Copyright and Course Content

Break time between semesters is a great time to review and update course materials. It’s easy to grab images and articles from the web, but, how can we be sure to do so legally?

Here are some guidelines and resources to help ensure you are not breaking any laws when adding images, articles, videos, power points, or other materials to your courses:


Adding images for discussion or adding cartoons to lighten the mood can foster engagement in your class. Before snipping an image from an ad or online newspaper be sure to follow these basic rules:

  1. Cite your sources, just as you would expect your students to. This is a great opportunity to model proper citation style.
  2. If you plan to use multiple images from the same source, check to see if your usage meets the fair use criteria.
  3. If you are unsure whether it is legal to use a specific image try to find a similar one in the public domain. There are great sites, such as Pixabay, where you can freely download and use images.
  4. On January 1, 2019, many, many materials enter the public domain. Check this Smithsonian article for an interesting read about that.


To share research articles or opinion pieces with students follow these guidelines:

  1. The safest way to post an article in your course is to link to the source so that the students can access the content themselves.
  2. A PDF of an article from a database like jstor is also acceptable – remember to add the permalink and cite the source.
  3. Do not add a scanned copy of an article from a magazine or newspaper; locate the original online and link to it. If the article you need is behind a paywall contact the librarians for help – they are an outstanding resource for helping you obtain content legally.


Videos are a great way to bring your subject matter to life. Videos are also one of the most commonly pirated types of content on the web. Follow these tips to avoid legal issues with videos in courses:

  1. YouTube has some great channels for educational videos; Crash Course is one of my favorites. Again, link to the original source. If you are using videos from YouTube you can use Blackboard’s Mashup tool to easily insert them into your course; check the box to allow the YouTube information to show in the course so that your source is cited.  Make sure you select videos that are properly closed-captioned so that all students can access them. Be sure to check the links before expecting the students to access them in case a YouTube channel owner has changed or removed files.
  2. Video subscriptions are available, too. If you would like to have students watch an entire movie you should check with our librarians to find out if the college already has access to the movies you need; if not, they will help you find other avenues.
  3. There are websites, such as Khan Academy and Annenberg Learner, that post videos and other content – check their copyright policies before linking directly to their content. Khan Academy will allow you to link right to a specific video, but for Annenberg Learner you must link to their main page unless you pay for a subscription.
  4. Of course, you can make your own videos. We have resources on campus for you to do that (use our Digital Creation Space), or you can make them on your own. Be sure you have the legal right to use any images you include, cite your sources, and caption the video before adding it to the course (you can do this in your Ensemble library here at GCC; contact the Helpdesk for more information).


PowerPoints, Google Slides, or other presentation creations can be a great way to combine images and text to emphasize specific points and enhance learning. You can either create your own presentations, use publisher materials that may be bundled with the textbook you use in your course, or you may find them online in a site like SlideShare.

There are key points to keep in mind when adding presentations to your course:

  1. Presentations you create yourself:

    1. When creating a presentation try to use a built-in theme. This will alleviate most accessibility issues as long as you do not edit the built-in layout too much. Be sure to do the following:
    2. Give each slide a unique title. If the topic you are discussing requires more than one slide, use names such as “Evolution 1,” “Evolution 2,” “Evolution 3” etc., or “”Bitcoin, 1 of 3,” “Bitcoin, 2 of 3,” “Bitcoin, 3 of 3.” This clarifies the topics for students while maintaining accessible navigation.
    3. Be sure to add alt text to all images you use.
    4. Be sure you are using images that you are legally able to use through copyright permission, fair use, ownership (your own artwork), or public domain.
    5. If you create a narrated, or voice-over, PowerPoint, caption it before adding it to the course. We use Ensemble to store our videos and can easily have captions added via Ensemble – be sure to do it.
  2. Adding publisher PowerPoint presentations:

    1. As long as the publisher materials are bundled with the textbook you are currently using in your course, and that students are purchasing, you can add them. Do not re-use presentations from textbooks you are no longer requiring for the course, especially if you change publishers.
    2. Even publisher materials need to be accessible; check them before you add them.
  3. Presentations you find online:

    1. Be sure to check for copyright and accessibility as you would with a video or image.

Other Materials:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are materials freely available to use in courses. Typically, you can remix, reuse, revise, redistribute, and retain OER materials that you edit for your course provided that you attribute the original creator and abide by any rules stated in the materials’ Creative Commons License. There a lot of OER resources for you to learn more.


Copyright and Fair Use:


Open Educational Resources:




Ensemble Video

Hawkins, Sara F

University of Alaska Southeast


Why Grading Makes Us Anxious Too

anxious cartoon face

anxious cartoon face

Submitted to 2018-2019 Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Ileana Hernandez, Ph.D., LMHC, Florida International University

“There is nothing more demoralizing than the thought that the countless hours we spend grading might be dismissed as meaningless.” – Elizabeth Barre

Although many students think “they are the only ones who worry about grades,” writes Elizabeth Barre, in a recent blog post, “anxiety about grades is also a central feature of faculty life.” While students often worry about how their grades will affect their progress toward graduation, faculty often worry about whether their approaches to grading are valid, fair, and efficient, or as Barre puts it, “meaningful, moral, and manageable.” This tip explores ways to better align learning and grading, so attention to one translates to attention to both.

Are my grades meaningful?

