One of the coolest things about online education is that it makes it so easy — near effortless — to incorporate multimedia. Pictures, videos, well-written chunks of text, snippets of code… you name it. Those of us with a certain, um, longevity in our educational experience will remember how much difference such a simple thing as a photocopied course reader once made. Instead of having to assign a whole textbook — or not assign it because it was too expensive — the teacher could just give Kinko’s the few pages you needed to read, and everybody was learning.
The challenge is that the easier it is to copy stuff, the easier it is to harm the people who had hoped to make a little money by creating the stuff in the first place, so the more important it becomes to draw lines about what people can or can’t do. The internet creates a whole new world of complications, and for every opportunity, there is an equal and opposite risk.
What does that mean for you as an instructor? In brief, it means you need to pay attention to whether or not you have the right to share a particular thing with your students online.
How do you know whether or not you have that right? Well, that is where Marley Nelson and her colleagues at The Ohio State University’s Libraries’ Copyright Help Center are your friends and allies. As described in the webinar she presented for the Office of Distance Education and eLearning’s Learning and Teaching Academy on Jan. 24, Marley describes a basic set of best practices you can use to answer the kinds of questions that are raised by copyright restrictions in an online world.