As instructors develop course materials for students, they almost always find that there are supplemental documents that they want their students to read. These are usually articles published in various journals. A traditional approach has been to Xerox these articles and hand them out in class. This has a couple of problems: 1) except for cases of spontaneous need, this is a copyright violation; and 2) it is expensive to Xerox so many documents. Unfortunately this practice has been ported over to the electronic world of Blackboard, where professors may scan in the documents and place PDF versions of them in their Blackboard courses for student consumption. This is even more a clear copyright violation and, in most cases, unnecessary.
There is an easier way.
Palomar College maintains subscriptions to various electronic journal databases that contain thousands of articles from all sorts of journals. Our librarians, in concert with professors, have chosen the databases that contain the most useful journals for student research in a community college. It is possible, and indeed a best practice, rather than creating handouts for students or illegally scanning documents for upload to Blackboard to create links from within Blackboard to the articles you wish your students to read. If the student wishes to print the article, so that she can have a hard copy, she can. It is all legal because the college has paid the license fee that allows permission to print. There are three main journal database vendors with whom the college has contracted: EBSCO, JSTOR and PROQUEST. We also have various Gale Group databases, but links to Gale resources will not work for off-campus students.
Here is how to create links to those journals from within Blackboard that will work for both on-campus and off-campus students.
Access the college’s journal databases through the Library’s database web page: http://www.palomar.edu/library/OnlineDatabases/databases.htm
Note that the databases are usually identified by vendor, either by being followed by an indicator like (EBSCO) or (ProQuest), or simply by name, like JSTOR. These are the major research journal databases we will discuss here. There are several others that the techniques discussed here will work with, and we will mention them below.
When one accesses these databases from on-campus, it is simply a matter of clicking a link and accessing the database home page. From off-campus, however, the user must supply his/her Palomar College credentials (username and password) before gaining access to the database. This is because the databases monitor incoming web traffic, and traffic that comes from the range of valid Palomar College IP addresses is permitted through unchallenged. From off-campus the database access must be routed through what is called a proxy server in order to let the database web servers know that this is a valid Palomar College inquiry, and not just some random attempt by an anonymous web user to access freely access for-pay information. The proxy server tells the database server that this is a valid Palomar inquiry, provided that the user can provide valid Palomar credentials, i.e., the user’s Palomar College username and password. For students this is their eServices/Blackboard username and password. For faculty members this is their Palomar College email username and password.
The reason for providing this long winded explanation is to explain why the external links to journal database articles from these vendors must be created with a prefix that routes them through Palomar’s journal database proxy server. It is the proxy server’s job to verify the user’s credentials and pass the request on to the vendor database, which sees these requests as coming from a valid Palomar IP address. Note the name of the proxy server, prozy.palomar.edu. This name is essential in setting up external links to the journal database articles so that they can be accessed from both on and off-campus students. The procedure for finding and creating the actual URL you must use to create an external link in Blackboard varies by vendor, as follows:
In the case of EBSCO databases, our library staff has worked with EBSCO to automatically embed this proxy address into the permanent links to journal database articles. When performing a search for an EBSCO database article, simply click the Citation link and copy the external link for use in Blackboard.
Click the citation icon:
Right-click the link in the box labeled “Persistent link to this record (permalink). Choose copy from the context menu, and use this link to create your external link in Blackboard. Here is part of a sample link:
Note the prefix prior to the actual article URL: “http://prozy.palomar.edu/login?url=“. For the JSTOR and ProQuest databases, you must prefix the persistent links to articles with this exact text so that the link will work from both on and off campus. For EBSCO links you do not need to since it has already been done for you.
In the case of JSTOR, perform your search and access the article in which you are interested. The area above the text of the article will contain a bibliographic summary, and next to the summary an item information link.
Click the “Item Information” link:
The resulting Bibliographic Info frame will contain a Citation area with what JSTOR calls a “stable URL.” This is the URL you need to copy and prefix with the Palomar College proxy address so that the link will work for both on- and off-campus students.
In the case of this specific article, the URL you will need to use when creating the external link in Blackboard is:
http://prozy.palomar.edu/login?url=http://www.jstor.org/stable/462559, the proxy prefix plus the Stable URL.
With ProQuest databases the procedure for getting the persistent or stable URL is slightly different.
First, perform your search and find an article you want to link. I am using the Historical New York Times as an example here. ProQuest will respond with a two-framed results screen. In the lower frame is the PDF of the article. In the upper, various links related to the article.
Click “Copy link”:
A pop-up window will appear (note that to use this database you must allow popup windows in your browser). The popup windows will contain the persistent URL to the article.
Once again, to create the link to be used as an external link in Blackboard, preface this URL with the Palomar proxy prefix.
This technique will also work with the Oxford English Dictionary, and with ProQuest’s Safari Tech Books Online (see our screen videos on that product). It will not work on the Cenage/Gale group products.
Prefixing the Easy Way
Since the Palomar proxy prefix is not exactly memorable, “http://prozy.palomar.edu/login?url=“, the easy way to use it is to create a text file that contains this proxy address, and then open it and append the various article URLs as needed. The trick is to close this file without saving it, so that it will contain only the proxy prefix each time you want to re-use it. Use a pure text editor, like Notepad on the PC or BBEdit on the Mac or PC.
How to Make the URL, or “External” Link in Blackboard
After adding the proxy prefix and copying the entire persistent (or “stable” or “link”) address, open your Blackboard course, go to the content area where you wish to place the link, and create a URL link. URL links are links to web-based materials stored outside of Blackboard. This content can load optionally in a new window (or tab) or in the Blackboard content frame. We recommend using a new window or tab.
Here are the mechanics of creating an external link in Blackboard:
Open the content area where you want to create the external link.
Click the Edit View link in the upper right corner of your screen.
Click the URL link choice in the Build Content drop-down area:
Give the link a Name and paste the url that you have copied from the journal database–including its proxy prefix–to the URL field, providing any special instructions to students in the text box editor just below the URL field:
If you wish the link to open in a new window or tab (outside the Blackboard content frame), change the “Open in new window” option to Yes. The default is No.
Adjust any of the other options you wish, like content availability, view tracking or time restrictions, and then click Submit.
You will see a URL link icon appear in your content area with the Name and instructions you supplied.
Using this technique will enable your students to use the thousands of journal database articles to which we subscribe from on and off campus. tTey are free to email the articles to themselves, print them, copy and paste from them, etc. It will also save your department’s duplication budgets and protect the District and yourselves from potential copyright violations.