When considering whether her grades are meaningful, Barre thinks about grades as measures but wrestles with what they are actually measuring: “performance, competency, growth, or effort?” To make grades as meaningful as possible, we must first define clear goals for student learning. Then, we can design assessments (e.g. projects, tests, quizzes, assignments, and so on) that collect evidence of students’ progress toward those goals. If our assessments measure what we intend for them to measure, the grades students earn with their work will align more closely with their progress toward accomplishing the goals of the course–and therefore be more meaningful.

Are they moral?

When exploring the morality of her approach to grading, Barre is really concerned with the issue of fairness: creating “a system of grading that ensures students in similar circumstances will be treated similarly.” Because developing them helps us define evaluation criteria, rubrics are invaluable tools for making grading more fair. They can help keep us focused on the most important aspects of an assignment as we evaluate each student’s work. This helps us to avoid deducting points for minutia irrelevant to the learning goals we’re trying to assess.

Two additional strategies related to fairness are grade norming and “blind grading,” or grading anonymous student work. Grade norming entails working with colleagues in an effort to evaluate student work more consistently. It’s particularly important for instructors working together to grade student work within the same course. To grade anonymously, we can easily use the anonymous grading feature in Blackboard. We can review student work, provide feedback, and assign a grade without seeing students’ names.  

Are they manageable?

Rubrics can also help with the management of grading. Starting with clearly defined criteria for success can improve the quality of the assignments you receive. This clear picture aids students in getting closer to accomplishing the goals on each attempt, allowing for more targeted feedback. Many colleagues have shared with us that dividing up the work of grading (e.g. grading only five projects in one sitting) also helps make the task more manageable and less overwhelming.

Barre experimented with using specifications grading in her course and reported that “the grading was most certainly faster and less anxiety inducing, as I expected it would be.” Her post describes her approach to using “specs” grading in her course, and it also links to several sample syllabi from other courses in which faculty adopted this method.

Rubrics in Blackboard

In addition to anonymous grading, Blackboard also contains a robust rubric tool to simplify grading.

Rubrics can be created for any type of assignment. It is easy to edit rubrics to meet specific needs; they can be copied and modified within a course and exported to share across courses.

Rubrics can be viewed by the students and used by the faculty for point-and-click grading with built-in feedback plus additional space for unique comments.

Blackboard has rubric information on their website for you to learn more. Please note – Blackboard sets rubrics up with criteria in ascending order, from the lowest criteria to the highest or best. If you choose to use Blackboard Rubrics your first step should be to edit those columns so that the students see the highest, or best, criteria first. Your highest expectations should be the guiding force for students to create their best work, which you can then grade fairly and efficiently with less anxiety.

For help developing rubrics at GCC please email or


Barre, E. (2016) Meaningful, moral, and manageable.  The grading holy grail.  Rice University. Retrieved from:

Levine, M. (2014) Specifications Grading. University Times: Pittsburgh, PA.

Submitted by:

Ileana Hernandez, Ph.D., LMHC, Assistant Director for Assessment, Evaluation, and Teaching Assistant Development, Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Instructor, Department of Psychology, Florida International University

Edited by:

Judith Littlejohn: corrected spelling, grammar, and hyperlinks; added rubric information and conclusion.

Image by Pixabay.

Helping Students Articulate Knowledge and Skills

Submitted by Leslie Madsen to the 2018-2019 Teaching Issues Writing Consortium

Students, particularly those in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, often struggle to articulate their knowledge and skills to prospective employers.

Your college’s career center may have worked with local employers to identify the skills they most desire in students. Boise State University’s Career Center, for example, maintains a list that includes, among other things, analyzing and interpreting information, collaboration, communication, problem solving, and taking initiative.

These are, of course, all skills students build through course assignments. Near the end of each semester, I co-create, with my students, a list of the skills they have built that semester. We then craft phrases they might use in résumés, cover letters, and interviews. Here are some examples from a recent women’s history course:

  • Located valuable sources when information was difficult to find
  • Conducted primary source research in analog and digital repositories
  • Collaborated with a diverse team on multiple iterations of a project
  • Pivoted a project’s focus when resources proved unavailable
  • Navigated ambiguity; can “think on my feet” when obstacles arise
  • Demonstrated persistence and resilience when identifying and learning new technologies
  • Set realistic goals and timelines
  • Learned who to ask, what to ask for, and how to ask for it
  • Built accessible digital resources

Most students wouldn’t consider a women’s history course vocationally focused, yet this exercise helped them emerge from the class confident they had transferable skills. Chances are your courses are similarly useful to students on the job market, but they might not realize it, let alone know how to describe the knowledge and skills they acquired.

Consider setting aside class time near the end of the term to help students brainstorm their skills so that they, too, can articulate them to potential employers.

Another option is to create an online discussion board for students to post to; this could be on-going throughout the semester or at the end of the course.

Further reading:

A curriculum model for transferable skills development

Analysing student perceptions of transferable skills via undergraduate degree programmes

Humanities and social science degrees ‘develop key employment skills’

Dispelling the myth of the unemployable humanities major

A list of transferable skills undergraduates develop, from Marquette University

Submitted by:

Leslie Madsen – Director, Instructional Design and Educational Assessment (IDEA Shop), Center for Teaching and Learning, Boise State University

Included in:

2018-2019 Teaching Issues Writing Consortium

Revised by:

Judith Littlejohn – updated URLs, edited grammar, added ideas.