Sunday, February 21, 2010

Impress Your Professor: Open Access Education

It seems the academic Internet is abuzz this week over free student resource access or the desire for it.

The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) released a brief this week on the legality of professors streaming entire films to students outside of a physical classroom. Things still seem very much up in the air, but things look promising if professors, schools, and libraries can successfully limit who has access and how long that access lasts.

Meanwhile, Wired Campus has posted two stories on free access to textbooks and print materials online for students. Physics students in certain lower-level courses at North Carolina State University have the choice whether to buy a print copy of their textbook or use it online for free. The University purchased a site license for the textbook in order to defray textbook costs for its students.

Students pushing for free texts elsewhere are finding that their professors are proving the biggest obstacle to their efforts. Also cited was UCLA's recent decision to stop professors from posting copyrighted videos on course Web sites after pressure from an educational-media trade group. Recent successful efforts at Georgetown University are highlighted.

The root of the controversy over all this boils down to one question: Can Universities provide their students free access to course resources in such a way that still allows the scholars and writers who produced it to be properly compensated? Thoughts?

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