advised TETA accordingly, which should result in accreditation being withdrawn, as all his current accreditation is based on my TETA approved materials.  Despite attempts to get this training provider to admit to their wrongdoing, the owner continues to act as if he is the “injured” party and has every right to do what he did.

    Following a little background checking, it appears that this person has something of a habit of being free and easy with other peoples materials, having been formerly a Transnet employee where it is alleged that similar incidents occurred during his term there.

    There are 2 things that require attention here.  First, the SAPS will not open a fraud case (despite overwhelming evidence of fraud) unless there is some form of signed agreement/contract in which it has been clearly stipulated that the rights to the material are retained by the developer.  Felt almost like I had to supply all the evidence so that investigators would be able to accept the case and close it immediately.  Second, This provider will no doubt go looking for other material to support his accreditation.  Please be cautious with any sales of materials and be aware that the risk of having your intellectual property freely distributed without your knowledge or consent is high.  There are some materials that of which I have not been able to identify the author, but it is clear that there are other developers materials in among the evidence I have collected so far.

    Unfortunately, during this year I was to discover a number of such incidents, and while most of the incidents have been resolved, the frequency of this practice is alarming. I have no doubt that there will be more cases discovered and some will slip under the radar, but to a large degree I have the support of TETA ETQA Practitioners who are aware of my material and are able to identify whether it has been acquired legitimately or not.

    Whatever happened to the good old days of trust and honour?

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    Hi, Nigel.
    Your frustration is justified, but unfortunately, until the SETA’s (all of them) start taking their responsibility in verifying material developers seriously, your anger is tantamount to sweeping water uphill with a rake!

    I suppose the only way you can try and get around this is by never providing your materials in an editable format, protecting pdf documents with passwords only you know and allowing the SDP to only print but never copy or edit, and develop all materials sold in the template of the SDP to whom you have sold it.

    Yes I know that there are numerous ways around copying the materials, but there are many ways to skin a cat.

    Louise Sterling

    Sorry to hear this Nigel. The same thing happened to Eduwrite with our Level 4 ECD qualification. The unscrupulous seller (I don’t know how they acquired our material) could sell at a cheap price because they had no development costs. I was in the absurd situation of having to drop my prices because I was competing with my own material!!! 

    Nigel Shipston

    Unscrupulous is probably an accurate description of miscreant in the incident I described.  They have no conscience regarding either the developers rights or those of the people they manage to convince of their “goodwill”.  In the two incidents I initially discovered, there is what appears to be a total of around R200k involved, most of which was footed by the start up training provider.  They had, in all their innocence, accepted this wonderful “help” with their accreditation that had been offered, and were nearly bankrupted before the cracks in the “help” started becoming apparent.

    I just felt it was important for other developers to be aware that these practices are pretty rife out there and we need to be aware and vigilant of whom we are dealing with.  Not easy, there are no guarantees even with signed contracts or agreements.  I have my own ways and means of sorting out these issues.  I am afraid that when someone betrays a trust, the gloves are off.  And in particular this incident, my concern for other developers is that he will try and procure other materials to support his accreditation, and that these other materials will be equally subject to abuse.  This history appears to run over a couple of decades, so there is no doubt that it has become a habit.

    Lynel Farrell

    Hi Nigel, this issue have been making the rounds, there is no solution to this problem, no list of unethical and fraudulent individuals/companies that conduct this kind of business, so the providers that are going through this, have no backup.  At first we wanted to name and shame, keep a list, but this cannot be published, as we will have attorneys knocking on our doors.  Where do we go from here?  How do we protect providers?  This issue have even gone to SAQA, but they were not able to assist, it has gone to Setas, but they also do not have a solution nor guidance that can assist.  We know this is going on, been taken for rides, lost a lot of money and have to live with the consequences.  Somehow, there must be a solution.

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