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Monday, April 5, 2010

The Digital Content Library: The U of M's answer to YouTube

What do the Human Language Series, an esteemed linguistics instructional series, and Skärgårdsdoktorn, a popular Swedish medical drama have in common? They are both protected and shared through the Digital Content Library (DCL) at http://dcl.umn.edu/.

The DCL is a combined resource of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) and the College of Design (CDes). It offers media in multiple forms, including video. This digital video is password protected and available only to U of M students, faculty and staff.

The video available through the DCL is of average quality, equivalent to clips on YouTube. It may not be the best choice for showing a full-length film in class, but it's an excellent resource for sharing shorter clips in class, or allowing students to watch entire films at home.

By request, almost any item in the Language Center video library can be digitized for instructional purposes. Currently, over 125 films in the Language Center film library have been digitized, some in their entirety, and some only select clips. You can search for films on our website at http://filemaker.cla.umn.edu/LangCtr/findrecords.php. If the film is available through the DCL, there will be a link at the bottom of the item detail page.

As a bonus, the DCL has given us DVD copies of VHS tapes that have been digitized. As part of the digitizing process for tapes, the DCL must make a DVD first. We have been given permission to circulate these DVD copies, and many VHS tapes have been archived and replaced with DVDs in our library. The DVDs are of no better quality than their VHS originals, and they lack standard DVD menus, although they do have chapters set approximately every ten minutes. When these DVD copies have been put into circulation, the original VHS tape is no longer available for check out.

Circulating these burned DVDs is a good option for films that are not commercially available in the United States. However, whenever possible, we strongly recommend that instructors purchase films on DVD instead of relying on a DVD copy of a VHS tape. The quality of a purchased DVD is far superior to a copy of a tape, and purchasing the standard format when available (currently DVD) will help us stay within the spirit of copyright protection.

If you have never visited the DCL, you should definitely check it out at http://dcl.umn.edu/. You'll be amazed at the wealth of materials available for you and your students.

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