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Where Mobile Learning and Copyright Collide
March 11, 2010 - 8:55pm

Mobile learning and copyright collide at the download. Consuming, not producing, is where the mobile platform shines. The form factor is simply too small to allow easy inputs. Until the day when speech-to-text runs natively and robustly on the mobile platform, the small keyboard makes creation impractical.

Where consuming works best is on the download and sync. TED talks lose none of their fidelity on my iPod Touch. Downloading to iTunes and then syncing with my Touch is efficient and painless. The TED talks sit on my Touch, waiting until I have a few moments to view. Since my Touch is with me wherever I go, these moments regularly occur. Hence I watch a lot of TED talks.

The NYTimes iPhone/Touch app is another great example. The content is synced (downloaded) each time I start the app - with 7 days of content stored on the device. The syncing/download model insures that performance is excellent - both in terms of speed an usability. The app experience paired with downloaded content is far superior to the mobile Web.

What we'd want is an LMS mobile app that downloads all the LMS content, dynamically syncing new content via WiFi or when plugged in. This content must include all the media, as well as articles, assessments, discussion posts, blogs, wikis, announcements, etc. etc. All of this is easy save the media.

Most institutions have struck a balance between student access to curricular media and copyright by streaming the video behind LMS authentication. If is far from clear if this approach will be able to withstand legal challenges from the media industry. The problem is that students will increasingly want to consume their media on their mobile devices.

The streaming/Web/LMS model has many advantages, but it lacks the portability and convenience of the mobile platform. Curricular consumption must compete with media consumption, a fact we might not like but one that our displeasure fails to make any less true. The attention economy applies to students as well us. If we want to be where our students are we need to be mobile. If we are not including curricular media in their mobile course content than we are falling short of the potential of the platform.

What is to be done? The first step is to think hard about the scale of the problem. The question about the degree that we need to our course content to compete with pop culture content is at least debatable. We might decide this is a fight we can't win, and shouldn't even try to join. I think that this would be a bad decision, but I look forward to the discussion. The next step is to find opportunities where curricular media can be downloaded into a mobile LMS app - a task that will surely involve further development of the available applications.

Perhaps their is some curricular media that is not under copyright, or under a more flexible copyright, and can be utilized for mobile learning. The demand for these more free and open curricular media content sources should increase. The final stage should be a change of business models and legal frameworks that allow our curricular media to compete. We should be working to accelerate this outcome.

 

 

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