Manfred Kuechler
Hunter College

Optimizing a Course Web Page: Didactic, Legal, and Technical Issues

Faculty workshop on November 17, 1999 at Hunter College

While there are many possibilities as to where to go with such a workshop (see the general menu), this particular workshop focused on just one area; an area which is of interest to faculty across a wide range of disciplines: Using copyright protected material, and, in particular, the full text of journal articles on a course web page.
The following summary is just this, a summary. It is not intended as a self-contained "distance learning" module, though faculty with some experience in the area may benefit from the hints and links in this document even if they did not attend the workshop.
For more discussion on this and other topics visit the web archive of the e-mail list COURSEPAGE-L and/or check the primer on starting and developing a course web page.


  1. Using copyright-sensitive material
    1. General considerations and "Fair Use" strategies: "deep linking" and password protection
      1. Using the ERes course password feature
      2. Using server based password protection
    2. Using Hunter and CUNY licensed resources
      1. Project Muse (full text online version of journals)
      2. Infotrac (includes Books in Print)
      3. Lexis-Nexis
    3. Using Media sites (print, TV/radio; US and worldwide)

General considerations and password protection

To look into more details, visit the "Fair Use" site at Stanford University or the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. The report on copyright and distance learning (some 350 pages in pdf format; issued on May 25, 1999) can also be accessed from a local Hunter server.
While violations of copyright, e.g. via "course packs", are not uncommon in the academe and have rarely led to legal consequences, the stakes in the electronic age have become higher. Also, copyright violations in form of electronically re-distributing material, are much easier to spot. So, instructor should pay close attention to these issue and stay on safe legal grounds as much as possible.

"Fair use" has not been defined conclusively with respect to electronic media (like course web pages). A first line of defense (for the instructor) is to restrict access to the course web page (or the parts thereof) where copyright-sensitive material is stored. There are two options:

Available licensed resources, in particular full-text data bases

The full text contents of many scholarly journals can now be accessed online -- though requiring a license (see currently licensed resources at Hunter and at CUNY) -- and this is an ideal way of making journal articles available to students. Access to these data base is restricted to computers with a Hunter or CUNY "IP address" (practically, on campus computers). However, by using a proxy server this limitation can be easily overcome. More about proxy servers, getting an account, and using them.

Some of these licensed resources are available at Hunter only, other are available CUNY-wide. At Hunter, the faculty in the sciences and mathematics has been particular successful in lobbying the library to have their needs met. But there is also a Hunter-only resource with special interest for arts and humanities: Project Muse, full text articles from some 50 journals mostly published by John Hopkins Press.

CUNY-wide resources include Infotrac and Lexis-Nexis -- both very useful across a wide range of disciplines.

Deep linking or bookmarking

While technically possible and easy to do, it does violate Hunter's (CUNY's) license agreements to simply download a full-text article (this part is still okay) and then put this copy on a local server for further dissemination. The safe way is to use a ("deep") link to this article and put this link on the course web page (either an ERes page -- where this is particularly simple -- or any other course web page). So far, so good, and details will be shown below, but you need to be aware of a possible glitch: not all URLs obtained by a search for a specific document in one of these data bases are "persistent", i.e. quite often these links stop working -- sometimes after just a few hours, sometimes after a day or two:

How to put a deep link on your ERes course page
  1. Open two browser (Netscape) windows, one to search for and locate the full-text article (make sure to activate the proxy server configuration if you are working from off campus); one for your ERes course page.
  2. Omitting the details of the actual search for the article, you will arrive at the screen like this (using InfoTrac as an example; partial screen view):

  4. In the "location" box of Netscape you see part of a very long URL. Simply click your mouse on this URL and the whole thing will turn blue, then select "edit"/"copy" to put the whole URL -- even what is not directly visible on the Windows "clipboard" (just think of an internal buffer in the background, if you are unfamiliar with the "clipboard").

  6. Now go to your course page and select "all page functions" -- as you usually do when you want to make a change or addition to your course page:

  8. Select "Add entry" and on the next screen "Link to another document". Enter a descriptive title for your new entry (this is what the student will see). When finished, click "continue":

  10. This brings to the next screen, there you click your mouse in the box labeled "Enter the URL of the site" and then select "edit"/"paste". This will dump the contents of the "clipboard" (the URL) into this box. Never mind that the box seems too small, it will take all.

  12. Whether or not you add "folder information" depends on the structure of your page. Just click the "submit" button when you are finished:

  14. Well, that's it. Make sure that you see the "smiley face". The new link will appear on the course page, ready to be clicked:

  16. Some caveats, though:
    1. The links will only work from a computer with a Hunter/CUNY IP address or a proxy server configured (see above). Note, that -- in contrast to CUNY -- students can get proxy server accounts at Hunter.
    2. There are occasional glitches with the InfoTrac data base, especially during regular working hours when Internet traffic high. It may take quite a bit (a minute or more for the document to display) and sometime you (and students) may get a misleading error message that you are not a recognized user even when connecting from a Hunter computer.
  17. Some good points, too:
    1. Once an InfoTrac document is displayed there are three choices for getting hard copy of an article -- you to scroll down to the very end to see these options:
      1. Reformat for printing in html format, directly via the browser
      2. Reformat in .pdf (Acrobat) format, and printing via the (free) Acrobat Reader (available in all Hunter labs); this is the method of choice if the article contains picture, charts, graphs, etc.
      3. Having the text (no extras like charts, graphs) sent to you via e-mail
    2. Also, at the bottom of the document there are links to related articles (on the same topic, in the same issue of the journal).

Bottom line

This is a terrific way of bringing students in touch with published scholarly work.

The next "intermediate ERes workshop" (if there is one) will deal with producing tutorials for your web page; like this one here (using very elementary tools) or fancier ones (including sound and/or moving pictures).