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Higher Ed. and TED
September 16, 2009 - 9:28pm

TED talks pose all sorts of challenges and opportunities for those of us in higher education. The quality of the freely available content gives lie to the notion that the best lectures occur within the gates of academe. The format of the talks can teach us a thing or two about the optimal length, timing, pace and content of the lecture. And the conversations around the online lectures remind us that the degree to which learning is social.

Perhaps the biggest lesson from for learning technology is the method in which TED makes its videos available to the world. Two characteristics of the TED media strategy stand out:

1. TED talks are released under the Creative Commons license. The Creative Commons variant that TED chooses allows the videos to be freely shared and reposted. The license does not allow TED talks to be remixed. This strategy strikes a good balance between facilitating the diffusion of the content while protecting the integrity of the narrative. Institutions of higher education should follow this strategy for as much of the content produced on campus as possible, with Creative Commons permissions included in all (taped) speaker release forms.

2. TED talks are made available in multiple formats, including a streaming version, video to desktop (MP4) and video to ITunes (MP4). Embed code is always provided to allow the reposting of the talks. The multiple formats encourage the audience to download and consume the media on the device that is is most convenient. I download TED talks to iTunes and copy them over to my iPod touch. Having TED talks on a mobile platform allows the viewing of these talks when I have a few free moments and in small chunks.

How much of the curricular media that we work with do we make available for download and mobile viewing? I strongly suspect that our students will grow accustomed to and prefer media that can be consumed on mobile devices (I know I have!). The instinct is often to lock down our curricular media content in order to comply with copyright restrictions. Working within the parameters of the law is important, but we should recognize that we also need to stay relevant to our students. Part of this effort involves providing our curricular media in formats that allow their consumption on the device of choice. Certainly some curricular content can not match what TED does, for instance feature films or documentaries, but an enormous amount of educational content is produced on campus (lectures, talks, etc.) that we can provide in multiple formats.

Higher Ed can learn much from TED.


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