Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Protecting E-Learning

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jun 15, 2006

A response I sent to Line 56.

You write, "You can have the best content, design, and teachers around, but, if you lose control of the medium itself, it won't matter. If you're trying to make money, one of your first responsibilities is to keep revenue from leaking. That's just as true for e-learning vendors as for anyone else."

This is a very narrow view of e-learning content. And though companies like LockLizard work very hard to convince vendors that their best assurance of revenue protection is to lock down learning content, this is far
from obviously the case.

Consider, for example, the usability of content that may suddenly 'expire' on you. Such content - and other content subject to the whims of digital locks - tends to really annoy people who have paid good money for it.
And the use of DRM makes it more likely, not less, that people will share it - if only to get around the annoying DRM.

Moreover, it is not clear that the production and protection of content is a viable business model. Most e-learning offerings are of content that is widely available - it's not like the principles of mathematics or of engineering, to name a couple, are trade secrets! With organizations like MIT and the Open University releasing their content for free, it is becoming
harder to see the value in paying for content, especially inconvenience DRM-encumbered content.

In short, this article struck me as not having really considered the implications. No doubt the producers of LockLizard were happy to see it - it is exactly the sort of reaction they want readers of their promotional materials to have. But there is a great resistance to this message.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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