Learners ‘recording’ lectures with their mobile phones!

Last week at a MoLeNET event, James Clay pulled of an impressive stunt, where he used his mobile phone to record and broadcast live to the Internet a question posted to the panel of experts, showing both how easy it would be for a learner to do the same thing, and then how many issues this raises. James’ Blog posting on this, and the video itself is on http://elearningstuff.wordpress.com/2008/09/18/live-at-the-molenet-2008-conference/

A week earlier I was running a training session on challenging behaviour and the issue of mobile phones was raised, and one attendee mentioned that he was aware of a colleague that had just been suspended because of a learner recording something on their phone (I don’t know what because he couldn’t give any details) – and this he thought was a justification for banning phones completely. Personally I don’t think banning phones completely is a sensible solution to that issue. If the tutor was doing something for which they deserved to be suspended, and a learner had the sense to capture it, then personally I think all is fair. Even if phones were banned, unless all learners are thoroughly searched on entry to the premisis, if they thought it necessary to record and report someone, then it would be very easy to do that covertly.

So looking at both scenarios mentioned above, I can foresee a lot of educational institutions, changing their policies to ‘ban’ the recording of lectures with mobile devices, but this I see will be problematic.

How do you enforce such a ban – if someone breaks it, what do you do – remove them from the course and mess up your retention data, or take them to court (I hope not).

What about learners with disabilities, there are many out there who currently legitimately record lectures so they can access them later at their own pace etc. Many use specialist sound recorders for this, but one of things that m-learning brings was the potential for them to use everyday kit (such as a phone) so they could do it more discretely, and widespread ban would damage this practice.

Which policy would such a policy go into – would it be part of the IT acceptable use policy, if it is then the problem is that this really covers the acceptable use of institution equipment and systems – with the mobile phone it is learner owned and outside of this control.

So – as James eludes to in his live broadcast – this is an issue, it is here now (only a lot of people don’t know about it yet) and it needs some considered thought across the board, and I propose that this should happen sooner, rather than waiting for problems, and having knee-jerk retrospective decision making.

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