The German Sports University Cologne: A Case of Securing Critical Coursework

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Article ImageCompany: The German Sports University Cologne
The German Sports University Cologne, or GSU, based in Cologne, Germany, offers research, Ph.D., M.S., and undergraduate programs to more than 7,000 students covering 21 sports-related disciplines, such as applied human movement sciences, sports medicine, educational, social, and natural sciences. GSU is also known for its biochemistry laboratory, certified and authorized by the International Olympic Committee as the Accredited Laboratory for Doping Analytics. www.dshs-koeln.de/index_02.htm

Business Challenge
As a publicly financed university, GSU needs to be able to provide people inside and outside the organization with secure access to its knowledge base, including research data and reports. "It used to be on paper," says Dr. Ulrike Wigger, CIO of German Sports University's information and communication technology center. "Now it's in digital format and generally accepted that way." To this end, GSU decided to develop a way to self-produce digital textbooks and multimedia learning modules to offer for sale at the university's online shop but wanted to be sure its learning components would be safe from piracy once they were published on CD.

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The Problem in Depth
Like many institutions today, German Sports University relies on textbooks as a learning tool. Because it generates a good deal of primary research on sports-related topics and can identify key partners for this type of information, some at the university believed that GSU should develop its own coursework. However, Wigger points out that "GSU is not like Harvard Business School Publishing with a long paper-publishing tradition," so it was open to digital publishing possibilities. At the same time, GSU wanted to implement a system that would allow it to open up a new revenue stream by selling digital content without suffering from piracy, an issue that looms large when delivering digital content.

Developing its own system also allowed GSU to alter the traditional publishing business model. Previously, says Wigger, "the larger portion of the profits went to the publishing houses, and only royalties went to authors," noting that GSU's business model gives authors proportionally higher revenue. "We really wanted to cut out the publishing houses, and digital possibilities arrived for putting together education materials." 

Thus, GSU began its transition to digital textbooks. The university decided to make its educational materials available in the form of electronic learning modules that include training, videos, and animations. GSU chose computer-based, rather than web-based, training because it does not require the user to be connected to the internet. Yet choosing to deliver content on CD does little to diminish the threat of content piracy. 

Thus, having a robust E-DRM solution in place to protect digital assets was an essential component for GSU's digital coursework solution. The university possesses valuable intellectual assets and wanted to be able to securely leverage those from other organizations, as well, in order to produce the highest quality coursework, which mandated the need for a way to securely publish files. "With the people we have here, we can publish educational modules, but we had to find a way to protect them," says Wigger.

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