Preparing Summer Course Materials

Although agreeing to teach online this summer may feel like yet another emergency response to COVID-19, the additional time to prepare – more than one week! – shifts your summer online course out of emergency status into regular online education. If you read my earlier post on Getting Course Materials to Your Students or referenced the Rapidly Shifting Courses library support page, then you know that I advocated strong fair use allowances for remote teaching this semester. I stand by those recommendations for spring courses, but must temper them for summer. Things that you might be doing now to boost student access to textbooks and other course materials can’t be duplicated in your summer course. 

Since you have more than one week to prepare for your summer online course, you have time to strategically consider course materials within the scope of a fully online course. Pedagogical aims and learning outcomes are priority considerations, but I encourage you not to simply rely on the materials you use for an in-person course. Digital course materials, particularly those that are openly available, enable more flexibility and equitable access for both you and your students. And as COVID-19 continues to create challenges, from supply chain disruptions to tightened family budgets to the ongoing closure of ZSR Library, seeking different types of materials for your online course may be to everyone’s benefit. 

Things They’ll Read

With stay-at-home orders likely extending at least through May, continued supply chain disruption and student household budget concerns must be factors in your course materials selection. Avoid a print-only option if you can. Try to avoid a digital version that requires a specific device or app, e.g. an Amazon Kindle ebook. And know that if you do assign print texts, students who are abroad may encounter delays in purchasing and receiving textbooks that are published in the U.S. – if they can purchase them at all. A great goal, at least in the short term, is to default to using course materials that are available digitally. If those materials are also available in print for those who prefer it, then all the better.

First Step, Check ZSR!

If you already know that materials you want to assign are in ZSR digital collections, you can link to them directly! There’s no need to download and post the PDF. Be sure to copy the “permalink” or “stable” URL (not what’s in the address bar), which will prompt your students to log in with their WFU credentials. 

If you don’t know if materials are available digitally, Course Reserves at ZSR is a great option at all times, including during the COVID-19 closure. That said, ZSR cannot purchase any new materials, print or digital, and our staff cannot enter the building to access our print collection, so our ability to provide course reserves is limited to our digital collections or to materials we can request via interlibrary loan (which itself is limited, since most academic libraries are closed). Don’t let this stop you from submitting course reserves requests, just know that we may not be able to fulfill all of them. 

And if you sort of know what you want to assign but aren’t sure where to start, you can always ask your library liaison for help in locating materials, both in ZSR collections and beyond. 

Open Textbooks & OER

If you can find an open textbook or educational materials that meet your pedagogical goals and your students can use for free, great! The Open Textbook Library has over 700 peer-reviewed open textbooks that you and your students can download for free to the device of your choice or purchase at a very affordable rate if print is preferred. And Open Educational Resources (OER), encompassing more materials than just textbooks, can be reused and remixed, tailored to your specific learning outcomes. Kyle Denlinger, Digital Pedagogy & Open Education Librarian, can help you with open textbooks and OER discovery. Read more about OER for Access, Equity, & Agency.

HathiTrust Digital Library

HathiTrust Digital Library has established the Emergency Temporary Access Service for member institutions – Wake Forest is a member – enabling access to full-text digital copies of books that are currently inaccessible in libraries’ print collections. For ZSR, this means that 47% of our print collection is available through HathiTrust. Students, faculty, and staff are able to access digital books when they log in with their WFU credentials. ETAS will remain open to Wake Forest affiliates until we are able to return to ZSR. Do note that there are restrictions on use and other additional details to know before you use the collection.

National Emergency Library

Another online resource is the National Emergency Library hosted by the Internet Archive. Over 1.4 million digital books are freely available for borrowing for up to 14 days. Internet Archive, the host of NEL, is committed to keeping the NEL open until at least June 30th. Users will need to create an account with the Internet Archive to access the texts. Although designated “national,” the NEL is available worldwide, so your international students are able to use this digital library. [N.B. – There’s some controversy over the NEL and copyright. If you want context, chat with me.]

