Why NG Has To Knock Our Socks Off

In general, I would say that I believe in equal standards.  Treat all people as equals.  That works best when you are talking people.  When it comes to corporations, there is a lot of room for differing standards.

Of course, I am not talking about regulations – all companies should follow all that apply.  When it comes to new services, new products, new features… you just expect more from certain companies than you would for others.  You can’t compare your locally-owned grocery store to a Wal-mart for example.

I was thinking this morning that would also apply to Blackboard’s NG, or whatever it is they are calling it.  Apparently, they don’t do versions anymore.  But the next whatever spills out of Bb headquarters will have to not just be good… it will have to knock our socks off.  Not just in features, but in easy-of-use, originality, and educational potential.  Here is why:

  • Money.  With somewhere around 80% of the market share, Bb gets more green than anyone else by far.  Don’t give me anything about costs, or economy, or overhead, or even mis-used funds.  “To he who much is given, much will be expected.”  No, it was not Spiderman’s Uncle that said that…
  • Boastful commercials.  You made them.  You stuck them online.  You hyped your own product.  Don’t make it smell like something your dog left on the lawn this morning (you can thank a “friend of mine” for that stinky analogy….)
  • Lawsuit.  If you are going to sue someone else for copying you, you better prove to us that you can do better than the company you are suing.  Your consumers are not copyright lawyers (even though you seem to think we are too stupid to be one)… so we don’t have to care about the outcome or who did what.  To us, you have to prove that you are worthy of even filing the lawsuit in the first place, or our money goes elsewhere.  Well, at least our respect…
  • Competitors.  Your competitors have put out better products without near the same resources you have.  NG is already starting out behind the curve in many ways because of whatever you call this current vers… er… release.. no… ummm…. yeah….  Anyway, you are still releasing new features that existed in other programs years ago.  And you are lucky they didn’t copyright those ideas.
  • Web2.0.  Web2.0 changed everything else online.  Learning Management Systems are still basically the same as they were 10 years ago.  It’s about time for a new model people.  Oh, wait… that sounds familiar….

Of course, these are also the same reasons why Bb might also not do that good of a job:

  • Money.  Scare people with the thought of how much it will cost to change to another LMS.  They’ll cringe so much at your inflated figures that they won’t care if this new version is awesome or not.  Just save me from the evils of a five minute course conversion.  Oh, wait… it’s only 5 minutes?
  • Boastful commercials.  Who needs to deliver on hype when you can just let people watch your commercials and have their opinion fed to them?  It’s worked for Coke for decades, after all….
  • Lawsuit.  You win a baseless copyright application and then win an even more baseless lawsuit in a rocket docket pro-big-business court.  You can probably do anything you want to from now and get away with it.
  • Competitors.  No one is churning out any Bb killers any time soon, but they are supplying you with cool ideas.  Wait for them to churn out some more and then claim them as your own.  Microsoft has made no bones about that working for them for years.
  • Web2.0.  It’s all hype anyways – so who cares about changes?  Claim “sound pedagogical principals” and snobbishly tell people some gibberish about how this 2.0-hype just doesn’t cut the pedagogical cheese.  Sounds pretty stinky, but that one has worked for traditional schools for over 100 years…

Now, despite my cynical nature, I do think Bb has a chance of pulling this one off.  No one outside of the Jobs-cultists really thought Mac could make the iPhone incredible when they first heard of it.  But Apple beat expectations and pulled out a winner (despite what some say, they don’t always do that).  Despite what some same about Bb, they might pull out a winner, too.  But anything less that than an iPhone level game changer will probably be an ultimate let-down… so the stakes are pretty high.

Matt Crosslin

Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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