The Blackboard Patent

Complete coverage of the Blackboard patent grant and lawsuit, from the pages of OLDaily.

Blackboard Patent

Blackboard Patents the LMS
July 28, 2006
This would be funny if it weren't so ridiculous: "The ever-brilliant US Patent and Trademark Office has apparently granted Blackboard a patent for...well...pretty much anything remotely related to learning management systems. As I read it, Blackboard basically owns the patent on any sort of groupware at all that is used for teaching purposes." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Web-Based Courses: The Assiniboine Model
August 1, 2006
OK, let's be clear now. I have one last thing to say about this Blackboard patent. Yeah, I know, half the educational community was working on the LMS in the 1990s. But for me, this Blackboard patent feels pretty personal. Here's why.

In the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume 2, Number 2, Summer, 1999, I published this paper based on a presentation I had originally made in 1997. It describes how to design and build a learning management system. It goes into a great deal of detail, including things like online registration, tests and exams, communications, personalized home pages, and much more. The paper, moreover, describes code I actually built at Assiniboine Community College and which was used to deliver a number of courses at the college.

Now, the Blackboard patent was filed June 30, 2000. Here it is. Read both and judge for yourself. But let me say this: what Blackboard claims to have invented in 2000 is almost an exact clone of what I described in 1997 and published in 1999. Now Blackboard may be suing a company today - a Canadian company, naturally. But my response to Blackboard is this: where do you get off taking my invention, which I shared freely with the rest of the world, in order to advance learning, and claiming it as your own? Is this the model of learning to which you subscribe, to use the legal system to deny learning to people who cannot afford it?


[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Learning Communities, Personalization, Books, Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Assessment, RSS, Canada, Online Learning]
Blackboard Awarded Patent on e-Learning Technology
August 1, 2006
Disclosure: I work with NRC IIT and am involved with the Synergic3 project described in this press release from Desire2Learn. I also support and have advcocated open source learning management systems.

As I commented earlier today, it was like poking a stick into an anthill. The Blackboard patent and subsequent action has prompted a furious reaction, one they must have anticipated (which is probably at least part of the reason for waiting from January 17, when the patent was issued, to July 26, to make the announcement).

"In addition, patents corresponding with the U.S. patent have been issued in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and are pending in the European Union, China, Japan, Canada, India, Israel, Mexico, South Korea, Hong Kong and Brazil."

To say that the reaction was negative would be to understate the matter considerably. Donald Clark writes, "I'd start selling Blackboard stock NOW!" Leonard Low writes, "Blackboard's claim of patent is both outrageous and repugnant." Dave Cormier writes, "In the span of a couple of weeks the educational landscape we've all come to know and care about has taken an awful beating. It seems that DOPA is taking away our open ed-web and blackweb is taking away our walled gardens." John P. Mayer writes, "How can you access the 'full power of the Internet' [as Blackboard says] if you are dealing with litigation fears and limitations of choice as a result?" Wesley Fryer exclaims "Crazy!" and asks, "Were the people in the US Patent Office really thinking clearly when they have this supposed 'patent' to Blackboard?"

In an item titled "Life among the clueless: the Blackboard patent" (best title of the day, by the way), Jay Cross ponders, "Maybe it was too big a nightmare for SumTotal, Saba, Plateau, and their brethren to think about. I imagine they are all in line for extortion, a la Blackberry."

Further, it was reported on my website, and also at the Inquirer that Blackboard has filed suit against Canadian company Desire2Learn over the patent (text of the filing document here). The Enquirer states, "the firm's [Blackboard's] CEO Michael Chasen said his firm has been a 'thought leader' in the e-learning industry." I, for one, beg to differ. Blackboard has resisted innovation for as long as I have known the company; I remember at a conference once trying to convince Greg Ritter that the company should use RSS feed, and now I expect Blackboard to claim to have invented them.

In an widely distributed email during the D2L Users Conference Desire2Learn head John Baker wrote, "We are disappointed that Blackboard turned to the court system before discussing its claims with us. We intend to defend the action vigorously, but because we just received notice two business days ago, we are unable to comment further at this time." The letter does not yet appear on the D2L website. Baker, reports Alberta Essa, was "visibly shaken", and Blackboard "truly evil."

As stated on the Academic Commons website, the move has raised concerns that action may also be taken against open source projects Moodle and Sakai. As Alfred Essa observes, "By filing a patent infringement lawsuit against Desire2Learn Blackboard has at the same time fired a shot across the bow of open source projects such as Moodle, Sakai, and .LRN, which are slowly emerging as disruptive innovations in the elearning space. In the long run Blackboard knows it can't win on product quality or innovation. Therefore, it will exploit patents as its WMD."

And he adds, in my view correctly, "What is Blackboard's diabolical strategy to crush open source? I don't believe they will directly go after the open source projects. They don't need to. Blackboard just needs to create enough FUD among lawyers, whose entire frame of reference is built around litigation avoidance, so that new institutions interested in adopting an open source solution just won't go there."

"I'm not worried," writes Moodle founder Martin Dougiamas on a Moodle forum (stupid login required). "I'm not worried as I think there is plenty of prior art." The open source communiy has already started fighting back. A Wikipedia article on the history of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) development has been started, essentially the same as the page at Moodle.

Martin Langhoff writes on a Moodle forum (stupid login required, sorry), "After a quick check on the ATutor forums, and seeing there was no discussion about the patents, I've gotten in touch with Greg Gay -- he says: "If you are looking for evidence of LMS type apps prior to 1999, here's a study we did early that year. We'll be in contact with the patent office in Canada, to make sure no patent is issued here. We're onboard on this too." and I think that study is good stuff and having them on board is great.

Some more prior art has been posted at Seb Schmoller's site about a Learning to Teach Online Course he and others developed in 1997 or 1998.

Some people see the positive in the move. Alex Reid ponders, "Perhaps Blackboard's patent is the evil impetus to move us away from a "course-based system" of 'online courses:' the bad idea that they want to claim as their fundamental intellectual property." As Scott Wilson suggests, "I hope we can use this as an opportunity...perhaps Tony Karrer is correct and that we are at the point of technology disruption, and we'll see the LMS displaced by simpler technologies with different non-functional characteristics (following the typical technology pattern)."

