After further research, the issue not only affected image content in courses – it also affected student’s ability to upload or access files in courses – including but not limited to, access to course syllabi, files in course Resources, upload of assignments as attachments, entry of forum and blog posts and and submission of assignments. Other areas may have also been affected as well.
While it’s expected that the issue will be resolved soon, instructors are asked to use discretion when accepting assignments and other grade-impacting tasks which rely on electronic submission via Sakai. While not preferable, some instructors may decide to correspond with students via standard email about changes/adjustments to assignment submission processes due to the AWS issue, including extending the due or accept until date(s). Instructor’s ability to access student submissions, files and related gradable digital content is also an issue in some cases.
Students are encouraged to create and author content using an offline editor (such as in Word or Pages) and save their work so they have a back up and can potentially submit their work later or using a different means.
Instructors and students can continue to check the JohnsonU_Online Twitter feed for continued updates on this issue. Additional status update information is available directly from Amazon here.
Ok so you’ve finally finished planning out part of a lesson and you want to include some killer video content you’ve found online. The only problem is – the video content isn’t yours, and it doesn’t appear as though there’s an easy way for you to get it into your course in Sakai.
So what do you do?
First of all – do you need to include it directly into the course?
The short answer: No.
The best answer: Yes. Wait – what?
There’s nothing in the ‘How to be a Perfect Online Instructor’ that says you have to include the content in the course, inside the LMS. Pointing students to otherwise well-curated, applicable and relevant content is good and it’s something you’re likely better better at than students. However – it may be good to help retain student’s focus by including the content right in the course – inside the LMS. How many times have you found yourself looking for something online – only to get side-tracked by some ad, link, other video or headline? To some degree this may not be a big issue, it provides support for learning through exploration. On the other hand, in the void that is the Internet, students may meet dead ends or distractions that completely take them away from accomplishing the lesson or course objectives.
The lesson here: If you can legally and efficiently include content into an online course’s LMS – do so. This becomes especially important for adult students taking online courses – where their time and energy are likely being utilized in a full-time job or other responsibilities. The other added benefit is that you’ve curated and organized content in such as way that demonstrates to students how you value their time and the content of the course. This also helps to minimize the barriers between students and the content they need to engage with – online advertisers do the same thing.
Ok, what about finding the content elsewhere?
Many instructors, faculty and/or course designers will look to see if the content has been posted to YouTube – albeit sometimes by others who have used other means of ripping the content and posting it illegally. While there is a lot of good content on YouTube and other video sharing sites that would benefit your course – be sure to steer clear of using content that is more than likely pirated or otherwise posted without consideration of copyright and fair use.
The lesson here: Don’t use content you know or suspect to be posted illegally. It’s so easy to pull that image or video and think, “No one will know, and the students won’t care.” This however is the same type of thinking that galls instructors when students turn in papers which have obvious plagiarizing issues. While you wouldn’t want your students to turn in content that’s not theirs (or otherwise well cited) – demonstrate the same level of integrity you’d expect from your students. There is room for leaning on fair use policy, but don’t use it as license.
One way to address the ability to place content into your course is by using an embed code. Yes, YouTube provides these rather handily. They make it very easy for anyone to copy the embed code and make the video content appear in another website or in this case in the LMS. In some ways, the use of an embed code provides a somewhat balanced approach to fair-use and inclusion of content in a course without claiming it as your own.
What exactly does an embed code do? Essentially it acts as a pointer to the content – and the browser understands to go ‘fetch’ the content included in the embed code and display it accordingly. In some ways it’s like the picture-in-picture (PIP) function of many televisions – it shows the content from some other channel (website) but here, while the other content is being displayed.
So what does an embed code look like? Something like this, but it’s always specific to where on the Internet the video is really located – sort of like referring to the channel in the PIP example above:
So where do you do with the embed code once you find it? Basically – you copy the code itself and then place it into a HTML area in the LMS – according to where it best fits for students to see and access the content. In Sakai, for example – you can place the code into any area that uses the Rich Text Editor, by clicking on the SOURCE button:
So the pasted code would look like this:
Once you save the edit, you’d end up with something that looks like this (but without the blue and red area designations):
Ok so now we get to our final question, or our original question and the one that prompted this particular post. What if the video isn’t from YouTube? Short answer: look for an embed code. Long answer: Really look for an embed code. There’s no question the Internet is filled with content – not all of it good and yet some of it is really excellent – like this video from TIME. An instructor contacted me and wanted to include in his online course – but was unsure of how to do so. Thankfully – TIME provided just the right solution – an embed code. Sometimes these things are hidden or ‘organized’ under a share area or button:
In this case, hovering over the video itself for a second, allowed the share options to appear in the top right of the video. The icons represent information, share, link and embed respectively (left to right). Clicking the <> icon displayed the following and provided the means to place it right into the course:
And here’s how it appears in a course:
Not every website provides an easy way to share content this way – likely because they just don’t want to or because it’s not within the framework of how they want to provide their content for public access and consumption. Sites provide ways to embed more than just videos – you can also embed audio and images. Smells are still quite a ways out of technologies reach for now – thankfully.
Many other popular services provide this ability to embed content including the following:
If you’re still curious or worried about the legality of embedding content check out this interesting post from Andrew Feather (especially the part about the Terms of Service section) on the matter and this ruling from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 as reported by CNET. You can even read about Google and Facebook’s position on the issue here if you’re super board or extra curious. Oddly, as of this posting the actual ruling from the Seventh Circuit isn’t available. There’s also this posting by Eric Goldman on the ruling at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog.
FINE PRINT: The easy link can be the weakest
It’s important to recognize an inherent limitation to linking or embedding content. While doing so does a great job of riding the fair use/copyright line, it also means that content integrity in a course can be compromised. If someone has uploaded content to YouTube that is later deemed by YouTube to infringe on the copyright owner and YouTube removes the content, your course (by association) is affected. Consequently students become frustrated about content that isn’t accessible. This isn’t a deal breaker – but it is something to bear in mind.