Digital Education Comes of Age

Presented by Professors Jon Garon and Susan Richey of the Franklin Pierce Law Center at the LLNE Spring Meeting, April, 2002 by John Pedini, Director of Media Services, Social Law Library

After a very enjoyable lunch and productive general business meeting in the Jury Box Café, the dining area of the Law Center, those remaining in attendance settled once again into Room 205 of the Dane Buck Building for the final session of the day, Digital Education Comes of Age, presented by two members of the Franklin Pierce faculty, John Garon and Susan Richey.First to speak on the aspects of content control of intellectual property in distance learning was Professor Garon.

Jon Garon comes from a background in theater and psychology, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Minnesota, and teaches primarily in entertainment, copyright and first amendment law.He began his talk by stressing the importance of copyright of intellectual property in digital education.He, for instance, copyrights his own syllabus.The control of content is seen in his eyes as the most contentious issue.If one is either teaching in an institution or employed by a corporation, it is customary for the content of the individual’s online presentation to be controlled by the institution or the corporation, not by the individual.Also, much of the work done in the realm of academia is by adjuncts who may not even work solely for the institution for which they educate. Their contributions are considered “specially commissioned works” and may still be subjected to content control by the institution.Traditionally, senior faculty members are more in control of their content, transferring their intellectual property to storage formats that can be more closely guarded, but as the range and scope of digital education technology increases and software becomes more sophisticated, it becomes more likely that all information will need to be shared.The solution to rights of content control in online intellectual property, he says, will most likely be found in collective bargaining and arbitration.

Professor Garon went on to speak about the technical nature of digital education today. Standing as he was in one of the nice new classrooms in the Franklin Pierce facility, he made mention of the specially designed and installed interactive video cameras mounted on the wall. They were positioned on swivel mounts and programmed to respond to the voices of the students, which could be picked up by microphones placed on the tables.Such an automated system allows for immediate and accurate coverage of an interactive seminar or class, increasing the amount of information being exchanged and reducing the response time between destinations.

He also made mention of a trend developing in digital education. While more and more digital education or distance learning is being done in the adult college and remote community college realm, the most digital education done today is by corporations, most notably IBM. Certain other established universities, like the University of Phoenix, for instance, are offering extension classes as a byproduct of the tremendous advantage of recent developments in digital technology and the broad range of education possibilities.

Professor Susan Richey then took the podium and began by saying how exciting it was to talk to a room full of information professionals.Who could disagree?She discussed her background of private practice, which included business-related disputes involving trademark, copyright and trade secret matters as well as counseling corporate clients with regard to advertising law compliance.She also made mention of her passion for intellectual property and privacy concerns raised by e-commerce.With that, she launched into her talk, beginning with the subject of internet filters, mentioning by name specific brands, such as Cyber Patrol, Cyber Snoop, AOL Parental Control and a version by the Norton Company.Confessing that none of the systems would ever be entirely reliable, she then discussed just how reliable or unreliable they were. Citing AOL Parental Control as the best, she observed that some, if not all, of the others would let as much as 20% of unwanted content through.Granted, internet filters alone never offer enough security for most families or institutions, and the content is not always a black and white issue.For instance, young students researching sensitive subjects such as sexuality may find their choice of content limited by filters, which block out this information as a matter of their function.She suggested the three-part form of overall security-software analysis of site content combined with human analysis of site content along with a voluntary rating system as the best method of guaranteeing maximum security while allowing the most amount of reasonable access.

Professor Richey then discussed a matter of recent news in the area of online security, that being the Supreme Court’s partial invalidation of the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which was attacked by numerous groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on First Amendment grounds.Among the causes for concern was the aspect of federal funding for public libraries where the libraries were in danger of losing government dollars if they could not prove compliance with the Act under a “bona fide research purposes” clause governing online use.The ACLU warned of the “chilling effect” on First Amendment infringement on minors as well as adults, and the odious burden of public research facilities once again coerced by bureaucracy into an enforcement role regarding access to information.

Finally, Professor Richey confronted the recent adoption of the United States of America Patriot Act. With its sweeping revision of existing statutory laws allowing greater government intervention in the interest of national security, Professor Richey naturally sees it as a threat to the privacy of all American citizens. Traditionally innocuous matters such as online search terms and list service postings now give cause for the federal government to request personal information from Internet Service Providers without the usual amount of judicial review checks, such as subpoenas and court orders.The bill also compels libraries and educational institutions to disclose records of patrons and students without the need of a court order or individual consent, presenting hazards to personal privacy unknown to the person being investigated.

Who knows, I could be the subject of an investigation just because of this article . . .

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