Thursday, March 24, 2011

Copyright in an online course

Online learning has made the distribution of information more easily accessible. This is in turn, has created an increase in the amount of plagiarized assignments being submitted, and the lack of credit to outside sources. The 2003 National Survey of Student Engagement indicated that 87 percent of the students who completed the survey at least sometimes included information from online reports and sources without giving the original authors credit for their work (Waterhouse & Rogers, 2004).
Establishing an intellectual property policy would allow the students to understand and avoid copying work without providing proper citations. The particular institution has the right to assign sanctions to the violation of this policy. Students must understand the severity of their actions, and that there are consequences associated with them.
The TEACH Act provides the online colleges and universities with specific rules and guidelines that must be followed in order to not infringe copyright laws. This Act requires the use of a copyright policy, provide copyright information to faculty and students, course materials must include a copyright notice indicating that it cannot be further distributed without permission of the institution, and the transmission of information is solely for students who are enrolled in the course (Crews, 2002).
The guidelines for fair use remain the same for distance learning, as for on ground courses. Therefore, the purpose, nature, and effect on the market are all considerations in order to evaluate a situation for fair use. Waterhouse & Rogers (2004) suggest developing learning management systems that limit the access to copyrighted material while enrolled in the course. Also, to only allow students to have access to the course material only during the duration of the course. Overall, it is the faculty’s responsibility to educate and detect cases of plagiarism, and violation of copyright laws.

Crews, K. D. (2002, September 30). New copyright law for distance education: the meaning and importance of the TEACH Act. American Library Association, 1-12. Retrieved from
Waterhouse, S., & Rogers, R. O. (2004). The importance of policies in e-learning instruction. Educause, 3, 28-39. Retrieved from

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