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Background

I am currently working with a university to design an online Machine Learning and Cloud Computing course. We are closely following Hands-On Machine Learning by Geron. The author of this book has created many useful Jupyter Notebooks with examples that follow the text.

I have been creating new Jupyter notebooks by supplementing his example Jupyter notebooks with paragraphs and bullet points excerpted directly from the text. The plan is to make instructional videos that work through the notebooks.

Question

Could any of this be construed as plagiarism? Obviously, I'm not suggesting to the students that I am the author of the notebooks. I am completely transparent that the notebooks are based off Geron's textbook and supplementary materials.

Is this ok? What's the best way to be transparent if it is okay to proceed down this path?

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  • $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity, are you having the students purchase this book, or are you only using it as a guide for yourself while designing the course? $\endgroup$
    – Ben I.
    Dec 10 '20 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ I would recommend that the students purchase the book, yes $\endgroup$ Dec 10 '20 at 2:02
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So, as a matter of fine distinction, what you are doing cannot be plagiarism if it is credited. It could still be theft, and it could still be unethical, but plagiarism is passing someone else's work off as your own.

If you are having the students purchase the textbook, I would reach out directly to the author and explain what you are doing. Since he will be compensated by the textbook purchases, he may well agree to allow it, which would eliminate the ethical issue.

Even if you are not having students purchase the book, some authors are simply generous enough in spirit that they would nevertheless agree to such an arrangement.

The ethical alternative is to come up with your own exercises and explanatory texts. These can closely follow the spirit and outline of the author's text if you think he has a great approach, and you can point students towards his book as an excellent and highly recommended source. (You would still have to credit the author to the degree that his contributions and organization of the material is a resource for you, but if you do not use his text or exercises, then that would be all you would have to do.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your comment. I was looking through the author's github and I see that his license allows redistribution of the notebooks. I think I will use my own "custom" notebooks just for making videos. Then I will distribute the author's notebooks, which have the coding examples. $\endgroup$ Dec 10 '20 at 2:43
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    $\begingroup$ @StrugglingStudent42 I'm glad I could help! $\endgroup$
    – Ben I.
    Dec 10 '20 at 2:48

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