Course Design Kit » Materials

What materials do you use to teach your subject? What books, articles, video, pictures, or periodicals?

Most material that you use in the classroom can also be used online. In some cases the resource can be used as is. Materials such as video, audio and graphics usally have to be optimized for online delivery. Moreover, online publishing and distribution tools can provide a variety ways to deliver course material and for students to interact with it. You can learn more in the Learning Technology section of this site. Please schedule a Design Consultation with us to learn more about options for online course material.

Materials must be used responsibly by adhering to copyright law and accessibility and usability principles. Below are some issues to consider:

"Can I use copyrighted material in my course if it is for educational purposes?"

The answer depends on certain conditions. In the past, educators have relied on the Fair Use provision of copyright law. Because online use involves duplicating and disseminating copyrighted works, the US Congress passed the TEACH Act of 2002, a modification of federal copyright law that provides guidelines for the legal use of copyrighted works in online education. Copyrighted works chosen by individual faculty must be:

  • Performances of nondramatic literary works; or
  • Performances of nondramatic musical works; or
  • Performances of any other work, including dramatic works and audiovisual works, but only in "reasonable and limited portions"; and
  • Displays of any work "in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session."
  • The transmission of content must be made "solely for . . . students officially enrolled in the course for which the transmission is made."
  • The materials are transmitted "as an integral part of a class session offered as a regular part of the systematic, mediated instructional activities" of the educational institution; and
  • The copyrighted materials are "directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content of the transmission."

(source: American Library Association)

This means, for example, that one may use a clip from a feature film as teaching material for concepts relevant to the course. This use must be limited to the instructional objectives. Posting the entire film to view for entertainment purposes does not comply with the TEACH Act. Accesss to the copyrighted work must be restricted to students in the course; therefore, it should not be viewable outside of Blackboard.

2. The following materials may not be used:

  • Works that are marketed "primarily for performance or display as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks"; and
  • Performances or displays given by means of copies "not lawfully made and acquired" under the U.S. Copyright Act, if the educational institution "knew or had reason to believe" that they were not lawfully made and acquired.

The former protects the market for commercially available educational materials. You cannot assume that material associated with your course textbook may be duplicated and transmitted in an online course. You must seek explicit permission or negotiate the right to use it. The latter relates to use of pirated or recorded performances of copyrighted material. If the College performs a play we do not assume the right to disseminate a recording of it.

What can I use for free?

Public Domain

Public domain works are works that cannot be copyrighted or their term of copyright has expired. Examples are works published by government entities or works in US national archives. Learn More.

Creative Commons (Works you can use within limits)

The non-profit organization Creative Commons was founded to create copyright licenses that enable producers to explicitly grant rights to use their works when they publish them. Terms of use vary. Some works are equivalent to public domain works. Most require author attribution. Many prohibit modification of the work or use of the work for commercial purposes. Note that use of Creative Commons licensed work typically requires that subsequent works also be published with a similar license: you have to "share alike."

Learning Objects (ready-made educational resources)

"Learning Objects" is educational jargon for shared instructional resources. These can range from something as simple as a graphic to as complex as an entire multimedia unit. Various educational organizations have sought to collect and catalogue learning objects with the hope of facilitating online learning by reducing the need to make materials from scratch. Be sure to closely read the terms of use of any learning object material you may use. See and contribute to our list of Learning Object web sites.

Notes on Technology

Tools and media used in the course should support related learning objectives, and are integrated with texts and lesson assignments. Students should know how the tools and media support the assignments and how they support the learning objectives. Avoid using technology for the sake of using technology. Tools and media used in the course should help students actively engage in the learning process, rather than passively “absorbing” information. Assessments, activities, instructional materials, tools, and media make use of the available technologies and meet current standards for widespread accessibility. Work with Instructional Technologies to prepare media that conforms to conventions for usability and information design.