Course readings: an evolving landscape

Share this on social media:

For many years now the ways in which students at higher education institutions have accessed their course readings has developed swiftly, writes David Duffield

When I was at university, at the beginning of this century, course readings were usually handed out as a physical pack, which might have included chapters and articles for you to read for some seminars and lectures.

You would be told the books you were expected to purchase, books for further reading were highlighted for you to access from the library (with students desperate to get their hands on said works in time for our seminars) and the virtual learning environment (VLE) might have included PowerPoint slides and notes.

Now, a lot of required reading is purchased by HEIs through ebook and online journal subscriptions, and a great deal of recommended reading is digitised and the chapters and articles placed on the VLE. An alternative and increasingly popular method is for HEIs to offer secure links to online resources and digitised content directly from their reading lists.

For the digitised copying of book chapters and serial articles, HEIs are primarily relying on the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), the organisation I now work for, and our HE licence, which offers blanket coverage for this copying. However, there are several requirements for HEIs using the licence. All new digitisations must be reported to CLA, HEIs must clarify works are included in the licence, they must check that they own a copy of the work, ensure the work is within extent limits, apply a copyright notice and annually confirm material is still included in the licence for the new academic year.

HEIs also have to digitise all this material, even if another institution has already created a digital copy, and they are outsourcing digitisations to document delivery services – most especially the British Library and CLA’s Enhanced Higher Education Supply Service (EHESS) – in ever greater numbers.

Realising that this can be a challenge for HEIs, and could also be holding many of them back from fully utilising their CLA licence for the pedagogical needs of a 21st century institution, CLA decided to act and create a solution that would take away some of the data burden on HEIs.

We developed the Digital Content Store (DCS) – a platform that helps HEIs check permissions, confirm ownership (through library management system integration), check extent limits, fill out relevant bibliographic information, apply a copyright notice and offer the ability to order directly from EHESS.

If another HEI using the DCS has already digitised an extract from the title or an EHESS digitisation has already been made, the HEI will be able to use this, instead of digitising themselves, reducing their digitisation burden. All the material in the DCS is reported to CLA automatically and annually checked to ensure material is still included in the CLA licence. The DCS has demonstrated the dramatic change in content access, as since going live in July 2016, there have already been over one million student downloads of content.

At CLA we recognise the nature of accessing content, particularly in the higher education community, has evolved along with the development of new technologies. I am excited to see how access to content will continue to evolve, and CLA will continue to work with HEIs to make copyright simple for librarians and to enable greater access to essential content for academics and students for teaching and learning.

Case study: Imperial College London

New platform works hand in hand with improved workflow, to provide reassurance and better ability to use additional members of staff at peak times, says Philippa Hatch

Imperial College London is a science based institution, consistently rated as one of the world’s best, and is home to 14,700 students, 8,000 staff and awards 6,100 degrees per year. The College focuses on science, engineering, medicine and business and is renowned for its application of these skills to industry and enterprise.

Two years ago Imperial made the decision to centralise its scanning, from its previous devolved system (where departments were expected to provide the Library Services with a PDF of the book chapter or journal article). The decision was made to streamline the process and hopefully move to a stage where digitisations under the CLA licence could not only be serviced, but also promoted and used as an encouragement for departments to use the new reading list system, Ex Libris’ Leganto, which Imperial adopted at the same time as adopting the Digital Content Store (DCS).

Last year we made 152 digitisations under the CLA Licence. Each request would take on average 30 minutes to place, plus the additional time required at the end of the year for licence compliance rechecks and reporting to CLA. This was administered throughout the team using manual systems and a paper workflow of all the steps to take.

Last August I implemented the DCS for the digitisation team as the only way to fulfil CLA digital copy requests. The integrations with CLA’s Check Permissions (which included enabling us to use the bibliographic information in the system), as well as our own Ex Libris Alma integration (to automatically check if the university owns a copy of the work we are looking to copy from) has saved lots of time.

Even more important than the platform itself is the workflow, taking users through the step-by-step process of generating digital content, and offering secure links that reassures our staff that material won’t be accessed by anyone not registered at Imperial. This means that I am more confident in using additional members of the information resources team during peak times of the year to use the system, as it’s easy to use and offers security; a paper workflow can’t highlight to you if you’ve missed a step. The DCS report means I no longer have to keep an internal spreadsheet of all of our digitisations, both for reporting to CLA and also internal use.

One of the major changes to our digitisation workflow has been to use the British Library and CLA EHESS platform for the majority of our digitisations, both for material we own (outsourcing the work) and for material we don’t (to purchase a Copyright Fee Paid copy). The integration of the DCS and EHESS has helped to make this process more seamless and further improved this aspect of the workflow.

After six months of using the DCS, Imperial has now made 161 digital copies, more than the whole of the previous academic year. Request times have, on average, been halved and, as such, Imperial has been able to deal with a higher number of requests. Without the DCS, implementing this many digitisations would have been a lot more difficult.

With the development of the DCS, we have appreciated the platform now helps us to report our Second Extract purchases (and removes the need to add a Copyright Notice). In terms of the future, we’re hoping that one day the DCS will enable us to purchase Second Extracts through the system, as this will further streamline our processes. In the short term, we’re looking forward to the integration with the Leganto reading list system, which is coming next week, and will save us time transferring links into our reading lists.