MRU Library Blog

Copyright in the Virtual Classroom

Both instructors and students across campus have had to adjust to online learning over the past couple of months. Some teaching elements are easier to transfer to the online world than others. When it comes to copyright, It’s difficult to know which rules change when material is shared online as opposed to an in-class lecture.

We’ve gathered some of the most common questions around copyright from faculty who are creating and adjusting class content that will now be delivered remotely.



Does teaching online change what material I can use?
No. If it was okay for in-person classes, it’s probably okay to present online – especially if access is limited to enrolled students (e.g. Blackboard, closed streams, or emails to students). 


Can I use everything on the internet?
No. Everything on the internet is protected by copyright. As an instructor, you have an educational user right that allows you to use works off the internet if:

  1. You cite the source and the author if known;
  2. There is no login or password (i.e. it’s available on the open Internet);
  3. There is no clearly visible notice prohibiting educational use; and
  4. The work was legally posted. It should be obvious the work was posted by the copyright owner or with their permission. For example, Pinterest is not a legal source.

On the Internet, it is very easy to post or repost works.  When a work is posted without the owner’s written permission, it is technically illegal. If you provide students illegally sourced materials then your user rights are void and you are putting yourself at risk of a copyright infringement claim.


If it has a Creative Commons license, can I use it for teaching?
Absolutely! Just make sure you abide by the terms of the license. For example, if it says “ND” (no derivatives), you can use the work but you cannot change or alter it in any way. You can find out more about Creative Commons, and how you may use those works, here.   


Can I show a movie during my online class?
Maybe. It depends on the source. You can present a Ted Talk or a YouTube video that was uploaded by the copyright owner (so not the latest Star Wars uploaded by “PrincessBunHead72” instead of Disney). However, subscription services like Netflix, Crave, and Prime limit distribution to your living room, so you can’t stream movies from those sources in class or online. MRU Library subscribes to a number of databases of movies and other audiovisual materials that can be shown in class. If you need help with finding and sharing films with your students, talk to your subject librarian.


Who can help me figure out if I can use specific materials?
MRU’s Copyright Advisor ( can help check license terms and assess legality of content on the internet or from any other source.


Can I post hyperlinks for my students?
Yes! Linking to publicly available online content like news, videos, etc. is never a copyright issue, unless it was illegally uploaded. Linking to subscription content through the MRU Library is also an option. Contact your Subject Librarian for assistance.


What if I need to find new materials for online delivery?
Your Subject Librarian can help you find alternative content. The MRU Library has a large collection of online journals, e-books and streaming films that can help support online learning. Your Librarian can also help you find openly licensed teaching materials like Open Educational Resources (OER).


What if I need to scan a document and share it with my students?
You can distribute digital materials to your students via Blackboard or email, but making copies of materials for students (by downloading and uploading files, or by scanning from physical documents) can present some copyright issues. It’s best to stay within the limits set out in MRU’s Fair Dealing Guidelines.  If you’re not sure, contact the Copyright Advisor


Where can I find copyright-friendly online materials?
The Library maintains a website with tips and links to hundreds of copyright-friendly resources. You can also check out the Library’s electronic resources.


Can I use images like photos, clip art, or diagrams from Google Images?
No. Google Images is a search engine, not a source. Google Images is a great search tool, but you must always go to the hosting website to determine if the image was uploaded with the copyright owner’s knowledge and consent. Your user rights also require that you cite every image used in class, on handouts, in PowerPoints, etc. when sourcing off the internet. If you’d like more information, contact the Copyright Advisor.


What materials can I legally use when teaching online?
There are seven legal mechanisms that allow you to use other people’s works:

  1. You’re using a tiny portion of the work (e.g. a paragraph)
  2. You have written permission from the copyright owner
  3. You or MRU owns the copyright
  4. The work is in the public domain (the creator died in 1969 or earlier)
  5. The work has an open license (e.g. Creative Commons)
  6. The work is covered by one of MRU Library’s e-licenses
  7. The use falls under an educational user right in the Copyright Act


I’m worried that my students may record my live or pre-recorded lectures. What can I do?
Talk to your students. Let them know you’re not okay with it. You can also put a notice on your syllabus asking them not to do so. You might even add a clause asking them not to forward any digital materials you provide to them. Contact the Copyright Advisor for more information.


For more information, check out our online workshop: Copyright for Online Instruction. Join Alana Zanbilowicz, MRU’s Copyright Advisor, for a quick, practical overview of copyright in a world of online delivery. This informative 1-hour online workshop will review:

  • What types of materials you can share with your students and how
  • How to source digital and streaming works off the Internet
  • How to remind your students that you own copyright in your lectures and much more!

Register for your choice of session:  

⇒ Tuesday, May 26 at 10 am

⇒ Wednesday, May 27 at 11 am

⇒ Thursday, May 28 at 10 am

⇒ Tuesday, June 2 at 10 am

⇒ Wednesday, June 3 at 11 am

⇒ Thursday, June 4 at 1 pm

⇒ Monday, June 8 at 11 am

⇒ Tuesday, June 9 at 11 am

⇒ Wednesday, June 10 at 10 am

Update on Library Support, Services, and Teaching

Update 4 – Thursday, April 9

The Library is closed to the public until further notice. Library employees remain available through virtual support. Please continue to chat, text, and email us.

