College of Education *
College of Education *
Posting Course Syllabi Online

Introduction

Step 3 of Initiative One of The Strategic Plan for the University of Maryland, College Park includes the expectation I used the word "that every academic course will have an online syllabus[.]" That expectation reflects the Universityís desire to use technology to enhance communication between instructors and their students.

Posting course syllabi on-line syllabi serves different purposes for different people. Online course syllabi are most useful to current University students. It helps ensure that enrolled students are knowledgeable about their responsibilities, including assignments and attendance, and course procedures and policies on grading, academic honesty, scheduling, and other matters.

Online syllabi may also help persons other than students enrolled in the courses. Students who are planning their schedule for a future semester may find it useful to consult course syllabi. Potential applicants to the University may gain a better appreciation for the nature of academic studies at the University, the breadth of course offerings, and the volume and type of work expected of University students. In addition, instructors at other universities may develop ideas for their own courses by viewing online syllabi; modify them to suit their own courses, or use them as data for a research project or article.

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Who Holds Copyright in Course Syllabi?

The University System of Maryland Policy on Intellectual Property recognizes that faculty members own the copyright in original course syllabi and other course materials they create, unless they enter into a written agreement with the University that gives the University rights under copyright. When faculty members own the copyright in their course syllabi, they hold the exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and publicly display their syllabi and to make derivative works based on those syllabi.

The Strategic Plan does not require faculty members to post full course syllabi online or to post them on a Web site that is fully accessible to the public. These decisions are left to individual faculty members when they hold the copyright. Some faculty members may be more concerned than others about preventing unauthorized uses of syllabi. Faculty members who are greatly concerned need to appreciate that the most effective way to protect against the theft and infringement of their course syllabi may be to post them on a University Web site that is restricted to students enrolled in the course. Faculty members who post their syllabi on a publicly accessible site without restrictions need to understand it will be difficult to prevent people from infringing their copyright and using the syllabi as their own. It will be even more difficult and time-consuming for faculty members to enforce their rights against infringers.

The offices of Legal Affairs, the Provost, and Information Technology have developed the following suggestions for faculty members who are considering making course outlines available online.

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Suggestions to Protect Unauthorized Use of Course Syllabi

  • Develop one detailed course syllabus and one general statement about the course. Limit access to the detailed syllabus to students enrolled in the course. Post the general statement about the course on a page that is accessible to the public.
  • Post course syllabi in a form that does not allow modifications.
  • Include a copyright notice on electronic and print versions of course syllabi.
    • United States copyright law protects a work whether or not it includes a copyright notice. The copyright law does not require use of a notice and does not prescribe the form or content of a notice.
    • A typical copyright notice includes "Copyright," "©," or "Copyright ©," followed by the year in which the work was created, followed by the name of the copyright owner: e.g., Copyright 2002 John Doe. Rather than post a copyright notice, faculty may prefer to include a simple statement regarding ownership of copyright in material posted on the Web site.
  • Post a statement advising users how to obtain permission to use a work or granting a limited right to use a work under specific circumstances; e.g.,
    • All rights reserved.
    • All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder. For permission, contact [insert e-mail or mailing address.]
    • This work may be reproduced and redistributed, in whole or in part, without alteration and without prior written permission, solely by educational institutions for nonprofit administrative or educational purposes provided all copies contain the following notice: "Copyright © 2002 John Doe. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of the copyright owner. No other use is permitted without the express prior written permission of the owner. Contact [insert e-mail or mailing address.]"
    • This work may be reproduced and redistributed, in whole or in part, without alteration and without prior written permission, provided all copies contain the following statement: "Copyright © 2002 John Doe. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of the copyright holder."

Please contact Anne Bowden in the Legal Office for legal advice (5-2211) and Paulette Robinson, Manager, Teaching and Learning Support in the Office of Information Technology for technical assistance (5-3011).

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