why I don’t use lessons from 3rd party sites

and you shouldn’t either

I do not recommend the regular use of materials from third party (whether for-profit or not-for-profit) lesson sharing websites. While teachers may sometimes run across a good supplement for an individual unit, using these sources as a major part of a course has several issues.


Many public school teachers are accustomed to the expansive fair use policy that applies to in-classroom use of copyrighted material. However, that fair use does not apply to materials they create and sell on lesson sharing websites—and so copyright infringement is rampant on these websites. Even when teachers create materials from scratch and sell it online, they may be violating copyright laws.

In addition, copyright law for face-to-face classes does not automatically translate to their online classes. Teachers may be held liable for posting materials that violate copyright, even when purchased in good faith. Fair use online means that the material must be “integral” to the class—not a cute supplementary worksheet or fun activity. Last, teachers cannot allow students to download the copyrighted material, and teachers must keep copyrighted material password protected. These requirements make it difficult for an online teacher to use materials from third party (whether for-profit or not-for-profit) lesson sharing websites.


Good teachers differentiate their instruction. When teachers purchase lessons from third party (whether for-profit or not-for-profit) lesson-sharing websites, the lessons have been made as to be as generic as possible for sale to the widest possible market. Products are rarely aimed at more than the average student. Online teachers have to differentiate in ways that classroom teachers don’t, so this is an added burden.


Completing a random worksheet because it is what a teacher can find the night before doesn’t lead to the same educational result as a carefully designed worksheet that’s part of coordinated plan of instruction. Curriculum design is a science, and most lessons from third party (whether for-profit or not-for-profit) lesson-sharing websites are poor, with bad directions, bad assignments, bad assessments, bad depth of knowledge, bad knowledge-building, little support for diverse learners—and they’re often boring.

Generic content from these websites is designed to produce paper products, because a document is what is sold. Learning happens in the mind, not on adorable papers that parents can hang on the refrigerator. In addition, online teachers cannot assume their students have working printers.

Opportunity Cost

Content specific courses require big investments of teacher time and expertise in differentiating the off-the-shelf content for their students. Online teachers cannot easily differentiate on the fly, (“Tommy, only do every other question.”), and so by the time the teacher finishes customizing their purchase, they might as well have created the material from scratch. High quality online instruction means these materials don’t save time.

Don’t spend money on lessons from third party (whether for-profit or not-for-profit) lesson-sharing websites.

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