The Paperless (Digital) Office

I just dropped off the paperwork for my Winter term coursepacks. Yes, already. They’ve got to go through copyright clearance before they can be copied, and that deadline is coming up October 1. I don’t want to be, like I was with my Fall term coursepack.

The strange thing about this paperwork is that it actually was paper. Yeah, I did submit a copyright clearance spreadsheet via email, but I also had to lug paper copies of all the forms that SUBPrint needs, the table of contents, and hardcopies of every single reading in the coursepack. It strikes me as odd, because I’ve been working hard toward a “paperless office,” converting as much paper-based stuff to e-formats as I can.

Back in 2000, I was probably one of the first (if not the first) instructor to email my exams to SSDS (Specialized Support and Disability Services). (This is the office that handles, among other things, exam proctoring for students with disabilities.) I had a blind student in my perception class (yeah, that was a challenge to teach), and SSDS needed my exams in a format that could be read out loud by JAWS. I’ve been submitting my exams in PDF format via email ever since--saves me from walking over there to drop off every exam.

With the recent budget cutbacks, I’ve had to reduce hard copies of the syllabus in almost all of my courses. The exception is PSYCO 104: I want students to have something in their hands to read. Those classes are large, so copying is still a big expense. Funny, though, I’ve got nearly a hundred copies left--I guess a lot of students got theirs in PDF format from my website. Maybe I won’t need any hardcopy handouts soon.

My office is still filled with lots and lots of paper. One bookshelf has textbooks. But even there, things are moving digital. I can get online access to almost any textbook I need (yes, for free) from, a company set up by five of the largest textbook publishers as a platform for delivering ebooks. I do still like hardcopies, though. The tangible feeling of a book is something I’d miss.

Another shelf has print copies of the journals I subscribe to. It’s nicer to read long texts on paper, but for quick reference, I’ll go to an e-version. Plus, if I’m at home, I’m not about to go back to my office just to look something up in a hardcopy journal. And that brings me back to my coursepack situation.

Due to the UofA’s new copyright agreement, I have to submit hardcopies of my coursepack to the Copyright Office. They clear each work to make sure that it’s legally OK to make copies, and then they send everything to SUBPrint printing, and SUBPrint ships everything to the Bookstore. Even though I now have PDF copies of all coursepack materials, I’m not allowed to submit electronic copies. Why? That’s not exactly clear.

Otherwise, this new copyright scheme is great. A coursepack that used to cost $63.43 under the old agreement in Winter, 2012 costs just $25.50 in Fall, 2012 term--a savings of $37.93! Of course, under the new agreement, the UofA has to pay Access Copyright $26 for each full-time equivalent student. I doubt the UofA will just eat that; they’re going to pass that cost along to students, right? So maybe the savings aren’t so great.

Aside from going from paper to e-formats, I’m also converting everything else analog to digital. I’ve got a set of VHS tapes of a series called Discovering Psychology that I’ve finally converted to DVD because a lot of the newer classrooms no longer have VHS players. (By the way, I bought a licence to make a copies. It's all legit.) In this case, DVDs won’t be the final step. It won’t be long before the computers in classrooms no longer have built-in DVD players. By then, though, we’ll all have bionic implants, so that won’t matter. I’ll just beam the lectures from my cyborg brain-chip to yours.

Why aren’t you studying?


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