[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., European Union, China, Patents, Open Source, Quality, Copyrights, RSS, Australia, Canada, Wikipedia, Online Learning, Academia]
History Without Books Gets a Test in US Schools
August 1, 2006
Reuters: "What began as a long-shot attempt last year by Pearson Plc to sell California educators digital materials to teach history and politics, collectively known in US schools as social studies, has become reality in what could be the first large-scale step to eliminate books from classrooms." But in order to ensure schools purchase content from commercial publishers, they must be required to use a learning platform that offers only commercial material. Like, say, a system like Blackboard, with which Pearson has a long partnership. Limit the choice of LMS, limit the choice of content. And what sort of history and politics would you suppose will be taught when companies like Pearson and Blackboard have a lock on it? Via Andrew Pass. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Books, Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Will Richardson's Business Model
August 1, 2006
I am home from Bogota. Colombia is a fascinating country I will not soon forget, nor would I want to. Yes, there is poverty and crime, a lot, but the Colombia I saw is a whole lot more than that, as I will show you in the days ahead.

I talked with Diego a lot about this as we wandered through the back streets of the Candelaria (More). Appropriately, today seems to be about the corporate side of online learning. In this article, written this morning before following up on all the Blackboard kerfuffle, I wrote:

"The person who has cut into line ahead of you may appear to have gained something at your expense. My my belief is that a life led thusly is not one that profits. It is a life led solitary and alone. The essence of living in a community is to respect the interests, rights and desires of the other members. Those who disregard that essence soon find themselves excluded from the community, and from the benefits to be derived from the community."

This applies to people, it applies to corporations, and it applies to life. Blackboard's action tells us more about what sort of company Blackboard has become than anything else. Blackboard has turned its back on those who have built it up from scratch. It has embraced the corporate world and the corporate ethos. It's a sad and disgraceful day for learning.

Sorry about the typos. I'm jet-lagged, and I have mixed nuts in my keyboard, which is why my 8 key (among others) is stuck (the perils of travel on crowded airplanes). [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Wikipedia, Online Learning]
Blackboard Granted Patent on Series of Tubes
August 2, 2006
Keeping up with the discussion on the Blackboard patent as Bill Fitzgerald gives us our headline of the day (via McToonish).

Alfred Essa reports that he has contacted EFF "to see if we can get the Blackboard Patent listed under the Patent Busting Project" and advises "if any readers have connections to the EFF, let's get this on their radar." He also cites Brad Fell on abolishing software patents.

Dave Cormier continues to try to pull together an online meeting on the issue (but his emails to Blackboard are bouncing) and meanwhile has posted the link to the proposed Canadian patent. But even if Blackboard representatives don't show, it might be a good idea to be in on the Sunday Ed Tech Talk meeting and to let your voice be heard.

The Wikipedia page of prior art, mentions Feldstein, is gaining steam. Get your contributions in. He also references James Farmer's patent information page in his eLibrary, but it was so slow as to be unreadable.

Trey Martindale offers a short remark and links to the Slashdot discussion. Not surprisingly, the Slashdotters are not amused. As guisar writes, "I hope that not only are these patents denied but that Blackboard and WebCT get tied up in litigation until they go Chapter 11. If any market should be supportive of Open Source, I think the on-line learning marketplace is a natural. Having Blackboard and WebCT dominate is not good for us." Now there's some publicity money just can't buy.

Scott Leslie, who was on holiday when the story broke (hey, at least you weren't in Bogota!) comments "If you can beat them, sue them, eh?" He lists some prior art and adds, "at Edutools we can actually show a continuous development of the feature set that we use to compare these products from 1996 until our current one."

Meanwhile, ATS Blog cites a Moodle discussion and comments, "It is sometimes disturbing to watch the trends in e-learning in the United States vs. Australia, Canada, or Europe."

On Desire2Blog Barry Dahl writes, "Earlier I said I was not a hater. Oops, turns out that I HATE Blackboard." Heh. Michael Feldstein (who showed up with comments in a locked-down Chronicle article today) links to Blackboard's new defensive FAQ and asks "is Blackboard feeling the heat already?" At least the Chronicle covered it - the rest of the education press - University Business, Insider Higher Ed, eSchool News, all of them, are missing in action.

There were also short posts from Rich Schweir, Robert Paterson, Will Richardson, George Siemens and Graham Attwell.

One competitor that appears to be relatively unscathed by the fray is the open source product ELGG. Joan Vinall-Cox writes, "I believe that this is the corporate system about to topple from its own weight. I teach using an Elgg Community blog and a course wiki. I used to use WebCT. I prefer the blog and wiki as teaching tools; they're simpler to use, much, much cheaper, and students learn how to use software they might encounter again in their futures." And Harold Jarche notes that ELGG does not contain any of the 44 features claimed in the Blackboard patent.

I have wonder whether it wasn't really the best time for NIIT to acquire Element K. Heh. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Connectivism, Schools, Blackboard Inc., Push versus Pull, European Union, United States, Web Logs, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Australia, Canada, Wikipedia, Online Learning]
Blackboard are Not Alone
August 3, 2006
OLDaily full coverage: because it's a bit hard to follow, full coverage of the Blackboard case is being provided on a separate page (full coverage will continue on OLDaily as well, don't worry). Click here for all coverage in one handy chronological list.

The patent fight has widened now that it has come to light that SAP have also filed for a series of learning management patents, including a 'course editor', 'e-learning authoring tool' and 'e-learning system'. The applications were filed mostly in 2004 and 2005.

Ray Corrigan outlines what he expects the impact on the Open University will be. "The patent is nonsense on stilts and generically could be interpreted to describe what we have been doing here at the Open University for at least a generation and certainly for the 11 years that I've been here. I suspect Centrinity's FirstClass will be on Blackboard's lawyers' list of targets as well as the open source Moodle system the OU are adopting."

He also reports on some of Blackboard's previous nastiness, citing Jennifer Jenkins's write up of the case at the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse (it was also covered here at OLDaily).

Mark Oehlert offers some criticism of the patent document and, among other sites, links to the New York Times stock watch page for Blackboard. Looking at it a little more closely, I notice that Blackboard executives were dumping thousands of shares back in May. One wonders why.

Graham Attwell points to an item from that same month in which, and I quote, "Campus card solutions provider Blackboard is getting into the laundry business. It has added the eSuds online laundry service to its product line, giving USA Technologies access to hundreds of Blackboard's colleges and universities." Weird. Attwell comments, "I think it is time to return e-learning to the education sector - not a company which washes its dirty washing in public."

David Jnnings points to the Wikipedia page, where more and more contributions of prior art are piling up.

Discussion in an Advanced Distributed Learning forum. As Alan Jeffries observes, "Indeed - I note that Bb didn't immediately go after Docent, Saba, etc.. I guess Bb are the SCO Group of e-learning now. An obvious, cheap-shot money-making tactic. Hearsay is that D2L will be fighting the suit. In a fair world that should serve as a reasonable test-case to limit some of the more absurd moves of the USPO recently."

