The longer I work in higher-ed the more sure I become of the titular fact: the Registrar’s office is the DRM of the educational system.

Think about how DRM works on software and other digital purchases

  • it limits/prohibits what you can do with something you paid to “own”
  • it limits/prohibits access
  • it limits/prohibits sharing
  • it makes simple tasks like moving and accessing your own content difficult or impossible
  • it does absolutely nothing to stop people from circumventing it

I have never heard of a DRM system that stops people from pirating content. Amazon books? Beaten. iTunes purchases? Beaten. Blu-ray discs? Beaten. Steam games? They apparently have a plan for this that doesn’t screw users.

My point is these DRM systems only hurt legitimate, paying customers who want to support your [whatever] and purchase your [whatever you make]. This is particularly true of education, and it is more true today than it has ever been. If you want to learn about anything you can do it for cheap or free and often times faster with superior results outside the traditional education system. The only bastion left is that higher-ed is the degree granting authority and you need a degree to get a good job. No, it turns out most people realize that’s not true.

Why then are these institutions so arrogant that they turn people away, turn money away, and turn away new opportunities to extend their reach? Of course there are lots of factors

  1. tradition
  2. resistance to change
  3. preference for the old ways
  4. “we’ve always done it this way”
  5. institutional inertia
  6. etc.

Institutions that continue with the ivory tower gate keepers of knowledge model are going to find themselves in a very precarious position very soon. And by soon, I mean 10 years ago.

Ok, so some DRM is hilarious.