Blackboard’s New Message: “We Can’t Stop You From Leaving, So We’ll Buy Where Ever You Go. Resistance is Futile.”

So a lot has been said about the Blackboard move into open source. After reading several posts, I still have to consider this move a bad one overall. At least for those of us that want better diversity and choice in the Ed Tech market. Let’s face it, no matter where you go, you can’t escape the touch of Blackboard.

They buy competitors that they can – Angel, WebCT, etc, etc. If they can’t buy a company, they force changes through lawsuits and patents (Desire2Learn). Open source used to be the “safe zone” from Blackboard, but now they are working to inject their ideas and footprint into the two largest open source projects.

Most of the new start-ups we have seen in recent years still seem to be trying too hard to not be Blackboard, or to be Blackboard with an easier to understand interface (i.e. the “educational version” of Facebook). But all of these companies still bear the big, hard to miss effects of Blackboard on their product. There are a few good ideas in Blackboard (mostly assimilated from other product purchases), and avoiding those ideas “just to be different” causes more problems than it fixes.

And I just don’t get what is going on with Instructure. I am trying to like them, but can’t ignore the fact that they are saying some things that don’t match up with reality. “People don’t like it [Moodle]?” Then why is it so popular? Why does it score so high in customer satisfaction? Why does every single person I have ever talked to at conferences about Moodle rave about it? Or how about this one: “We rarely see Moodle or Sakai make it to the short list of any education institution.” I agree with Sakai – but Moodle? I get why some people don’t like Moodle, but everywhere I go I always see it on the short list. Usually a short list of two – Moodle and Blackboard. I just don’t get these wildly hyperbolic statements. Or how about this: “Moodle and Blackboard came from the same decade, which was a long time ago.” Huh? The Internet is older than both, so would that mean it is time to give up on online learning altogether? I’m just hoping these are comments taken out of context.

Blackboard has shown that they can’t stop people from leaving their product, so they are going to buy wherever the former customers go. If you can’t beat them, buy them, right? This will push more people to go the DIY route outside of all LMS providers. Why choose a competitor that might just be bought? Why go open-source when some of the ideas you didn’t like in Blackboard might get added to the project in a few years? Or the company that you use for hosting just gets bought?

So now many universities are going to start looking anew to the DIY, artist-formerly-known-as-EduPunk, cobbled together approach of the open education movement, or MOOCheads, or whatever name the cutting edge people decide to call themselves. At some point, there needs to be a cool name attached to this movement, since Jim Groom went through that ugly divorce with EduPunk and all.

But, come on EduPunk… can’t you just open your eyes and see that you were wooed away by the promise of book deals and big money and became a corporate sell-out? You were such a cool name and idea… we need you back at this crazy time in history to be a rally point for those of us that want something different.

My personal prediction is that this latest move will push more universities to just abandon the LMS altogether. Let’s face it, if you don’t like Blackboard, that seems to be your only option now.

But maybe that Jim Groom is now Mr. Money Bags, he can just fund a new system that will give organizations wanting to go DIY a good starting place.

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.

2 thoughts on “Blackboard’s New Message: “We Can’t Stop You From Leaving, So We’ll Buy Where Ever You Go. Resistance is Futile.”

  1. I have to say, I like the idea of ds106-in-a-box as an good aggregation space, though it won't replace the idea and desperate need of community. That said, it will provide an interesting space of sorts—I would love to see something certain folks can use get picked up.

    However, not sure this space will ever meet the need for tests, quizzes, and the like is very hard to imagine in a space like the ds106 architecture. I would just love to see the entire LMS space disaggregated more so we can use the grade book and guiz apps we need, and have fun with the community and learning part.

    I think this is the first time anyone has referred to me as Mr. Money Bags ;) I think I want EDUPUNK back too now!

  2. Matt Crosslin

    Well you know I am just jealous of all that dough :) Don’t know if I have ever heard of any class get over funded… so cool.

    Looking at the big picture, I think that a good aggregation space is the first and most important tool to create for the future of learning. Once you have an out-of-the-box solution for this that works well for people, it would be pretty easy to plug a grade book and quiz tool into that. And of course some kind of API or whatever that would connect to a school’s record keeping software (automatically enroll for credit students, send back grades/completion to the school). WordPress already has some plugins that makes this connection happen in some ways. So all the pieces are almost there… so who knows where this will go.

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