Bryan Alexander has been blogging about the patent at the NITLE Liberal Education Today (here, here, here). He also adds a couple of unrelated links to Lawrence Lessig and J.D. Lasica (to namedrop? to draw their attention? You won't do that with a Yahoo search redirect link!).

Karyn Romeis expresses concern about the contraditions and loopholes. Roger Goodson comments briefly, as does Christopher Wigginton.

Howard Rheingold Howard Rheingold has picked up the story. "Blackboard's actions are shameful, greedy, bogus, and have the potential for retarding the development of online learning throughout the world."

Leigh Blackall mentions the case in TALO. And Deon Metelski got tired of hearing about Blackboard and decided to take his mind off it by starting a blog, Tools for School. Silver lining?

[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Yahoo!, Blackboard Inc., Lawrence Lessig, Research, Web Logs, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Wikipedia, Online Learning]
41 figures From the BlackBoard Patent
August 4, 2006
For full coverage of the Blackboard patent story, please see this Special Section of OLDaily.

Mike Malloch has performed a valuble service, extracting the 41 figures in the Blackboard patent and posting them on Flickr.

He adds, "let me just say that having spent the summer of 1998 in BlackBoard's DC offices (seconded there from the UK to do some IMS work on metadata), and having spent a lot of that time interacting with the architects of BlackBoards subsequent systems, I know that these guys did not 'invent' the VLE, and that they knew they weren't 'inventing' the VLE."

I should point out, in response to his comments, that it's not simply the learning management system that needs to be defended here. Yes, some of us don't care about the LMS - I am among them. I see the future as being some sort of PLE. But what stops a company like Blackboard from coming along and saying they have invented the PLE?

See, the problem is, learning technology has always been a collaborative endeavour by a community of researchers and practitioners, and we have invented, and we have through out practices and our conduct explicitly eeschewed the idea that this domain could ever be owned by one company.

Riina Vuorikari of the FLOSSE Posse calls the Blackboard patent a showcase demonstration on the absurdity of software patents and reminds readers of the no learning patents campaign against software patents in Europe that has been underway for some time.

Dirk Herr-Hoyman sends this nice set of Blackboard is evil photos, posted on Flickr. You should send your own anti-Blackboard art to Bertbrat on Flickr.

Joseph Hart describes his own experiences with LMSs before Blackboard and posts some of my coverage of the issue. Lanny Arvin finds the patent "weird" and describes his own experiences with products such as FirstClass (which I also used), WebNotes and Allaire Forums (which again I used as well). And Christian Long thinks about patenting learning.

Alfred Essa argues that Blackboard's FAQ is "is, at best, misleading and, at worst, disingenuous." I have other words for it. But following Essa, we can see that while Blackboard's argument may be applied to copyright code, it does not apply to the concept of the LMS. "We know that Desire2Learn didn't copy Blackboard's computer code. We come back then to our original questions, which we still haven't answered." So what does Blackboard think it's protecting that it invented?

Michael Feldstein is translating Backboard's patents into plain English and will post the results soon; "When you see what they are actually claiming to have invented, you will be well and truly gobsmacked." I'm already gobsmacked.

[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Flickr, Great Britain, Blackboard Inc., Research, European Union, Web Logs, Patents, IMS Project, Experience, Copyrights, Metadata, Online Learning, Dublin Core]
Desire2Learn Patent Page, Blackboard Violating Australian Law?
August 5, 2006
The Blackboard story continues non-stop, so I'm throwing together an extra issue today to keep up. While I'm at it, I'm giving you a glimpse of my Saturday reading, a little more geeky than the usual weekday fare - but remember, this is a day off for me, so this is what I'm reading for fun.

Anyhow, first thing this morning came an email from Desire2Learn head John Baker letting me know about the company's patent information page. The text of the message reporduced here a few days ago may be found on the site, along with the full text of the patent and the letter of complaint. It also includes links to 477 pages of communication between Blackboard and the USPTO.

Michael Feldstein has been good enough to release his translation of the Blackboard claim from patentese to English. As you might expect, the claims made in the document are ridiculous. For example, here is the basic claim: "You have a system that is organized by courses. The system can be accessed by different users from different computers. Users can access multiple courses and can have different access privileges assigned to each course based on the roles of student, instructor, and/or administrator." Albert Ip comments.

Michael Feldstein has also issues a call for Wikipedia reviewers to ensure that the article is fair and conforms to Wikipedia's standards.

And finally, Feldstein is quoted in the first mainstream press article about the patent, published in the Kitchener Record in Desire2Learn's home town in Canada. Some outrageous statements from Matthew Small, Blackboard's general counsel: "This is not about reducing competition, it's not about hindering innovation, and it is something we think is in line with our duty to our clients to protect their investment in us as well as to protect the investment we've made in our technology." Yeah, right.

But the biggest story of the day might be this: according to a post in ITForum today (you can view it if you get a stipud login) Roger Atkinson writes, "Blackboard Inc's filings for Australian patents are numbered 2003263854, 2003263855 and 2005203324. Checking these, I find only cryptic details... it appears to me on initial checking that Blackboard Inc's Australian patents are 'applied for' or 'pending', and are not actually 'granted'."

If this is the case, Atkinson continues, then Blackboard may be in trouble. "Blackboard claims that '...patents corresponding with the U.S. patent have been issued in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore...' Under Australian law, 'It is an offence to falsely represent that an article is patented or the subject of a patent in Australia."

Atkinson also heaps more info into the prior art record: "For example, check AJET and ASCILITE Conference Proceedings for publications on LMSs that predate BB's patent application date. Using only those two sources (and there are many other sources), I believe that there is heaps of evidence to shoot down BB's patent application in Australia."

In the ATutor Forum on the topic started today, Greg writes, "One thing I think all this uproar has doing, is bringing together the LMS industry both commercial and open source. And it also seems to be opening the eyes of users of the BB system. Even users of the system seem to agree that they do not want to be forced to use BB. Attempting to limit choice appears to have hit a nerve among some BB users. BB's patent may just backfire on them..."

Dave Cormier explains why software patents are evil: "This is what the blackboard patent does... it patents the learning management system equivalent of doors and windows. While Blackboard may have done different things with their software they did not invent the IDEA of 'doors and windows', they worked on ideas that already existed and added their own twist." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Mailing Lists, Books, Blackboard Inc., Membership, Operating Systems, Web Logs, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Australia, Canada, Wikipedia, Online Learning]
Community Forum on DOPA and the Blackboard Patent
August 7, 2006
For continuing coverage of the Blackboard patent story, be sure to check this special page.

