June 16, 2002
June 16, 2002
June 19, 2002
7.1209.1 - 7.1209.7
Main Menu Session 1520
To See or not to See: Access Restrictions on Course Web Sites Edward F. Gehringer North Carolina State University firstname.lastname@example.org
Last November’s issue of ASEE Prism had a cover story  on the MIT Open Courseware Initiative. MIT attracted widespread attention earlier in 2001 for its decision to make all its course Web sites publicly available over the Web. However, not everyone is following suit. The number of courses with access restrictions has surged in the past year, with perhaps the majority of course sites now having some restriction that prevents non-students from accessing them.
Certainly, some kinds of materials should not be publicly accessible. Solutions to textbook problems are an example. Aside from the problem of copyright infringement, it also makes it possible for students at other institutions to “do” their homework by surfing the Web. But many instructors restrict much more than solutions. Some keep their work under wraps because they worry that it is not polished enough for public consumption. Others restrict because that's the default in their courseware management system (e.g., WebCT). Finally, some universities are moving to assert ownership over course materials developed by faculty, and require them to be licensed instead of given away. This is not widespread at the moment, but will be an increasing problem as online assessment and testing systems become more commonplace. This paper will explore the reasons for restricting course materials, the current extent, and the implications of such restrictions.
In the process of working on our Course Database project [2, 3], we have occasion to visit many course Web sites. Recently we have been noticing that many of them are hiding behind passwords, inaccessible to the public eye. This is a discouraging development, for it seems that the relatively open world of academe is becoming more cloistered. In practical terms, it means that if I or my students surf the Web for new material related to our fields of study, we are likely to find less material, or older material. Consequently, my students will get less help in their studying, and I will get less help in updating my lectures. It is a shame that the Web, which once gave us access to a whole new world of information, is now beginning to snatch it away.
When someone declines to furnish material for our course database, we ask why. We have been finding two reasons : Copyright concerns—some instructors had taken their material from textbooks, and some of them were thinking of including it in books they were writing—and diffidence—many instructors just simply didn’t think that their work was good enough to be viewed by people at other schools. Both of these would seem to motivate instructors to keep their material out of public view on the Web.
In conversations with colleagues, we learned of other reasons. One such reason was universities’ desire to commercialize their courses . This has been dubbed the “second academic revolution” by sociologist Henry Etzkowitz; the university’s traditional interest in the
Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education
Gehringer, E. (2002, June), To See Or Not To See: Access Restrictions On Course Web Sites Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10766
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2002 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015