The Digital Media Manifesto



David Jephcott


Use case No. 03: E Learning




1. Introduction

The purpose of this contribution is to use the methodology proposed in 030701chiariglione01 for the specific use case 3 "E Learning"

E Learning is the term now generally accepted for providing educational content in both a passive and interactive mode to individuals or groups of individuals using electronic methods. The transmission media used can be broadband (ADSL, Cable etc) Satellite or PSTN/ISDN providing communication between teacher and pupil/s and supplying educational content which can be used in substituting the local presence of the teacher or assisting in delivery of supporting material. Interactive or pupil participation is also becoming common in some cases culminating in final examinations being taken remotely from the adjudicating authority.

The quality, reliability and availability of what is essentially Digital Media in the educational environment is of paramount importance and many attempts  are taking place to come to some kind of standardisation.

This contribution is a start to look at the implications for teacher, pupil, educational establishment and educational content providers in the world of DM and to define the hurdles as well as the benefits and as we go along one hopes it will evolve into a useful document.

2. Description of the E Learning user

The E Learning user as defined for the purposes of this document covers the entire chain from teacher to pupil bringing in the content authors, content providers, educational depositories and authorities. It is not thought necessary to bring in the transmission operators at this stage although there may be a security issue to be considered with them in the future.

It is realised that several of the players here will be covered by other user cases however this document should point to the special consequences in E learning. For instance a content author in E learning can be the teacher or an artist providing cartoons or scientific diagrams for visual lessons. One suspects that this is somewhat different to that of an author of a complete work or is it ?

Perhaps it is relevant to consider these in turn.


There are thousands of teachers world-wide using e learning in some way. Whether it is to assist with purely audio visual presentations, helping prepare lessons or teaching pupils remotely. The initial reactions of teachers when  hearing of e-learning for the first time range from disbelief, fear for their job and worry of fraudulent exam results to  fantastic, when can I have it? etc. The ability to down load content, adapt it for the intended pupil/class is obviously attractive as is the construction of complete interactive lessons on the part of the teacher.


The ability to study remotely perhaps thousands of kms from the educational institution involved has many advantages particularly for people with handicaps and persons in full time employment. Whilst we probably all agree that this is a good thing it obviously raises issues of use, copying etc and whilst there are many amongst us who would advocate "free education for all" the right to use issue has to be raised and addressed.

DM Content Authors

Unfortunately or fortunately nearly everyone in the E learning chain can be a content author. These can be (as said before) the artist designing audio visual images for a lesson to the teacher altering content to make it more suitable for a lesson. Furthermore even the pupil can be an author when interactively responding to a question or taking an exam.

DM Content Providers

At this time these are typically publishing houses who are specialized in packaging and distribution of educational content in the form of CD's and DVD's although some have websites etc for download. These are the entities who typically restrict the use of content and have various ways of ensuring their business model as well as the product integrity is protected. This can take the form of delivering content in coded form or more recently ensuring they own the playing device or content server at the users location. In time these companies will be absorbed by many of the paper book establishments-

Educational DM Depositories

It is not known if many of these exist to date except as part of the general IT system of a particular educational establishment. They will exist however in the future and be responsible for the storage and updates of DM for teaching purposes. It is suspected that educational authorities will control these entities and ensure the legality of use. Of course these could be distributed over a wide area and in some cases "owned" by a service provider or ASP.

Educational Establishments

To date these organisations have been the drivers of E learning taking on the board the conflicting views of the teaching profession, the adoption of new technology and the ever increasing need to reduce costs and teach more pupils. We have seen hundreds of Universities offering on line degrees and whilst these were considered somewhat suspect by some circles in the past we have now seen well established Universities completing their first degree on line courses. In primary and secondary education we have seen broadband and satellite TV enter into the class rooms as part of new initiatives on the part of educational establishments


The above represent the descriptions of e learning users. "Users" is a term that I use here to define anyone in the chain from teacher to pupil. As each player in the chain can receive DM and modify it or incorporate it in other content before passing it on it seems appropriate that all these are users.

2.1 Traditional functions

Traditionally (before E Learning) most of the learning environment was based on paper with additional audio visual aids. The local presence of the teacher was nearly always necessary except of course for correspondence courses. Photocopying text books by pupils was rampant and many courses were run on text "stolen" from text books. Students still have many kilo's of books to purchase at the start of every term not only to seriously deform them for life but also to decimate the Amazon forests. One has to consider how much text is actually studied however to study even one chapter one has to purchase the book.