Yesterday's major activity was a Community Forum on DOPA and the Blackboard Patent held on Ed Tech Talk (view the chat transcript, listen to the MP3 audio, part 1). Also read a summary of the meeting by Sharon Peters.

"Part 1 of our Community forum includes an overview of these two critical issues, presentation of a message sent by BlackBoard CEO, Michael Chasen, reaction from Desire2Learn Director of Marketing, John McLeod, and commentary from Michael Feldstein and Stephen Downes. More audio, including our break out discussions and a chat with Moodle founder, Martin Dougiamas, will be uploading soon."

The Blackboard message in particular attracted a lot of attention as Chasen says "We [Blackboard] certainly did not invent e-learning or course management systems."

Chasen may say this but the words of the patent claims themselves paint a different picture. Afred Essa offers that picture in pictures as he describes the patent claims in detail, commenting finally that "Once we cut through the pseudo-technical mumbo jumbo it's apparent that there is no there there. If Blackboard gets away with this it will be one of the great hoaxes of this century."

He argues "the patent grant is breathtaking in its sweep and goes well beyond what we normally associate with course management systems or virtual learning environments. In addition to the core technologies associated with a VLE, the Blackboard patent potentially covers any infrastructure and integration elements when used in the context of course delivery."

Also yesterday came the first sign that the case may hit the mainstream press as the Times of India filed a report titled Blackboard patent may hit e-learning in India. The article notes, " The patent is already applicable in US, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. Its sweep spans every little bit of online education including processes like how courses are offered and managed. The patent is now pending in other countries including India."

Desire2Blog has posted a couple of items, including one with the PDF from the actual Kitchener Record newspaper (competing with an article on Sudoku toilet paper) and another highlighting a forthcoming interview with Desire2Learn CEO John Baker.

Michael Feldstein offers a couple lines of argument against the patent, including one showing that it stifles innovation, as in the case of the IMS common cartridge standard, and another from the Sloan-C listserv to the effect that learning management systems were consciously copied from more generic software performing the same functions.

Joseph Hart summarizes initiatives being taken to counter the Blackboard patent, including a new one by Gerd Kortemeyer, from the Sloan Consortium community, who announces, "I have started a document at A Literature and Systems Review of Prior Art to US Patent 6,988,138.

And to wrap up for today, don't miss Bucaneer Bonk and His Belated Blackboard the Pirate Top Ten List, who points out that Microsoft is a major Blackboard investor (and so Blackboard must wonder what Microsoft is doing in partnership with Moodle). Says Bonk, "Scurvy dogs! Either way, people like me will never promote them again (as if we ever have). The negative fallout of tis will be enormous. I do not think that the (dare I say 'idiots' for threat of a lawsuit when I post tis ter my blog) charmin people at Blackboard the Pirate realize it."

Which raises the question: is Blackboard so committed to this path it cannot back out? Is it condemned to be regarded in the same breath as companies like SCO and ContentGuard, viewed as a scavenger and a rogue? No - it can still back away, rescind its lawsuit, and renounce its claim (as Chasen has already done in his message) to all of e-learning. There is time, but for Blackboard, I feel that time is perilously short before the storm actually hits where it hurts.

[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Microsoft, Mailing Lists, Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Podcasting, Patents, IMS Project, Copyrights, Chatrooms, Australia, Online Learning, Audio]
Blackboard Patent - The Sky, My Friends, is Falling
August 8, 2006
eCollege has dropped the gloves and come out swinging against the Blackboard patent. "As one of the pioneers of online education, we launched our first customer's eLearning program in January 1997, before Blackboard even existed," said Oakleigh Thorne, chairman and CEO of eCollege. "In fact, we had online programs for numerous institutions up and running more than a year before the filing of Blackboard's patent application. After consulting with patent counsel, we believe the patent is invalid."

Alfred Essa writes, and I endorse this: "Both Mr. Chasen (Blackboard CEO) and Mr. Small (Blackboard General Counsel) have stated publically (e.g. Chronicle) that our reading of the patent is incorrect. Please educate us then. Tell us what your patent covers and what it doesn't cover. If we are wrong, we will gladly retract our interpretations and admit the error of our ways."

Follow the money. This age-old advice for pulp detectives serves us well as an examination of Blackboard's ownership unveils a whole new layer to the Blackboard case. "With Federated, Carlyle and Oak Hill all in the Bb shareholders club along with Bill Gates, Microsoft and Pearson, Blackboard might be seen as a bit of a darling. So the question becomes why on two fronts: why Bb, and why the patent and litigation route?"

George Roberts, who did the digging, observes, "Federated is huge, one of the largest fund management firms in the world, but it is still a family business, run by Chris Donahue, son of the founder, John Donahue. The Donahues are among the biggest individual donors to the Republican National Committee and to the Bush family."

Dave Cormier comments in reaction to this, "I firmly stated during our rundown on this on Sunday night that I did not believe that there was any kind of conspiracy between DOPA, Net Neutrality and the Blackboard filing... I am here to say I'm no longer convinced... If I wanted to control everything that was happening on the internet this is exactly what I'd do."

Tim Stahmer links to Cormier's musings and observes that while he is not ready to put on the tin foil hat, it is still the case that "Politicians and big media are so accustomed to being gatekeepers for information that theyâxTMre unsure of how to deal with the wide open nature of the current web. So, they fall back on the only tools they know, legislation and intellectual property restrictions." This is basically what I would say as well.

Cormier also links to Michael Feldstein's thoughts on why it wouldn't matter even if we developed technology that avoids the Blackboard patent. "Once an environment of patent litigation is allowed to take hold, innovation will grind to a halt - regardless of who is the immediate target of litigation." Quite right.

He continues, "The only way to prevent this is to teach companies that patent litigation for educational software--whether the infringement suit has legal merit or not--will not be rewarded in the marketplace. They have to learn that customers will shun them for anti-competitive business practices. Otherwise, we might as well either walk away from the whole field or apply for jobs at Blackboard."

Be sure to read the discussion in Feldstein's comments as he and Cormier debate the lilkihood of 'smart money' following Blackboard, and for Paul Bacsich's suggestion that the industry ought to set up a patent escrow.

Part 2 of the Ed Tech Talk conversation from Suday is available.

Paul Trafford meditates on the value of sharing "in the cybernetic age where busyness and popular culture sap our energies" and introduces us to Sarvodaya.

Barry Dahl wonders what the people listed as 'inventors' in the Blackboard patent actually invented. Good question, given that the list of inventors in the Canadian patent application is quite different from the list in the U.S. application/

Harold Jarche links to the No Education Patents website. Michael Feldstein also links to the No Education POatents wiki.