The main floor computer lab (EL1470A) offers limited availability to students who require computer access. All students will need to tap their OneCard to enter the RLLC to use the computer lab, which is now available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.

Upon entering the building, students will be asked a number of questions as part of a health screening, and need to use a sanitization station upon entering and leaving the computer lab. As well, each computer will be cleaned immediately before and after use.

Although these labs are open for those requiring them, health authorities have been very clear that students should not come to campus unless absolutely necessary. If you are ill, have travelled in the past 14 days or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, it is extremely important that you not come to campus.

Computer labs for writing exams:

Only under extremely extenuating circumstances will students be permitted to write exams in a computer lab. If you have no other options, please submit this form 24 hours prior to the time of your exam. You will then be notified of the location.

Hours (until April 22)

Computer Commons:

Monday to Thursday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday + Sunday: Closed


Virtual Library Support (Chat, text, email)

Monday to Thursday: 7:30 a.m. to- 8 p.m.

Friday: 7:30 a.m. to- 5 p.m.

Saturday + Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


*Easter Weekend: April 10 to 13

There will be no access to the Computer Commons or virtual support during the upcoming long weekend, including Good Friday and Easter Monday.


Update 3 – Tuesday, March 24

The Library is here to support you, with all your online information needs, in a virtual environment.


Text us your questions –– (587- 400- 8044)

  • New service!  Send your questions to the new Library SMS messaging number and easily connect with us using your smartphone.

Library hours and access

  • Library support is available virtually, 7 days a week. We are available to assist students and faculty over chat, text (587- 400- 8044), and email. Check the Library website for opening hours. 
  • During the week (M-F), the first floor of the Riddell Library and Learning Center remains open for study and computer lab access during regular campus hours for those who must come to campus. Please note that there is no in-person support available during this time. As of March 21, the University campus, including the Library, is physically closed on weekends.  Please reach out to us virtually for support.

Digitization of Course Reserves

  • While the circulation of all physical collection items has been suspended, we are working hard to connect the MRU Community with Course Reserve material. Students and faculty can now submit a request using the form now available on the Library website. All requests are subject to MRU’s fair dealing guidelines, and the turnaround time for each request and availability of this service is affected by the volumes of requests we receive.

Interlibrary loan access

  • In an effort to align with guidelines from Alberta Health Services and Mount Royal University, MRU Interlibrary Loan service has suspended the borrowing and lending of physical material (Eg. books, videos, etc.). ILL physical materials received from other libraries will not be processed at this time.
  • For Mount Royal University students, faculty, and staff: If you have an ILL loan, please do not come to campus to return it. Due dates are suspended indefinitely and we will waive any fees incurred.
  • For other Libraries: If you have borrowed MRU items, renewal requests are automatically granted, and all due dates have also been extended.

Update 2 – Wednesday, March 18

The Library is making a number of adjustments to services, teaching, and support, to meet the changing needs of campus and of Library users as follows:

The circulation of physical materials including equipment is temporarily suspended.  Due dates for all currently borrowed materials will be extended, and users will be encouraged to hold on to any borrowed materials until further notice.  Online access to books, journals, databases, and archival materials remains unchanged. A process for digitizing and providing alternative formats for Course Reserve materials is being developed.  Please visit the Library website for updates or contact your subject librarian if you have questions.

There will be some changes to Riddell Library and Learning Centre (RLLC) building access in response to the significantly reduced number of students on campus. Floors 2 to 4 will be closed. With some exceptions, the first floor of the RLLC remains open.

Library employees are focused on meeting the demand for virtual support.  Please continue to contact us using the usual virtual options.


Update 1 – Monday, March 16

The University has advised faculty to transition to alternative methods of course delivery starting Tuesday, March 17. The Library supports all directives and updates published on The situation is changing quickly as we work to follow guidelines issued by Alberta Health Services and the University; at this time, we wish to share the following information:

  • The Library remains open. We continue to teach and support all Library users via chat, phone or email, or in-person at the Service Desk. Please continue to get in touch with us as usual.
  • As the campus transitions to alternative methods of course delivery, we encourage faculty to consider adjustments to assignments requiring print materials (including Course Reserves), or specialized equipment. Please email your Subject Librarian for assistance and to discuss options for locating alternative resources, such as streaming videos, ebooks, or other licensed or open digital materials for online classes.
  • Subject librarians will continue to work with faculty to teach information literacy content virtually; we are also able to provide student support for research assignments through video conferencing using Google Meet. Students can schedule virtual appointments through the Schedule an Appointment page.
  • You do not need to come to campus to renew or return library materials. Renew online or contact us for help.
  • We will waive fines for materials temporarily, to accommodate students, faculty, and staff unable to make it to campus to return items.  Please reach out to Service Desk staff through the Contact Us email form or chat so we can make note of special arrangements.
  • The Library will temporarily suspend lending equipment with foam faceplates or accessories worn on the head or that make contact near facial features until further notice. This includes headphones, microphones with foam attachments, and VR headsets. All other equipment continues to be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • With fewer students on campus, we have made adjustments to the staffing of specialized learning and teaching spaces. Staff in the Maker Studio, Experience Lab, and Archives & Special Collections will continue to provide support and assistance to library users via scheduled appointments (either in-person or virtually) but will not be available for drop-in appointments. To schedule an appointment please email the following contacts:
  • Library workshops, instruction sessions, and other group learning opportunities will be moved to virtual delivery where possible.
  • We know the Library has many high-touch surfaces. Disinfectant wipes are available at the Service Desk. We encourage all users to wipe down work areas and equipment before use.

