Blackboard v. Desire2Learn is Over – But Can We Really Move On?

For the few that haven’t heard yet – Blackboard and Desire2Learn have both reached an agreement to stop all legal activities against each other. And that is about all we know about it, because both sides are not revealing any reason or motive for this move. Many are happy to hear this and are proclaiming that we can finally move on in the educational world, instead of worrying about the future apocalypse.

Of course, there are those that see something ominous brewing in this decision, while others are just down right concerned.  Count me in the concerned camp.  Can we really move on, when we have no idea why we are moving on?  I am sure there are always a few lemmings that question where the group is heading, only to be shushed by the others. “Just be quiet and be glad we are getting such a great view of the scenery off of this…..”

I could be happier about this if I actually knew why it was over (even if I didn’t agree with the reasons). Did Desire2Learn just run out of funding for further action? Did Blackboard realize they were losing the battle and decide to get out before the P.R. nightmare got worse? Did Blackboard finally get a clue and realize their patent was bogus? Or maybe even realize what they were doing was hurting the educational community more than helping, and decide to do the right thing?

(had to pause for a second…. tough to ROTFL and type at the same time…)

But as many have pointed out, this settlement is probably going to be worse than any possible final outcome of the original legal action. Is Blackboard going to sue others now? Are they going to file more patents and claim to invent stuff that they really didn’t?  We have no idea.  What if you want to start a new company, with a fresh idea? Will you find yourself in the cross hairs of a massive legal team, just because you used an obvious idea that they claimed to have invented? If we don’t know why this process was stopped, we can’t even possibly know where to move forward. Too many land mines hidden out there now.

Anyways…. The biggest problem is that we see a clear example of Blackboard breaking a vow. They vowed to appeal this to the Supreme Court and then didn’t.  What does that say about their vows to not hit open-source companies like Moodle and Sakai with lawsuits? Better start watching your back some more, Martin Dougiamas!

Of course, Desire2Learn valso broke a vow: to fight this to the end. I guess it is just the Blackboard Effect. Heck, they even got the CEO of the once-rebellious Angel LMS to turn into a boring corporate suck-up, so I guess they can turn Desire2Learn into complacent zombies.  Who will probably get bought soon.  Blackborg indeed.

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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