Using Online Resources

The open web and Trinity’s library subscriptions are abundant with rich content that can be brought into a learning context. The appropriateness of the content to the course and how you use it can either enrich your students’ experience or detract from it. This module will address how to navigate and select from the plethora of existing online resources, and how best to make your selections available to your students.

Important considerations when choosing digital content, such as accessibility, availability, legality, and technology.


Online content has many dimensions beyond the topics it covers. A few of these include:

  • copyright status
  • free vs. subscription or fee-based
  • viewable by anyone, but downloadable or “ownable” (e.g. YouTube)
  • ADA accessibility status
  • legally published vs. pirated

All of these can have an impact on your students’ ability to learn. This section will raise some questions you can consider when selecting content for you courses.

I. Copyright status and terms of use

The openness of the Web leads many of us to forget one of the fundamentals of Copyright law: Copyright protects all original creative work as long is it is a fixed tangible medium. The Web may seem far from tangible, but every Web site, image, song, blog post, advertisement, stupid giffy, and Facebook meme is, by default,  protected by copyright. No copyright symbol or “All Rights Reserved” phrase is necessary to receive protection. A copyright holder automatically reserves the right to prohibit all copying and distribution of their work, including copies for your class. If the content is openly accessible, such as an unlocked, ad-supported Web site, you can of course provide a link to your class – but you cannot make a copy of the Web page and upload it to Moodle.  

However, since you are presumably using the material for educational purposes, your use may qualify under the Fair Use Doctrine. This does not mean that all educational use is Fair Use.  Fair Use is a set of highly subjective guidelines, it is up to each user to decide whether their use is Fair or not. Columbia University has published a good checklist that you can use to guide your decisions. 

Increasingly, authors, creators, and publishers are utilizing Creative Commons licensing as an alternative to traditional Copyright laws. A Creative Commons license allows an author to grant more rights to users, such as distribution and making derivatives. It also means educators and researchers have more freedom to use their work as they wish.

Regardless of the status of the work you choose, it is always a good idea to provide citations and attribution to the source. When students see you do this, they will learn the good habit as well. 

II. Licensing and general availability

As libraries subscribe to ever more digital content and move toward “access” instead “ownership” we are unlocking an unprecedented abundance of scholarship. The downside is that we are sometimes innocent victims of publisher deal-making that results in a “here today, gone tomorrow” phenomenon, which can be frustrating when teaching. 

Here are some tips to help ensure your library subscription content is consistently available:

Journal articles: Library subscription access to journals sometimes changes without warning. To ensure your students have continuous access throughout the semester, you can download the article and provide a copy on Moodle. Access to the copy is limited to your students for just the semester, which leans toward Fair Use. 

Alternatively, you can provide a direct link to an article by using the database’s permalink. JSTOR, for example, provides permalinks on the left side of the article. When you provide this URL in Moodle, your students will be able to access the article easily from off-campus.

JSTOR screen shot

Videos: Some of our streaming film vendors, e.g. Kanopy and Swank, provide films via  annual license. This means if we begin licensing a title in March of 2020, it will expire in March 2021 (right in the middle of the semester!) unless we manually renew it. 

Library staff are also happy to search for the best copy of a film to use in your class. Just put in a ticket at and let us do the work for you. 

III. ADA accessibility

Text: Screen readers can navigate many file formats as long as the format is actually text and not an image of text: Web pages, pdf, word, etc. However, a pure photo of text must go through an additional OCR process that will identify the words on the page so that a screen reader can see them. There are several free utilities on the Web that will OCR an image for you, but you might try Google Drive first. 

Trinity also subscribes to SensusAccess file converter, which will convert a multitude of inaccessible file formats into audio files for the sight-impaired.

Audio/videoMany existing audio and video files on the Web have closed captions and/or transcripts. Library subscriptions and other commercial content in particular will almost always have captions. If you are producing content yourself, however, we have tools for creating captions on the fly. Kaltura will generate captions from your video or audio files, and we will also have a subscription to Trint. Ask your instructional technologist for information on Trint. 

Images: Images should be described (in an alt text field) if they are an integral part of the content being conveyed. Images that are purely decorative and have no contextual purpose should not be identified or described for a screen reader. 