He has also reached pretty much the same conclusion I have in all of this. "Using property laws for ideas only serves the lawyers and the existing power structure. It does not advance individual freedoms nor the public good. Now I am certain that intellectual property laws must be changed if we are to advance as a knowledge society. We cannot have corporate interests defining the direction of our society by patenting ideas that belong to all of us."

Finally, Alan Levine writes about a patent Blackboard may have missed. "July 26, 440 BCÃffffÃfff,Ã,¢x"Socrates Inc. (NASDAQ:SOCRA), a leading provider of philosophical ideas and services to the education industry, announced that it has been issued a U.S. patent for the method of learning used for all education support systems and methods everywhere." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Microsoft, Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, Web Logs, Patents, Copyrights, Canada, File Sharing, Online Learning]
Grounds for Challenging a U.S. Patent
August 9, 2006
Scott Leslie points to the inaugural winner of the new Educause 'Catalyst' award, 'Course Management Systems'. Yes, that's right - not a single product, but the entire field, created, as Educause notes, "in pockets of innovation throughout the world."

Michael Feldstein contributes grounds for challenging a U.S. patent.

Michael Feldstein, in an Open Letter to eCollege, calls that company to task for its own patents. While not equating it with Blackboard, Feldstein still seeks assurances that the patents are merely defensive and suggests that eCollege donate them to the OSDL patent common.

Joseph Hart shares his personal history with Blackboard at Eastern Oregon University (EOU). "Blackboard abandoned their base of small institutions to go after the big money large institutions, but many of the most prestigious large institutions are operating within consortia to push forward open source efforts; therefore Blackboard is in danger of losing both the big plums and the little plums."

Alfred Essa contributes a fictitious conversation between Blackboard's CEO and Blackboard's Spinmeister.

Ken Reimer, founder of the e-learning comopany Learnstream, says it "seems that BlackBoard wants to take over the world, with claims that most Learning Management Systems contain proprietary inventions." How to stop them? It's all about money, he says. "If we could band together, we could make an economic impact, and demonstrate some real strength to fight these LMS patent claims."

[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, Web Logs, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Online Learning]
Blackboard Update
August 10, 2006
Eric Goldman and John Ottaviani notes, "The academic community is outraged at the lawsuit. Most of the venom has been directed at the perceived breadth of the patent, which many feel is so broad as to cover any course-based on-line learning management system, including those in existence since the early 1980's."

We know that Blackboard probably hustled down to the patent office just as fast as its little feet could take it after reading of e-learning 2.0. They have already indicated (More) a desire to pursue 2.0 methodologies, and if there were any doubt, this article describing their plans should dispell it.

eeLearning opines (in all lower case) that the patent is good for Blackboard shareholders. "it's an easy argument to make that if blackboard didn't grab these patents, a competitor might beat them to the punch and leave their shareholders with a much less valuable company." It also has a poll asking whether the patent is a good thing.

What is Feldstein's spinmeister telling him? "Already there are grumblings among the Blackboard building blocks community that they shouldn't be contributing code and ideas to a company that is just going to turn around and patent them." D'Arcy Norman says, "If Blackboard wants to recoup some karma, they should sign the patent(s) over to an impartial body, ensuring that the patent is used only as a first strike protection to prevent evildoers from obtaining said patent and obliterating an entire marketplace. So... Who's the best candidate to be handed the patent? IMS? IEEE? Creative Commons? UN?" Me?

[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, E-Learning 2.0, Online Learning, Academia]
Is Prometheus a Big Problem for Blackboard?
August 11, 2006
Michael Feldstein asks, is Promethius a big problem for Blackboard? "Almost none of the prior art listed in the Wikipedia entry was in BlackboardâxTMs patent filing. ItâxTMs remarkable, really, since they are legally obligated to list any potential prior art of which they are aware at the time of filing."

Feldstein suggests that the flurry of anti-Blackboard patent posts will slow down, which is not surprising. This will be a slow business. It may or may not require, as Barry Dahl suggests, an overhaul of the patent system. Even then, I wonder whether justice in this or similar cases is merely purchased by the highest bidder, or whether sanity and fair play will prevail. I am sceptical.

Anyhow, Scott Leslie brings us the Canadian version of the patent, with the same ridiculous language, via Barry Dahl. I wonder what ti would take for me to patent some of the stuff I'm doing. Oh yeah. Money. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Canada, Wikipedia]
Oracle and Unicon, Inc. Unveil Plans to Create Next-Generation Academic Enterprise Environment
August 15, 2006
This came out at the beginning of August but I've just seen it now. In a nutshell: Oracle is backing Sakai, the open source LMS. Now, if we think about that for a second, we have here a pretty clear and unambiguous response from Oracle to the Blackboard patent, which was unveiled just four days before this announcement. And that response - which is actually unprintable in this newsletter - is, I think, more eloquent than anything else I could say here. More from a much more recent Sakai press release. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Newsletters]
Michael Feldstein and Blackboard
August 17, 2006
Alfred Essa raises concerns that IMS might have now that one of its partners has played the patent card. The next IMS meeting, to be hosted by Blackboard in September, should be a pretty interesting session. Essa wonders what a question and answer with Blackboard would look like.

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) send an email advising "the patents are afforded no 'presumption of validity'" and that, as Michael Feldstein summarizes, "there is no patent in Europe yet, it will take a long time for there to be a patent in Europe, and in the event that there is a patent in Europe, the EUÃf¢xTMs patent law is much friendlier to challenging patents than current U.S. law."

Michael Feldstein also explains why Desire2Learn CEO John Baker is our hero, explaining that "Desire2Learn is doing an enormous public service." Of course, others have observed, D2L may have no choice - once you cave on something like this, you can count on the gravy train leading to your doorstep.

George Siemens agrees, Michael Feldstein will not be winning an "educator of the year" award from Blackboard. He adds, "Personally, I'm not convinced D2L is doing it out of altruistic reasons...but it does appear to be a side effect of their willingness to challenge Blackboard's boorish behaviour (that is officially my first use of "boorish" in five years fo blogging :))."

"It's almost too easy nowadays to make the case that government frequently makes bonehead plays," observes Lanny Arvan. "What about the private sector? And specifically, what about the Blackboard Patent and the D2L suit.... IÃf¢xTMm not confident either way whether what weÃf¢xTMre seeing now is rational or a bonehead play by Blackboard. But I do know enough about economics to understand that goodwill is a non-tangible asset with real market value and it is not hard for me to see that under certain assumptions that Blackboard could take a hit in the goodwill department beyond what it ever might recover in royalties and deterrence benefits."