2.2 Traditional value chain players

Traditional players in the educational media chain have been mainly:

2.3 Technologies used in the traditional use case

Normal writing, printing and publishing to retail or mail order (recently on line book stores)

2.4 Legislative framework of the traditional use case

  1. Copyright laws
  2. License for use
  3. Integrity of content (exams papers)

2.5 Business model of the traditional use case

a) Publisher asks author to write- b) Author sends text to publisher and receives payment c) Education authority selects books d) Bookshops purchase and stock books  d) Pupil purchases books. e) Teacher and pupil use books locally

3. Description of the digital use case (for this instance based on Educational authority)

a) Education authority asks E Learning publisher to prepare course or part of  course based on a curriculum 

b) E Learning publisher employs artists, teachers and experts to prepare course which is vetted by educational panel

c) Educational Authority purchase content and send to educational depository it is stored on servers etc

d) Teacher downloads content in secure manner or receives CD/DVD and runs class.  Additional material down loaded by teacher or pupil from intranet of depository. or from the internet. E Learning publisher can establish links etc as part of contract or on payment,

Note ::This scenario must be expanded upon to allow for University, vocational and other uses.

3.1 Functions of the digital use case

Provides the pupil the freedom of studying remotely at own pace with tailored material specific to a course or need

Enables teacher to adapt course to suite particular learning skills and environment in real time as well as increasing the teaching coverage outside of the classroom. Permits collage of audio visual presentations at will and to take into consideration current events

Permits Educational authorities to control the overall tuition material in a more specific way and permits them to cater for pupils not able to attend physically due to disabilities or time.

3.2 Value chain players in the digital use case

Value chain participants in E Learning are likely to be :

In the transition period we will also see CD's and DVD's involved

3.3 Technologies used in the digital use case

Creation and design SW, Streaming Video, Broadband, Satellite Broadcasting, VOD Servers and management, Smart card, Privacy and Security SW/HW.

3.4 Cost/benefits for value chain players

Value chain player



E Learning Content Publishers

 Security of content, its safe storage and delivery system. Need to establish on going update mechanism and new promo system to educational establishments

Older type publishing houses will create new activity and new industry will grow incorporating new skill sets. More focussed on learning objectives and audio visual encourages "new thinking"

E Learning Content authors, artists and designers

Must learn new skill sets and work within a framework.

SCORM and XML requirements etc

Opens up a whole new industry to develop on line course material and learn new skills.

Educational establishments and teachers

Must ensure that content is curriculum focussed.

Cost of training teachers to teach remote

Need to deal with content providers and have input

Must establish access network to all  establishments and pupils

Curriculum more focused and less time on class material preparation. Enables more use of up to date information and attention keeping audio and visual aids. Regional teaching standards become more uniform but allow teachers to adapt learning needs as required.

Educational establishments can group together for bulk purchasing of content and charge pupils/students as part of study fee.

Educational content depositories

New storage infrastructure needed or contract out to ISP/ASP etc.

Educational content for everyone at an agreed price, updated, focussed and t.

Students and Pupils

 Researching material may become more difficult especially in the transition period.

Study at self paced speed, remote studying and exam taking, less cost of books.

Intelligent Server Content Delivery Systems


New business opportunities that before didnít exist.


3.7 Difficulties of current deployments

Teaching community still arguing about benefits and drawbacks mainly based on philosophical arguments.

Teachers not trained in E Learning and its benefits in time and quality etc

 Educational establishments failing to grasp the opportunities and establish plan of deployment

Established publishing houses slow to invest in this area and acquire new skills

 4. Hurdles

The following can be considered as hurdles of primary importance:

  1. Ubiquitous broadband access (including broadcast and mobility)
  2. Codification as technical requirements of rights pertaining to required/allowed playback device(s).
  3. Codification as technical requirements of terms and limitations on the inclusion of content in an e-learning package (e.g. a given video may be used for inclusion but only 10% or less in any single e-learning package)
  4. Codification as technical requirements of terms and limitations on the use of an e-learning package (e.g. this package is licensed for use for two years from its first use date. Use after that requires renewal of license)
  5. Codification of privacy rights as technical requirements
  6. Interoperable DRM technologies
  7. Seamless access to protected content
  8. Educational establishments and authorities to accept E Learning as the norm
  9. Publishing organisations to start new departments for E Learning content on disk.
  10. Educational establishments to establish direct contact with publishers
  11. Teaching community need to accept E Learning and accept training

5. References