IV. Technological considerations

In a remote teaching situation, it is likely that each of your students has a unique technological configuration. Hardware, software, Internet service, home wifi, and government censorship can all affect students’ ability to consume online content. Knowing a little about your students’ situations can help you choose content, in addition to following some basic rules of thumb.

Videos are almost always better provided as streaming rather than download, primarily because the viewer does not have to wait to download the entire video (typically a very large file before starting to watch). Streaming video technology gradually feeds the video to the viewer at a rate their bandwidth can handle, which makes it very adaptable for users in all situations. Kaltura streaming video platform is an excellent way to provide your own video to your students. All of our subscriptions such as Kanopy and Swank offer streamed video. If you truly need to provide videos so that students can download and directly edit them or make clips, as in a film course, you may want to use OneDrive.

Keep file sizes smaller so that students can download them more easily. When in doubt, break up larger files into smaller sizes, or put them into a ZIP file.  

How and where to find online versions of journal articles, books, audio, video, images, and more

Broad indexes:

  • Trinity Library maintains a comprehensive A-Z list of our subscription resources: full text article indexes, streaming media collections, primary source archives, specialized news sources, and more. The list can be sorted by type of resource and/or subject area.
  • OneSearch: This search includes ebooks, digital media, many journal articles, and our institutional repository. Click Advanced Search, then select “Everything” to search the widest scope of material. Then use filters on the results page to further refine your search. 


  • Journal Finder: The best way to find specific journal titles licensed by Trinity. Search by title or browse by first letter of title.
  • Academic Search Premier: Multidisciplinary fulltext journal search database
  • Google Scholar: Multidisciplinary search engine that will discover articles licensed by Trinity, as well as Open Access articles available on the Web. Look for Trinity College designation to see all available fulltext. 
  • JSTOR: Multidisciplinary ebooks and articles.  Journal articles from the last three years are generally not available.


  • OneSearch: Any ebooks Trinity has purchased will be discoverable here. Search by book title or keyword and then use the filters on the results page to limit to ebooks.
  • JSTOR and Project Muse have ebooks in addition to journal articles. 
  • SpringerLink: Faculty and students may also optionally purchase a print copy of any Springer ebook in the collection for $25.
  • JSTOR Open Access books: More than 6,000 Open Access ebooks from 75+ publishers, including Brill, Cornell University Press, De Gruyter, and University of California Press, available at no cost.


Audio resources abound on the Web whether it’s music, spoken word, or abstract/sound effects. Ultimately, you may simply have to do some Web searching to find what you need. The Library does not subscribe to any music packages, but two major sources of audio on the Web include:

  • Spotify: for a music-intensive class, Spotify offers the ability to create and share playlists with your class for a nominal monthly fee per user. Students can sync their account and listen on any device.
  • Soundcloud: If you are looking abstract or new, cutting edge music, explore Soundcloud. 


The Library subscribes to several online video collections:

  • Kanopy and Swank Digital Campus, both of which contain feature films. Please note that both of these vendors license titles to us on an annual basis, which means a video could become unavailable in the middle of the semester. It is important to check the license expiration date, either in the OneSearch record, or in the vendor’s interface itself, and ask library staff to renew if necessary. 
  • Films on Demand: Primarily educational and documentary titles from Films Media Group. 
  • Trinity also subscribes to LinkedIn Learning, which has thousands of how-to tutorials of different lengths and levels. 
  • See other specialty collections of videos in our A-Z listing of video databases


  • Artstor is the premiere online collection of art images. However, Trinity librarians have curated a guide to finding images within Trinity and around the Web that may also be useful for you. 

How to provide content to students: linking vs. embedding, and exploring different ways to organize content in Moodle

When deciding whether to link out to an external resource or embed/upload it to Moodle, consider:

  1. If there is a chance it could become unavailable, for example, a news article that is being continually updated, you may want to make a copy of the article and upload it. 
  2. While many video sites offer “embed code” there is little advantage to embedding a video in your Moodle page. As long as you copy a stable or permanent URL to the video on the external site, students should be able to easily login and view the film.

Moodle content arrangement:

By default, your course Moodle page is arranged by weeks of the semester. This can be changed to a topic layout, where you group materials together by type or subject. See this post from the Moodle Resource Center, which explains how to make the switch. 

If you have films in the Media Gallery that the Library has uploaded for you, you can add them under topics as well, so that everything is together.