Secure Remote Training Courses

Remote education & training: Protecting courses & educational materials from sharing & piracy.

Protection of training courses/educational materials is vitally important as teachers/instructors move to remote learning environments and digital distribution. DRM can help protect IPR from piracy.


The move to digital: protecting remote documents from sharing and misuse

The Coronavirus pandemic is bringing about a fundamental re-think about how our some of our commonest practices need to be shaped for the next few years.  Ending Coronavirus will change established behaviour until ways have been found to reduce its impact to that of flu, which is generally accepted even if it is serious.

Social distancing makes such things as traditional training sessions and presentations extremely difficult to carry out where you have to coordinate the distribution materials such as documents, notes and workbooks which may be for study purposes or to accompany a web-based presentation.

Locklizard is well placed to be able to provide protection of remote training courses and educational materials.  Our training course copy protection software protects documents for controlled distribution, stops copying and passing on, and allows secure communication from the end user to the publisher of the document.  Particular features such as the publication concept simplify managing multiple documents forming the syllabus for a week or a semester – enabling access to be easily and automatically granted to authorized users.  Alternatively, the published documents of a conference on a Secure USB allows documents (and a Viewer to read them) to be securely distributed but can only be used with the USB device – this enables a flexible approach to the secure distribution of training materials.

The problem of electronic distribution

People are being asked to keep well apart.  Stop the virus from finding new people to infect.  Easy to say, but not necessarily easy to do.

In the education and training sector for example, there has been a long reliance on presenter led facilitation of study texts and reference works (reading lists, course tutor notes, written elements of the syllabus) as well as face to face presentations and tutorials.  However, with social distancing in place, this now needs to happen remotely.

Video conferencing systems have been established over many years to provide, to some extent, support for geographically distributed meetings.  They started out as highly specialized pieces of technology requiring dedicated connections and rooms and could only be afforded by large organizations.  In repelling Corona however they were defeated by their need to bring people together in conference suites, which is not quite the point of keeping your distance.  Moving forward, the continuing rise of fast and high availability broadband has created an environment where desktop to desktop conferencing has become practical.  But that creates another problem.

Protecting information, preventing IP theft and sharing

As mentioned earlier there are two components to education/training systems:

  • Face to face.
  • Course notes and study materials.

Handling the documentation side of courses is highly complicated.  The presenters and trainers want to maintain their ownership of the IPR, the organization will want to maintain their IPR in the background materials they provide, authors of referenced works (and their publishers) also want to prevent their IPR from being ‘given away.’  And at the same time students are expecting to be able to take notes on the materials being provided, including adding highlights to the text for helping them with their revision.

Also, there are requirements that documentation for courses must be able to arrive reliably and in a timely fashion.  Digital downloading by the student is the most effective approach to distribution, but it means sending digital documents, and these need to be protected to prevent the recipient from passing them on or allowing them to be copied, and perhaps used by several people (normally there are fees involved in copies of documentation, especially when they concern passing academic examinations or professional tests of competence).  In the current climate, revenue protection can be a serious matter.  Not everyone wants to see their work scattered around the Torrent web sites being given away for free when they need to make a living from publishing.

So that means that documents need to have enforceable controls embedded in them to restrict the user’s ability to misuse them.   A ‘not before’ date, helps prevent documents becoming available before an exam, the start of a course, a term, or a year.  And documents may need to finish (expire automatically) at the end of a semester or so many days after first being used.  These time controls stop documents from being used when they should not be accessible.

Some documents need the facility to let the user take notes and highlight content for reference.  This may include the need to allow them to print the notes, even if they cannot print the document.  And that creates another problem.  To print or not to print – you need to be sure if you want a document to be printed, and if so, how many copies should be allowed.  If you allow printing then you will want to put a watermark on the document to identify the user doing the printing and when, to persuade them not to allow photocopies to be made of documents licensed to them.  Locklizard Safeguard uses dynamic watermarks (user information is automatically filled in at view/print time) so you only need to protect a document once for all users rather than each time for individual users.

There may be a need to control the locations where educational materials can be used.  For example, if you have sold course materials to someone in the US for use on more than one device then you might reasonably expect both devices to be located in the US and not have documents made available to view in other countries.

Similarly, you may want to track document use so you know if a user has opened and/or printed a document and most importantly, when.

Sometimes fees are not paid, and it is highly desirable to be able to cease use of the document(s) as soon as possible, meaning there needs to be a licensing system that can suspend use of one or more documents for a given user, without stopping documents that have been paid for.  And re-licensing documents if payment is subsequently made.  And that means connections to licensing systems that can enforce these operational decisions.  Safeguard PDF Security enables you to instantly revoke both users and documents.

There may be requirements for the users to fill in forms which they submit to the document publisher in a secure manner.  This would build on the Adobe forms feature, allowing attendance forms to be filled in or allowing requests for survey information and feedback to be built into the documentation.

Finally, there needs to be options to allow the user to ‘try before they buy’ one or more actual documents which they can inspect for a number of days or a number of views before deciding if they want to go ahead.  This is an alternative to the schemes of being able to read random pages served up by a web interface and has the advantage that all the document is available for the user to consider.  Obviously it would not be appropriate for short documents.

Secure remote training and document printing

There may be a need to allow students to print out courses, course notes or instructor’s commentories to help them study without having to stare at an electronic device for hours.  However, printed copies can be easily shared.  To help training course providers protect their IPR, it is important that printouts are dynamically watermarked with individual user information to discourage copying and sharing of content – no one wants to share content that identifies them as the distribution source.

In some cases it may also make sense to provide only low quality or black and white or greyscale printouts to prevent images being scanned and copied.

DRM – controlling access to course content and use of materials

Safeguard PDF Security is a highly flexible PDF DRM application which meets all the requirements we have listed for protecting training and education documents, including protecting course notes, presenter notes, study reference materials, course work and feedback and attendance documents.  Locklizard Safeguard enables secure distribution and use of training course materials regardless of where they or users are located.  Users may make use of these when working from home or in the office or facility.  Locklizard Safeguard provides all the DRM controls you need for training course copy protection.

DRM enables training course providers to protect their IPR and revenue streams by:
  • Stopping unauthorized sharing
  • Controlling which users can access what documents
  • Controlling what authorized users can do with documents:
  • Stopping access to documents even after they have been distributed – document access can be instantly revoked regardless of where documents are located
  • Controlling when documents can be used (start date control)
  • Controlling how long documents can be used for – automatically expire documents on a fixed date, after a number of days use, or after a number of views or prints
  • Locking use to devices
  • Locking use to locations
  • Tracking and logging document use – see when documents are viewed and/or printed
  • Applying Dynamic watermarking to identify users

DRM can therefore be a useful data security tool to protect training courses and educational material (your IPR) from unauthorized access, sharing, misuse and piracy.

Copy protection implementation guide

The Safeguard Implementation Guide For Training Course Providers addresses how training course providers can use Locklizard DRM controls to simplify creating, protecting and delivering courses to end users and instructors.