Via Liberal Education Today, we read that "A website urging people to boycott Blackboard has gathered hundreds of signatures in a petition drive."

Confused of Calcutta writes, "I am not sure whether open source information has been used as a defence before, but this becomes a case to watch and to learn from."

Project Open Source | Open Access writes, "BlackBoard's American patent is curious in that it purports to patent any kind of course-based multi-user system, particularly common features such as assigning roles and permissions to provide users with various levels of access. These are features which have been generalized in all kinds of software, and have a long history in educational technologies." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Connectivism, Great Britain, Blackboard Inc., European Union, United States, Web Logs, Patents, IMS Project, Open Source, Copyrights]
Eben Moglen Weighs in on Blackboard
August 18, 2006
The Sakai Foundation has retained has retained the Software Freedom Law Center to evaluate the recent Blackboard patent. The SFLC, an organization directed by Eben Moglen, provides advice and legal services in support of free and open source software. Michael Feldstein remarks, "Eben Moglen is a pretty big deal. In addition to chairing the Software Freedom Law Center, he has affiliations with the Free Software Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation."

Feldstein also notes that eCollege has panted the gradebook, though it hasn't sued anyone yet. Which is good. But, he argues, "the best solution would be for Blackboard, eCollege, and other firms that may be holding relevant patents to all offer royalty-free licenses, guaranteeing that the patents will only be used defensively." I think an even better solution would be to donate the patents to an open source project, thus ensuring that the technologies remain accessible to everyone.

The Motley Fool looks at Blackboard and discusses the patent case (no idea how long this link will stay active). The Fool likes companies like Blackboard, but isn't thrilled about the lawsuit.

The author writes, "My problem is that the patent in question is so broad that it even scares operators of bulletin boards and chat rooms that have little to do with educational markets. There have been calls to boycott Blackboard, and e-learning online communities are abuzz with indignation over the temerity of this lawsuit and the underlying patent. That's not a good way to build a fan base.

"Blackboard is an exciting company with a lot going for it, but until we see how its customers respond to the lawsuit situation, I wouldn't dare touch the stock with a 10-foot laser pointer. The fears might be overblown, but you just never know."

An article in Inside Higher Ed, Blackboard: Bully or Misunderstood, drew a lot of criticism for misrepresenting the opposition to the Blackboard patent and for giving BlackboardâxTMs general counsel, Matthew Small, an easy ride. Small, quoted throughout the article, said, "This is not a patent on e-learning. We are not bullying anyone. We are not looking to put anyone out of business. We are looking to obtain a reasonable royalty for use of our intellectual property."

If you want to help Desire2Learn, send them your "hard copy users guides from June 1998 and earlier... documentation, release notes, even brochures."

[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Accessibility, Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., Online Learning Communities, Web Logs, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Chatrooms, Bullying, Online Learning]
The Patent Crisis Widens with New Attacks
August 21, 2006
As usual, you can obtain a full background on the Blackboard patent issue here.

And the issue, argues Alfred Essa, has widened into a full-blown crisis. "We are now in a full blown Hot War that threatens all software development, commercial and open source. Blackboard's offensive patent attack against Desire2Learn is only one among many emerging lawsuits that will soon rock the entire software industry. FireStar recently filed a lawsuit (also in East Texas) against Red Hat for the use of the principle of Object Relational Mapping in Hibernate (developed by JBoss), a popular component of Java applications.... In another patent case a small open source developer has been attacked for his model railroad software. Bob Jacobsen developed the JMRI model-railroad control software which he graciously distributes for free along with full souce code. Mr. Jacobsen was recently sent an invoice for $200,000 by Michael A. Katzer and his company, KAM."

He also reports that Desire2Learn has "selected Foley&Lardner, LLC s as their lead counsel in the patent litigation with Blackboard. According to John Baker( D2L CEO), 'Foley&Lardner is a highly regarded national firm that combines both the litigation experience and the technical knowledge to ensure a quality defense. In addition, we have secured an extension of time in which to file our first formal response to the suit, which is now due in September.'" Baker's full letter to clients is reprinted.

Meanwhile, a second company has jumped into the fray against Blackboard; I have no information other than this cut-off subscription article from the Washington Business Journal (which is really annoying). There was a comment in this site's discussion about a lawsuit taking place, but my Google searches turned up nothing.

e-LearningNow's Paul Justice calls the Blackboard patent and lawsuit a big gamble. "BlackBoard will have a difficult task in proving that they were indeed the inventors of the modern day LMS."

I am uncertain why the backers of the Washington Times feel it necessary to bolster Blackboard and hype its stock value. Perhaps the money behind Blackboard is feeling a bit of pressure.

Anyhow, the Times gushes: "It's a good growth company," said Kirsten Edwards, an analyst with ThinkEquity Partners LLC in San Francisco, which has no business relationship with Blackboard. Ms. Edwards said she rates the stock as a "buy" because the company's primary growth strategy -- selling more expensive and functional software upgrades to existing clients -- is "fairly low-risk."

Still, even the Times cannot hide the more sombre news hidden on (a very unnecessary) page 2 of the article. Chief Financial Officer Peter Repetti is stepping down, effective September 1, and as the Times notes, "In a research note, Merrill Lynch analyst Kash Rangan called Mr. Repetti's departure 'sudden, following just six months after the WebCT acquisition.'"

For the third quarter, the company expects a net loss of $5.4 million to $5 million on revenue between $48.4 and $49.3 million.

Desire2Blog comments on the Washington Times story (but as of this writing attributes it to the Washington Post).

Susan Smith Nash, minion of the E-Learning Queen, calls the Blackboard lawsuit today's equivalent to domain-squatting and argues, "if Blackboard prevails in their case against the Canadian learning management system developer, Desire 2 Learn (D2L), they may have killed courseware and learning management systems as we know [them]."

Alfred Essa asked Harold Jarche why he thinks ELGG is not affected by the Blackboard patent and Jarche responds in detail. "lgg is not a course-based system. There is no mention of courses in the interface, nor ability to create a course."

[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Research, Patents, Subscription Services, Google, Open Source, Quality, Experience, Copyrights, RSS, Canada, Online Learning]
Blackboard's Pending Patents
August 22, 2006
An item from David Carter-Tod lists more pending patents submitted by Blackboard. It will take some analysis of these, but they again appear to be concepts already established at the time of the filing.

