Teaching online classes with videos: Different rules for a different medium?

While reviewing the large number of unread posts in my Google Reader, I found Jessamyn’s note about the issues facing UCLA and their use of videos in online courses intriguing, both because I use videos when I teach and the new aspect of the debate regarding electronic media and online courses.   While course content — books, articles, essays, etc. — have already been well worked into online courses with the blessing of the copyright deities thanks to passwords and other protections, I have to ask  why should videos be different?  Granted, ripping a video off a VHS or DVD and uploading to the site is just obviously violating the terms of the video in the first place (the red warning screen does actually say something and is not just a small pause before a movie starts).  But, as an individual, I’ve grown accustomed to streaming my Netflix on my computer, my TiVo (if I had one), and soon my Nintendo Wii.  Many people have even grown accustomed to streaming videos from their phones thanks to YouTube.  So why shouldn’t we be trying to stream videos in online classes? Why should the copyright safeties function differently for videos (or perhaps even other multimedia) than the digitization and uploading of their print counterparts?

I don’t exactly have a lot of answers, so lets start with the questions.  Should we instead shift power over to Hulu and have students from political science and history watch select videos from the Biography channel? Should students learn about foreign traditions and cultures via Rick Steves’ Europe?  Furthermore, why are vendors like Baker & Taylor not stepping up to the plate to adjust their model of just selling DVDs to Netflix-style renting and streaming?  Other providers, such as DeepDyve, a search engine and article renter that helps provide temporary access to information for those unwilling or unable to make the full database licensing commitment, are providing fascinating alternatives to how people perceive, use, and access information and at what cost.   Couldn’t videos do the same since usually the video must be watched for a particular week or two of a class before moving on to the next topic?  Checkout options for eAudiobooks have been developed for public libraries by other vendors such as NetLibrary; so why are we struggling with videos so badly?

In short, I find the response to pull videos that are using the same protection methods as digitized print materials a wee bit extreme.  I can only hope that these other questions might help stimulate the aforementioned into some sort of action to find a better compromise than just saying no.  To hear more about the debate, I recommend looking at the Jan. 26 and Feb. 4 articles from Inside Higher Ed.

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