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Using Netflix in a course

November 16, 2010
Setting Up For Home Movie Day 2007 - UpperValley (NH-VT)

Photo by punkybuddha | BY-NC-SA

A number of college and university libraries are loaning out videos rented through Netflix subscriptions. This arrangement probably violates the Netflix terms of service, although the company has apparently not yet complained. It’s more likely that the deep-pocketed media conglomerates that own movie copyrights will begin to send out cease-and-desist notices.

One solution for viewing videos outside of class would be to require students to have a Netflix subscription. A basic account allows you to borrow one physical copy of movie at a time, as well as view an unlimited number of titles online. It costs $40 for four months — $17 less than the average textbook and a bargain in a course where students need to view eight or ten movies.

We recommend that professors offer a class screening of any movies that students are required to view. The social experience is important, plus the sound and video quality will probably be much better. For a film course, however, students will want to view movies a second time and others may not be able to attend a group viewing.

With college courses using an increasing number of films, new rental solutions need to arise — ditto for music and books. A company like Netflix or RedBox should offer a service where students can rent a specific set of discs for a semester at a reasonable fixed rate. Internet viewing would be convenient, but right now Netflix only has about a tenth of their total catalog available online. Streaming video can also eat up bandwidth and present other technical issues.

To learn more about the controversy surrounding Netflix in libraries, you can start by reading Academic Libraries Add Netflix Subscriptions (Wired Campus – Chronicle of Higher Ed).

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