Take, for example, the "method and system for conducting online transactions." The application describes a system where users have an account with an organization that acts as a broker for sales of third-party materials. Yes, a 'store'. But more to the point, the description seems to be almost a clone of the system I describe here and elsewhere. Not, again, that I am claiming to be the first person ever to think of it. But I was definitely ahead of - and published before - Blackboard's patent application.

Miles Berry takes a detailed look at the likely impact of the patent in britain. He writes, "There was an interesting case a few years ago of Bromcom holding a patent to wireless(attendance) registration, which the the DfES challenged and were then assigned the UK patent rights in an out of court settlement, and I could imagine a similar legal challenge from the DfES if push came to shove in this case. Another curious thing is how, as far as I know, Blackboard have thus far steared fairly clear of the UK schools market..."

[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Great Britain, Books, Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Patents, Wireless, Copyrights]
Short Video on Common Cartridge
August 22, 2006
I don't know - it just seems to me odd that interoperability has finally been achieved - at the course level. "IMS Common Cartridge, recently demonstrated in action between Angel, Sakai, Blackboard and WebCT at the Alt-i-lab 2006 sessions... to create a common standard for full course import and export between CMS and useful to publishers." It's a bit like planning a moon landing and settling for landing your capsule in the Pacific Ocean. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Books, Video, Blackboard Inc., Content Management Systems, Interoperability]
Blackboard's Reverse Rent
August 23, 2006
It conjures up images of your big smelly uncle moving in with you and then shaking you down for 'rent'. "Blackboard Inc. has ripped off ideas from the Intellectual Commons -- ideas small and large contributed by a community of inquirers and practitioners -- made it their 'intellectual property' and now want to charge everyone reverse rent for it.... In the meantime they have filed for other patents. What do these patents cover? Whose ideas are these? And whom will they sue next? Are you in their bullseye?" Also, Essa reminds us of the social networking patent filed by Friendster.

You know, as we follow the Blackboard case, it's worth asking how well the company has done when compared to these important principles of successful business:
# Be worthy of trust.
# Everyone knows that you are smart -- don't try to prove it.
# You are there to help, not to be right.
# Be a concierge - if it needs doing, do it.
# Develop services and products that are worth paying a premium price for.
# Do business as if you were working with a good friend
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Networks, Copyrights]
Blackboard: A Good Investment?
August 25, 2006
I would say not, though the stocks for the first few weeks after the patent story broke were flat (though it has dipped recedntly). Alfred Essa links to the story saying Blackboard is currently a risky investment.

In another article, he points to the stock sales by Yahoo insiders in recent weeks. "The interesting thread here is not that Blackboard's officers are selling their stocks, but the staggering amount of compensation and windfall Blackboard officers are enjoying this year in the form of stock options." One of my colleagues added up the compensation and put the results - all $216,150,195.00 of it - onto an Excel spreadsheet for your enjoyment. So do you think your education dollars are being wisely spent?

Mark van Harmelen proposes "preventing Blackboard from registering any valid patents in the areas of elearning 2.0 and Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) by starting to document the state-of-the-art in these areas." good point, and some people (such as Dave Cormier) have been talking about improving the overall documentation in Wikipedia. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Yahoo!, Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, E-Learning 2.0, Wikipedia, Online Learning, Personal Learning Environment]
Patent Fight Over Online Schooling
August 28, 2006
Business Week has discovered the Blackboard patent fight and in a typically one-sided article attempts to depict the fight as being between Blackboard and "the academic computing community, which is fighting back in techie fashion -- through online petitions and in a sprawling Wikipedia entry that helps make its case." Blackboard is given credit for an invention (though it is characterized as "obvious" and "incremental") although it should not be (even Blackboard's "obvious" and "incremental" developments were discovered prior to its claim). The 'market' is described as entirely occupied by commercial products, which is simply false ("Blackboard has about 60 percent of the market for those systems, followed by eCollege and Desire2Learn with about 20 percent each, according to Eduventures"). And universities are said to be "borrowing from" Moodle and the Sakai project, rather than, as is actually the case, developing them and using them.

As Michael Feldstein notes, ABC News, the Washington Post and USA Today have also run the Business Week article. The article was also reprinted in Wired News, which is disappointing, because they can do better than that.

Alfred Essa also comments on the Business Week article, and is worth quoting at length (because the article is a very good example of bias and propaganda in the commercial media):

"Blackboard continues to repeat its spin that 'We're not trying to put anyone out of business. We're not trying to hinder innovation. We're seeking a reasonable royalty.' If Blackboard is after reasonable royalties, why did the company file a lawsuit against Desire2Learn as its first course of action? If Blackboard is after reasonable royalties, why is the company asking for treble damages against Desire2Learn for wilfull patent infrigement?

"The most laughable quote in the article is Blackboard general counsel Matthew Small's claim that the company supports open source. 'He says the company supports open source, and notes a Blackboard product called Building Blocks allows users to create their own systems off Blackboard's basic platform.' We have some crummy APIs, therefore, we support open source. Gimme a break, dude."

Afred Essa also passes on information about Desire2Learn's request for specific materials: "At this time we are seeking specific user manuals and documentation dated June 1999 or earlier from any of the following vendors: Blackboard, Prometheus, Web Course In A Box, WebCT, VirtualU, Lotus and MadDuck."

[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., Marketing, Web Logs, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, RSS, Wikipedia, Academia]
LMS circa 1999
August 29, 2006
Alfred Essa tries to parse the cryptic claims offered by Blackboard about what their patent actually covers.

Not that we really needed more proof, but Harold Jarche has dug up an old report by the Centre for Learning Technologies (CLT) comparing learning management systems in 1999. Writes Jarche, "I've picked a few of the functions out of the tables to highlight how many other commercially available systems were on the market at the time. These had all been in production and on the market for several years. You will note that many had functions that Blackboard claims were unique to its system in 2000." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Oklahoma State Boots Blackboard
August 30, 2006
It's probably unrelated to the lawsuit, but Oklahoma State has decided to drop Blackboard in favour of Desire2Learn, showing that there is at least one university out there not afraid of Blackboard's supposed patent.

Alfred Essa also looks at Blackboard's claim that it supports open source - and laughs. As Charles Severance, the Executive Director of the Sakai Project, comments: "The path to interoperability and free exchange of innovation *is* for us to all to adopt and run Blackboard and then we can freely innovate by exchanging Building Blocks - the logic is completely obvious :)" [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Interoperability, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights]
Alt talk to Blackboard's General Legal Council Matthew Small
August 31, 2006
Morten Flate Paulsen writes in, "Your blog readers, following the BlackBoard discussion, may be interested in reading my article Two Decades of Online Sustainability. The article describes NKI Distance Education's development and use of LMS systems from the early start in 1985."

