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Canadian Education Faces Technology Tipping Point

Canadian universities and colleges have undergone a remarkable technological transformation over the past decade.  Ten years ago laptops were relatively rare in classrooms, yet today virtually every student comes to buildings outfitted with electric outlets and Internet connectivity at each seat equipped with one.  Course websites were once little more than places to post a syllabus and a list of readings, but today they feature podcasts, webcasts, the actual course readings, and space for ongoing discussion and debate.

While technology has become a core part of the educational process, my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes it has often been treated as a complement – rather than a replacement – for traditional educational materials.  Libraries still spend hundreds of millions of dollars on physical books and journals, some professors still generate paper-based coursepacks, and the schools themselves still pay millions of dollars in copying licensing fees.

The two-track approach may have made initial sense, but the costs of maintaining both are increasingly forcing universities to consider whether technology can replace conventional approaches. The tipping point toward using technology as a replacement may have come this year when Access Copyright, the copyright collective that licenses copying on Canadian campuses, demanded a significant increase in the fees associated with photocopying articles and producing printed coursepacks.

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December 23, 2010 11 comments Columns