A growing number of instructors are taking their face-to-face classes online in places like the Confer classroom. The lectures and sessions they capture (archive) are available, in many cases, free to anyone who browses the archives on our Web site. (Note: the instructor can decide - at any time - to make archives private.) While many of these lectures have limited value, some may have timeless value: the ideas shared are true today and will be just as true tomorrow and next year. CCC Confer is not unique in this trend: MIT Open Courseware offers nearly 2,000 courses, Apple's iTunes U has content from more than 600 universities, and YouTube EDU has thousands of captured lectures (including a channel from the California Community Colleges).
Technology makes it possible for instructors to distribute educational content to a worldwide audience, and to empower students to receive that content when and how they find it convenient. At the same time, some faculty members worry about the lack of control over distribution they may have once the content is made available on the Web. It can be shared with other students, posted elsewhere, perhaps even distorted if a talented (and highly motivated!) student takes the time to download, edit, and re-post the content.
As I write this blog, I'm listening to a stream of music MP3s playing on my computer's media player. Hundreds of artists originally performed this music in studios and arenas and other venues, probably without ever imagining or intending that I would use them as I am. There was a time when I had to buy albums from music stores, extract individual tunes and reformat them to compose a medley like this one, but that time is (thankfully) long gone. I think this is relevant.
We in higher education are not record labels. We don't have the same mission, but we now face similar issues. Professors have a right to payment for their work just as artists deserve to be paid for their work. At the same time, we're likely to see more "unbundling" of that work, more "mashing" of content in ways that are useful to individual students and divergent from the original intent of its delivery. Sites like DiplomaGuide and Khan Academy are early - and hardly imaginative - examples.
Meanwhile, I welcome your opinions and insights. Post them here or e-mail me.