In 1995 the University of Stirling, in partnership with Napier University (Edinburgh), won a grant to develop an on-demand publishing service, which would benefit undergraduates throughout Scotland. The consortium consists of twelve Scottish universities and one Higher Education college. Each of these consortium member institutions has a SCOPE representative drawn from its library staff whose role is to promote SCOPE within the institution and to collect and assess the suitability of reading lists for pro vision of SCOPE's services.
In the first year of production, course packs were produced by negotiating with individual rights holders (publishers, authors and their estates) and the Copyright Licensing Agency; by the second year SCOPE was negotiating wholly with the rights holders, and a model contract was in use which was generally acceptable to rights holders. During the third year, negotiations have continued with publishers, leading to modifications in the contract. Currently, 73% of all rights holders who are licensing material s to SCOPE are using the contract. The most recent version of the contract can be seen on SCOPE's home page.
Development of the online service has been ongoing since the project started, with a clearance, authentication, delivery and reporting system ('Cactus') being written in-house, and plug-ins (which provide a security feature) provided by an external contra ctor. Authorised users log onto theSCOPE service via the internet. The service displays course reading lists, from which users can select the items they wish to access. These items are retrieved from SC OPE's Online Resource Bank and delivered via a modified version of Acrobat Exchange v.3. Authorised users can view the full text of documents free of charge, but printing incurs a charge to cover the copyright fee. Online delivery of materials commenc ed in Autumn 1997. Due to copyright restrictions, unauthorised users can only see the bibliographic details of reading lists, not the full text documents. A demonstration of the system from the point of view of an authorised user is provided through the SCOPE home page.
If the materials are suitable and SCOPE services are appropriate to the course, then the rights holders are traced and approached for permission to reproduce the material. Even if the rights holders can be traced easily, publishers often take up to 6 week s to process requests, so the clearance process can take at least two months.
Since the project started, there has been a general increase in the speed at which publishers are dealing with SCOPE's permission requests. This increased mobilisation from publishers in the field of electronic rights, is partly caused by pressure from eL ib projects, and also due to increased acceptance of SCOPE's model contract.
Once permission is granted, the hard copy must be passed to the Technical Unit at Napier University (Edinburgh) where it is scanned, digitised, reformatted and proof read in preparation for printing, or mounting on the server. If a pack is to be produced, copyright on all items must be cleared before the reformatted pages are sent to a printer for printing and distribution. Therefore production of a pack can be delayed by difficulties arising from one item. If materials are required for online distributio n, then items can be mounted on the server as their copyright is cleared.
Most packs have been distributed via campus bookshops, although one consortium member institution has distributed internally via the relevant department. Whilst internal distribution worked well, and meant that the price of the pack did not include any bo okseller's mark up, the department have stated that this method would not be possible if more courses were involved, due to lack of resources.
If materials are to be accessed online then authorised users can retrieve them from any computer on campus with the appropriate software and hardware. To ensure that the integrity of the system is not compromised, SCOPE uses five security features.
The overriding benefit of SCOPE to teaching and learning is that lecturers and students can be certain of gaining access to the key texts. To date, this factor has been of most benefit where SCOPE materials are closely integrated into the course. For ex ample, one lecturer stated that: 'The purpose of these core readings was to provide all.. students on the programme with an opportunity to study the same data... as part of their preparation.' This ties in with comments from other lecturers, such as: 'we were able to focus on the specific materials we wanted, instead of having to compromise'. SCOPE materials were also used as introductory reading - designed to be relevant to, but not sufficient for, assessment exercises and examinations.
Students found that having guaranteed access to the material gave them increased confidence in approaching the subject (particularly if they were new to it), whilst introducing them to a 'wide range of material by different authors'.
All SCOPE usage should ease pressure on the library in terms of demand for multiple copies of key texts. SCOPE services are particularly suitable in the current educational climate where modular teaching results in many students requiring simultaneous acc ess to the same limited number of library books.
The main advantage of the pack is that it is a tangible resource which requires no special equipment, and as such is very convenient for students to use. However, unless the entire contents are incorporated as part of the course, students do not perceive it as being of good value for money. In addition, the cost of producing packs is accrued up front, and if sales are not high enough then someone must carry the loss.
The online resource bank has the advantage that students only print materials which they consider directly relevant; charges are lower and related to use because they are only incurred for the material printed; the material is always available on screen ( as opposed to a pack which may be sold out, or a book which may be out on loan); and the text is searchable, so students can quickly find particular section of the text. However, the resource bank does require specific computer equipment, and access may be limited by the number of machines and their location (ie. machines in the library will only be accessible during the hours that the library is open).
A further limitation is that copyright restrictions currently confine use of packs to students located within the UK and use of the resource bank to machines on campus. It is expected that this situation will change in the near future, but it is currentl y a severe disadvantage which prevents non-traditional students (e.g. part time and distance learners) from taking advantage of the resource. The problem is not simply technical (caused by the IP address restriction), but is also affected by the fact tha t publishers rarely hold world-wide rights to material, therefore to provide material from a UK publisher's edition to a student elsewhere may infringe another publisher's copyright.
The problem of who pays the copyright fees is likely to increase in the UK as students start paying their own tuition fees. This will further increase student poverty, and also give weight to the argument that the institution should provide essential mate rials (such as course readings) free to students.
To date, only one institution has expressed willingness to pass both printing and copyright costs on to the students who use the resource bank. All other universities have subsidised the copyright fees, either through the department or through the library . The resource bank has a reporting system which would allow individual students to be charged for what they had printed, but no institutions have requested this service. This method is also affected by the institution's capability to process and recover small sums of money from students.
SCOPE, University of Stirling