Research Investigates How Students Use Social Media for Campus-Related Information

Left to right: Hannah Storrs, Richard Hayman, and Erika E. Smith


Mount Royal researchers spent months examining Facebook comments, reactions and posts. This wasn’t their chosen method of procrastination, it was the subject of their recently published paper that challenges post-secondary institutions to understand the popular online platforms where undergraduate students engage with teaching and learning topics.


A Facebook page that solicits anonymous submissions about all things related to Mount Royal University was the subject of a full year investigation into the information behaviour of undergraduate students in need of academic help. Richard Hayman is an Associate Professor and Librarian at MRU Library, and Erika E. Smith is an Assistant Professor and Faculty Development Consultant with the Academic Development Centre. Both work under the same roof on campus, with each of their departments being in the Riddell Library and Learning Centre, and are co-authors on the publication Information behaviour of undergraduate students using Facebook Confessions for educational purposes along with recently graduated Psychology (Honours) alumna Hannah Storrs.


The trio used a mixed-method content analysis approach to track posts on MRU Confessions—a public Facebook page, geared toward students, that accepts anonymous posts through an online form before published by the page administrator. Using specialized mixed methods software to work with a large social media dataset, they analyzed over 2,700 confessions posted during the 2016/17 academic year and found that a notable portion of the posts, just over 26 per cent, were directly related to student’s learning experiences. The data revealed that students were venting about day-to-day issues related to their university student lives while also turning to each other to find and learn about specific on-campus resources.


“I think the most impactful confessions were the ones where the need for help was tangible,” explains Hayman who refers to a specific post where a first-year student confesses that they are overwhelmed and asks for advice on where to go for help.


“While our university offers many support services, the fact that students can’t easily find them means that we need to do better. We can make these services more accessible, and do more to identify and connect students in need so that they don’t have to turn to places like Facebook Confessions to get help,” adds Hayman.


Smith, whose research background includes digital literacies and social media, says there’s lots of research demonstrating how social media is used in formal learning, but considerably less research on social media as an informal learning environment.


“Our findings demonstrate that students actually do use these informal social media spaces to support their learning in meaningful ways, interacting to meet their own needs, or to assist others outside of their formal classes,” says Smith.


The authors emphasize that the takeaway from the study isn’t that post-secondary administrators should try to interact with students on these unaffiliated forums. Instead, they can be a way for colleges and universities to better understand the needs of their students.


“Students will always want their own spaces to interact outside of the formal learning environment. Our research provides administrators, librarians, educators, and staff with key insights into not only the types of help and information that students seek, but also when these common areas of need arise,” says Smith.


Storrs reviewed the Facebook posts as a co-author of the study while she was navigating post-secondary life and a member of the MRU Confessions page.  As she reflects on the experience, Storrs recalls that many of the questions asked in confessions were ones that she also didn’t know the answers to.


Storrs graduated from MRU with a Bachelor of Arts degree this past year and entered this project with an impressive work history as a research assistant on several other projects. The alumna, who plans to apply to graduate school, says she recalls immediately knowing that this research would be of great interest to her when she went into the interview for the research assistant position with Smith.


“I found it fascinating and felt I would be able to learn a lot from this opportunity while also being able to bring my voice and experience to the table,” explains Storrs. “My previous research experience was really quantitative focused but this project allowed me to learn and develop my skills with qualitative analysis and mixed methods research.”


Hayman, Smith, and Storrs presented this scholarship at national and international conferences this past year, including the Canadian Association for Information Science (CAIS) where their research was awarded Best Practitioner Paper. The team plans to expand their data and weave in new observations, including the changing nature of social media that has led to a drop in activity on Facebook Confessions but has channeled similar activity to other forums like Instagram and Reddit.

Complete Library Satisfaction Survey and Enter to Win $$$


Mount Royal Library continuously works to improve services and resources to meet the needs of students, faculty and the general community. We are conducting a survey that will help us to understand how we are doing as a library and how we can improve.

Select students and faculty will be sent an email invitation to complete the LibQUAL + Satisfaction Survey but we encourage all current students and faculty to participate. The survey takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete and has been a way for us to implement meaningful changes to the library over the years. Past survey feedback has led to changes such as adjusting our hours of operation, enhancing services, and website updates.

Participants will have a chance to enter a draw to receive gift cards valued up to $300.

Questions about this survey can be directed to Brian Jackson at or 403-440-5032. Please share this notice with others who might be interested in participating.