But What About All Those Free Books from Publishers?

You may have seen or been contacted by vendors and publishers who are providing free access to ebooks and digital textbooks in response to the emergency shift to remote teaching this semester. While this is wonderful for spring courses, this free access cannot be relied upon for summer courses. Many of these options are set to expire on or around May 25th. Even if the access period extends beyond May 25th, there may be a point at which access is suspended or students are asked to pay for continued use as summer online courses aren’t “emergency” courses. Therefore it is best to seek other options.

Things They’ll Watch

Films and multimedia and streaming and sharing. Perpetually tricky, even in the best of times. Showing an entire movie or film or musical work presents legal and technical issues in online courses. Whereas in classrooms you (usually) can screen multimedia for the entire class, you (usually) can’t do so online. So if your course requires access to films or musical works, plan for your students to access multimedia materials individually, and possibly only through commercial streaming options. Do not screen the film synchronously or rip and upload to Canvas – that’s asking for copyright trouble. If you cannot find what you need anywhere online, let me know and we can discuss further options.

ZSR Presents…

Before you require students to pay for multimedia access, check to see if the library offers a licensed streaming option. ZSR provides access to over 46,000 streaming media titles. You and your students can access these films to view asynchronously, then come together to discuss them however you decide. Be sure to remind students to connect to campus servers via VPN to ensure full access.

Free or “Free” Online Streaming

Depending on the nature of the multimedia you assign, it may be freely available on YouTube or Vimeo or elsewhere. It may also be available in more legally dubious places online; obviously don’t send your students there. But if you can find what you’re looking for on YouTube or similar, even if you’re not quite sure if the copy you’re linking to is authorized, simply linking to it – rather than downloading it – is probably fine. Just be prepared for the material to be pulled offline without notice.

Commercial Streaming

If the multimedia you need to assign is not available through ZSR or freely online, check JustWatch.com to determine online availability. JustWatch includes multiple commercial streaming platforms, beyond the well-known Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. JustWatch will also indicate free online streaming options, in case you missed it. If the material is only available through a commercial streaming service and the price is reasonable (say $10 or under), that is probably the best option. It’s sort of like a textbook purchase: it’s a cost associated with taking the course. Note that many commercial streaming services do offer short free trial periods, which is helpful to share with students as some may not be able to or wish to pay for a full subscription. You may also consider giving your students the courtesy of a reminder to cancel the trial or subscription after the material is no longer needed.

Things About Copyright

As I noted at the start of this post, the emergency shift to remote teaching this semester necessitated a different approach to copyright and fair use than usual. To quickly get materials to students, I encouraged you to feel empowered to share limited scans of materials directly with students. But now that we’re talking about your summer course, I’m walking back that advice.

There are always things that you can confidently share with your students in Canvas or Google Drive. If you created it for your course – lecture notes, slides, handouts, etc. – you can share it! If your colleague created it for their course and gives you permission to use it in your course – share it! If you are using OER – share it! Posting these types of course materials is always OK.

What needs further investigation and copyright assessment are materials that others created that you don’t have explicit permission to share. Prime examples are textbook chapters and journal articles. This is when you should use Course Reserves. Submitting requests through Course Reserves ensures that copyright assessments are made by the library and that you aren’t inadvertently posting infringing materials. Have questions? Ask me!

Final Thoughts

I recognize that asking you to reconsider your course materials selections for summer online may feel like the final straw amidst so much change. There’s much to consider and it can be overwhelming. And while I am not telling you that you can’t assign the same materials you use in face-to-face teaching, I am encouraging you to consider options that might work better for online delivery. I want you to be mindful of both what will best support your teaching but also what will best support your students who won’t have the usual access points of the bookstore or ZSR. It’s a balance and only you can determine what is best, but I’m here to help so don’t hesitate to schedule a Zoom consultation or pop me an email. We’re in this together!  

 

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