By: Alan D. Greenberg
Everyone knows one or more of the many stereotypes in the world of academics.
Most individuals recognize the image of the absent-minded prof. Many educators are familiar with the eager beaver assistant prof who easily gravitates to emerging technologies. Still more recognize the grumpy professor with elbow patches on his jacket and pipe in mouth who looks down on the idea of bringing new technology into the classroom.
Indeed, the “grumpy” set presents a huge roadblock to introducing lecture capture, online video and other new tools into today’s learning environment. Proponents of new technology adoption need a game plan for addressing concerns from these educators on how technologies impact intellectual property issues and the way their knowledge is shared – both inside and outside of the classroom.
Typically, the grumpy professor will have two primary objections to trying new technologies:
1) I’ve never done it before, so why should I do it now?
2) Well, why should I allow my intellectual property to be archived for others to review?
The first question had been a key concern of an elderly, western U.S. state university business school professor I consulted with via a video call. Over time, this professor relented and began using video primarily because I (and others) had helped him understand the benefits of embracing emerging technology solutions. I described the many other colleges and universities that were using two-way and one-way video, and audio and video recordings to deliver education. I explained many of the benefits of distance education and working with remote learners:
- Access for learners who otherwise could not attend his course
- Economic development in rural areas
- Greater prestige and fulfillment of its mission for his university
That was 20 years ago, and the same arguments and benefits stand true today, along with many others.
The fact is, technology is revolutionizing how education is delivered in a wide variety of ways. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are just another version of distance learning, although they are designed to scale to thousands or hundreds of thousands of learners. Often web casting or web conferencing, video recordings, threaded discussions, and much more are a part of such courses. Many colleges and universities have begun to put pressure on their faculty to teach to larger groups of learners.
It turns out that answering the first question on the rationales for using new technologies also helps educators address their other area of primary concern: developing good reasons for allowing intellectual property to be archived for others to review. The net effect of this is that many Profs are now more open to sharing their knowledge and intellectual property online. It’s as if a wall that existed just a few years ago is beginning to crumble, with faculty now more open to online learning because they see it happening elsewhere and indeed, sometimes benefit from it.
And often policy becomes important in this scenario. Think of it this way: there are two types of schools, the walled gardens that don’t want their learning and academics going outside their captive audience, and the open gardens (Greenfields?) that are all about sharing their learning and academics outside of their campuses. This is because there are two types of business models. In the walled garden, I can charge my learners for the intellectual property I am sharing with them as they develop. In the open garden, I can use a freemium model to later capture revenue from the learners via certifications, enrollment programs, and other processes that lead learners to pay for their education.
One way that walled-garden schools handle this intellectual property balancing act is by allowing their faculty to opt-in or opt-out as one stage of introducing lecture capture. Then later they may begin to mandate that faculty participate in lecture capture deployments. I often say that I have never seen a prof fired for being recorded; all he or she is doing is putting himself in a position to recruit more learners and serve the learners. So where academics at one time were reluctant to put their published books and the content they were using from those books into a more public domain, with policy as I have described above, a process can be created that makes them comfortable with testing the waters. And they inevitably change and become more open over time.
Those academics teaching in schools that have begun to offer MOOCs are an easier sell: they may have been provided incentives, or they may simply be curious about reaching many more learners than ever before. Every school is different, every department and discipline varies, and thus there will be some professors who are doing research that they may be reluctant to put into an open forum. Again, policy can address this: perhaps only those registered for a specific class, on-campus, are allowed to see that research.
The net result is that there’s no blanket answer when addressing the intellectual property issues that arise with new technology development. Concerns will linger among some, typically more senior faculty, but are gradually fading away as those involved in using lecture capture and other educational technologies that capture content increasingly understand that their content is only part of the value of their work.
So, set the stereotypes aside. Adjust to the concerns of individual educators. It’s the human part that remains constant and important to teaching.
Alan D. Greenberg is a Senior Analyst and Partner with Wainhouse Research and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org