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Video.edu: Education Video News Roundup

Welcome to Video.edu, a new regular feature focusing on news of importance to online video in the world of education. Beginning this week I’ll be taking a biweely look at stories that impact students, educators, and the companies that serve them.

UCLA Suspends Online Video Under Legal Threat
Colleges and universities that use online video in their courses are waiting with bated breath to hear what comes out of negotiations happening between the University of California at Los Angeles and the Association for Information and Media Equipment, a trade group founded by educational film and video producers. This past fall AIME contacted the university regarding copyrighted videos that are streamed to students enrolled in specific courses. According to the UCLA newspaper, the Daily Bruin, as of the current winter quarter faculty are no longer permitted to post videos to their course websites using the university's online Video Furnace system. The university and the AIME apparently are now discussing the legal implications of future use of online videos.

Faculty at many schools routinely make videos available as "online reserves" that serve as an alternative to a media lab full of VCRs and DVD players where students would otherwise view assigned materials. Use of copyrighted materials without explicit permission is typically justified based on fair use exceptions to copyright law, as well as provisions of the TEACH Act, which allow for the use of materials online in a manner similar to how they would be used in a traditional classroom.

Given that this is an ongoing legal disagreement not yet in court, there's a relative dearth of information about the exact nature of AIME's complaints and UCLA's position. It appears that one key element is the ability of faculty to make videos available themselves, without any additional administrative oversight. Policies differ widely from school to school regarding the ability for professors and instructors to make rich media available to students. Some campuses limit official reserves to materials licensed from distributors, such as Films for the Humanities and Sciences, while others give faculty more leeway to post their own materials.

If UCLA and AIME reach a settlement it will likely serve notice to other schools regarding what practices they should follow in order to avoid the threat of legal action. If the disagreement goes to court then there’s the possibility that a ruling will clarify--or complicate--the legal boundaries for Fair Use and video in online education. Either result will certainly have an impact on the manner and cost of using online video in education.

Obama’s 2011 Budget Proposes Big Changes for Ed Tech Funding
President Obama’s proposed 2011 federal budget threatens to change or even take a bite out of educational technology initiatives by eliminating $100 million in annual funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program. EETT has been the single largest source of federal funding for educational technology in K-12 schools. In its place the president proposes an initiative called Effective Teaching and Learning for a Complete Education. The initiative focuses on improving learning in all major subject areas, broken down into literacy, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and "well-rounded Education," which includes the arts, languages, and social sciences.

This new initiative would be allocated just over $1 billion in funding, but it hasn’t been spelled out how much of this would be available for educational technology. Many states and districts have taken advantage of EETT grants to build and support online video infrastructure both for streaming and videoconferencing. The amount of federal money available for educational technology could have a significant impact on schools’ use of online video. As well, there would be enormous effects on technology vendors who serve education.

Nevertheless, the president’s overall discretionary budget for the Department of Education is up $4.5 billion over 2010. So this could mean more funding will be available for technology, despite the elimination of EETT. The president wants more money to be allocated according to competitive grants and evidence-based programs, with $950 million slated for supporting the recruitment, development and retention of high quality teachers. These areas might represent real opportunities for states and districts to grow and leverage online video technology. Of course, this is just the president’s proposed budget. We’ll have to wait to see what Congress chooses to do with it.

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