Revised Faculty and Consultant Guidelines Pertaining to the NBEO Ethics Policy

Background of these Guidelines

The mission of the schools and colleges of optometry is to prepare students in the knowledge, skills and attributes needed of an entry-to-practice Doctor of Optometry. This preparation includes, without limitation, acquisition of appropriate skills and knowledge that allow for passage of required licensing examinations as well as preparation for the practice of optometry itself.

Questions have arisen regarding the manner and methods optometry programs and their faculty/consultants can use to prepare students to pass licensing exams without violating the National Board of Examiners of Optometry (NBEO) Ethics Policy to which the students have agreed. These Guidelines have been prepared to help ensure that faculty members and consultants continue to provide high quality education to future Doctors of Optometry, including preparing them to take licensing examinations in a manner that is consistent with the NBEO Ethics Policy and related documents implemented by the NBEO in September 2012, and complies with copyright law.

More specifically, these Guidelines are intended to assist faculty as they prepare and deliver their lectures, discussions and module/coursework while being mindful of NBEO’s policies and copyright on its licensing examination items.

Copyright on exam items protects exam questions that have been “fixed in tangible form” – primarily meaning that the exam item has been written down or recorded. However, copyright does not protect concepts and ideas.

To prove a copyright violation, the copyright holder must prove ownership of the work allegedly infringed and copied. Copying is generally shown through proving both that (1) the infringing work is “substantially similar” to the copyrighted work; and (2) the alleged infringer had access to the copyrighted work.

The NBEO ethics rules provide that students must report a violation if they have a belief that a violation may have occurred.

Specific Guidelines for Faculty Members and Consultants

Faculty members/consultants may include in lecture notes and related module/course materials concepts that are important to the practice of optometry, including, without limitation, concepts likely to be the focus of licensing examination items.

Faculty members/consultants may access and utilize all information contained on the NBEO website or otherwise distributed by the NBEO, including content outlines/matrices and sample examination items.

Faculty members/consultants may discuss material contained in content outlines/matrices on the NBEO website. This includes providing hyperlinks to students and encouraging them to utilize these outlines/matrices. Information from the content outlines/matrices relative to the number of examination items from each topic may be used as a guide for student preparation.

Faculty members/consultants should develop their own module/course handouts, materials and practice examination items. Faculty members/consultants may consider copyrighting these materials and keeping a written log of the sources used when the materials are created to defend against potential claims of copyright infringement. It is understood that academic institutions and faculty members/consultants may share claim to the intellectual property, according to the policies of the institution.

Faculty members/consultants should include a disclaimer statement on module/course materials/syllabi/handouts. The ASCO-suggested disclaimer statement is included at the end of these Guidelines.

Faculty members/consultants should make no implication that they have specific knowledge of, or have used, past, present, or future (in development) NBEO examination items to prepare any module/course materials.

When providing sample examination items, faculty members/consultants should indicate that these are sample items based upon the broad categories listed in the NBEO content outline/matrix. Faculty members/consultants should not use actual NBEO examination items, facsimiles of actual exam items, or exam items submitted to the NBEO.

Faculty members/consultants should be cautious about giving students a misleading impression of having access to NBEO examination items by using statements such as “This will definitely be on the Boards,” or “I guarantee you’ll get a question like this on the NBEO exam,” or “A student thanked me after last year’s Part I exam because this information was on the test.” Faculty members/consultants should make clear that they are merely emphasizing the importance of a concept and that these emphasis points are not based on actual knowledge of past, present or future NBEO examination items.

Anyone serving on an NBEO committee, council or task force, or serving in a test item-writing capacity, whether they provide actual examination items or not, should practice particular caution in maintaining confidentiality of all NBEO items, consistent with the confidentiality agreement that the NBEO has in place with each of its volunteers. It is recommended that someone who serves in a NBEO volunteer capacity avoid being involved in NBEO review sessions for students, as this could constitute a conflict of interest. In the minds of students, the closer the relationship the faculty member/consultant has with NBEO, the greater the potential for perceived access to confidential NBEO examination items.

Students may attempt to initiate conversations related to test items after taking an NBEO examination. Faculty members/consultants should never discuss actual NBEO examination items with students. Students who engage in such conversations are required by the NBEO Ethics Policy to report such a conversation as a violation. Should a student ask a question and identify that question as pertaining to an NBEO examination item, the question should not be answered, and the student should be reminded that such action is in violation of the NBEO Ethics Policy to which he/she agreed in registering for and taking the NBEO examinations.

Copyright Protection

The NBEO claims copyright protection on its past and current examination items, and future NBEO examination items that are under development. Examinations and examination items are given special protection by the U.S. Copyright Office, namely that only the front and back covers of exams, and not the exam items themselves, are held on deposit by the U.S. Copyright Office as proof of copyright registration.

Copyrighting examination items protects examination items that have been “fixed in tangible form” – primarily meaning that the examination item has been written down or recorded; however, copyright does not protect concepts and ideas.

To prove a copyright violation, the copyright holder must prove ownership of the work allegedly infringed and copied. Copying is generally shown through proving both that (1) the infringing work is “substantially similar” to the copyrighted work; and (2) the alleged infringer had access to the copyrighted work.

Defenses against a claim of copyright infringement include that the individual both (a) had no access to the copyrighted materials; and (b) developed and used his/her own copyrighted materials that were not based on the copyrighted exam items.  Faculty members/consultants also may diminish a belief that they accessed and used copyrighted materials in their course, lectures, notes, or other materials by placing a disclaimer on such materials.

Disclaimer Statement:  Module/Course Materials and Licensing Examinations

Modified Disclaimer Statement issued by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) March 2013

This module/course is intended to prepare students in the knowledge, skills, and attributes needed of an entry-to-practice Doctor of Optometry. While this module/course should also help students prepare for licensing examinations such as those administered by the NBEO, nothing in this module/course, including the lectures and discussions, coursework, study guides, teaching notes, electronically posted information, or other materials, should be believed or understood to utilize actual confidential examination items from licensing examinations. For example, throughout this module/course, the instructor(s) may indicate points of emphasis for NBEO study and preparatory work. This instructional approach does not reflect knowledge of actual NBEO examination items, but represents a suggested area of focus based entirely upon the NBEO content outline/matrix. All materials in this module/course have been prepared in good faith to comply with the highest ethical standards of the profession.

Approved by ASCO Board of Directors
March 16, 2013