The video professor

Joel Spolsky's latest essay alerted me to the online availability of Abelson and Sussman's MIT course, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, as a series of video lectures. It's an extraordinary resource!

I've often thought about the terms on which more video (or audio) capture and replay of university courses might happen. Now that my daughter is a high-school senior, it's an especially timely issue for me.

There's hardly any visibility into the university classroom. For a prospective student, it would be great to sample some lectures. And for the school, presenting faculty stars' greatest hits could be a powerful form of marketing.

I'd watch or listen to some of those myself. And as an alumnus, I would dearly love to be able to revisit the lectures of my best-loved professors. Few if any were recorded then. Many can be now and most will be at some point.

Permission to make and use such recordings will become a hot issue, if it isn't already. As a student, can I audio- or video-record a lecture as a memory aid? If so can I retain it for future personal use? If not, should I expect to be able to access this material using university infrastructure while a student? As an alumnus? As a non-affiliated person? What fees would be charged (or not) in these various cases?

This also relates to yesterday's trial-balloon posting about the future of blogging as a form of resume and autobiography. Should professors, and more broadly all professionals who speak to audiences, publish audio and/or video samples of those talks? Will professional blogs be expected to include or link to these materials, and comment on them, in the same way they might be expected to mention and contextualize professional publications? What level of "fair use" can or should govern one's own performances done for hire?

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