The one-sided Associated Press article about the Blackboard lawsuit has hit mainstream with its belated publication USA Today.

Additional coverage is provided in CNet, where executive editor Mike Yamamoto blames the government bureaucrats for the problem.

I guess the old saw about not talking about things that are pending before the courts doesn't apply to Blackboard. Good thing, because Matthew Small says a bunch of things that should be noted in this interview with Britain's Association for Learning Technology (ALT) ( via Leon Cych).

"Therefore prior art after 30/6/1998, i.e. 12 months before the provisional filing date, is not relevant.... It [Blackboard] sees the Wikipedia History of VLEs as a great compendium, but not as a threat....

"Blackboard cannot speculate as to what the DOJ considered in its review.... Nor is it the case that the first public mention by Blackboard of the patent was the issue of its 27 July press release. For example, Blackboard had already begun to mark its products as being patented, from earlier in 2006 (see for example the footer of the press release of 1 March 2006 ); and knowledge of the patent was 'out in the wild' several months before the press release, for example on a Moodle discussion board.

"I do not know the specifics of what Blackboard did for IMS in the late 1990s, but the inventions embodied in the patent were derived entirely by Blackboard inventors. The patent and the IMS work had nothing to do with one another. Did Blackboard notify IMS of its intention to make a patent application in 1999? I do not know. That would have been proprietary information, so I doubt it....

"We do not see this development as in any way 'game changing". We are not trying to put anyone out of business; reasonable royalties are all we want. We have a stated business policy of not going after individual universities, nor are we focusing on Open Source initiatives."

Eww. All slimy! I have to go wash my hands off now.

I mean, if they ask you, "Did you tell the DOJ?" and you didn't tell the DOJ, just say "no, we didn't." Don't weasel your way around it. And if you are asked, "Did you tell your IMS partners about the patent?" and you didn't, again, just say, "no, we didn't" instead of sliming your way through a couple paragraphs of evasions. And really, saying "I don't know" mere minutes after talking about how extensively you investigated all this? I mean, really now. Small should be ashamed.

Barry Dahl, commenting on the Small interview, writes, "They are quickly on their way to becoming the most hated vendor in high ed. Not that they care."

On the question of whether Blackboard informed IMS (which certainly appears to be a 'no', based on Small's comments) Michael Feldstein covers (with appropriate scepticism) a response from IMS CEO Rob Abel: "It's difficult for Blackboard or any other vendor to 'game' the standards process in IMS due to our IP policies." Well, maybe, but if the company simply ignores the policies, that's a different matter. As Feldstein says, "it is not so easy for standards bodies to protect themselves from abuse by aggressive patent holders."

Scott Leslie quite rightly takes the Blackboard blog to task for "impersonating a blog", given that its near total silence on the patent issue is "not what I'd call an 'authentic' engagement with the concerns of their readers/customers."

[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Great Britain, Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Patents, IMS Project, Copyrights, Wikipedia]
FAQ on Understanding the Blackboard Patent
September 1, 2006
Blackboard has posted a second FAQ. As Michael Feldstein says, "I am thrilled that they have now put these statements out in public (as opposed to just whispering them in their clientsâxTM ears privately) because it finally gives us an opportunity to address them head-on. The truth is that their claims about the scope of the patent, while literally true, are highly misleading." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Patents, Copyrights]
E-learning Gets Legal Lessons in Battle Over Patents
September 15, 2006
Cute (though inaccurate) headline. In this article (printed in the Ottawa Citizen, the Hamilton Star, the Windsor Spectator, and the Edmonton Journal (among others, probably) the Blackboard patent is held up for examination and found wanting. WebCT developer Murray Goldberg makes some good points. "I think the reason there is such a fury (at universities) is they perceive Blackboard is patenting something that largely came out of academic institutions, or was significantly molded out of research at academic institutions," Goldberg says. "I thought that this area was mature enough that nobody would frankly attempt to patent it, and go and sue an existing competitor." So did I, but apparently there remains some immaturity in the field. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Research, Patents, Copyrights, Academia]
D2L Counterclaim
September 15, 2006
Desire2Learn has filed its counterclaim against Blackboard in the recent lawsuit. "Blackboard's failure to disclose the Undisclosed e-Learning Products to the Patent Office was intentional and done with deceptive intent." Also, "On information and belief, Blackboard's failure to disclose the IMS Specification to the Patent Office was intentional and done with deceptive intent." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., IMS Project]
Blackboard Launches New Client Support Site
September 20, 2006
Blackboard announces the invention of toolbars, bookmarks, history lists, support tickets, libraries, download sites, RSS feeds and content pages. Don't believe me? Check out this announcement, from September 19 (yes, of this year). Blackboard announces all of these features - perhaps unawsare that they already exist in most we browsers and content sites. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., RSS]
Black Market
September 20, 2006
Why is Blackboard suing Desire2Learn? This post offers a few possibilities. Among my favorites: "those who tested D2L said it was easier to go from Blackboard 5 to D2L than to Blackboard 6." See also: EDUCAUSE on the lawsuit. And Michael feldstein, What You Can Do About Blackboard, Part One, Part 2. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, Web Logs, Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard Conference Call, Part II
October 3, 2006
Michael Feldstein gives Blackboard credit for answering his questions (I don't - it was just a needed warmup for court) and then summarizes the general non-responsiveness offered by the company in its conference call last week. What I glean from the conversation - given that Blackboard won't open its patents, won't allow royalty-free use of them, won't abandon its lawsuit, etc., is that it intends to own the e-learning market. Including the open source side. Also: feldstein posts, then corrects, coverage of an article on the Texas district where the suit was filed. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Online Learning]
British Company Launches Poetry Download Site
October 4, 2006
Nothing against poets, but it seems to me that poetry is the art form that would least benefit from a pay-per-listen service. Yes, poetry is hard to do well, but this doesn't stop a million wannabes from trying, which has resulted in a glut in the entire market and almost zero employment prospects for poets. Ironic, too, that the service launched with a reading of Chaucer, which has been public domain for as long as there have been poets, it seems. I guess we'll just have to wait for the Blackboard part of their plan - patenting the idea of reading poetry online. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Great Britain, Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard and SAP Announce Global Agreement
October 9, 2006
If you have to use SAP (as I do) for anything, it's probably your most hated software. No surprise then that Blackboard is entering into a 'strategic agreement' with the company. "Blackboard and SAP are implementing this service-oriented architecture to help institutions deploy integrated end- to-end processes." Any chance of open APIs here? Thought not. My view: the real purpose of an agreement like this is to allow Blackboard, as a commercial sales platform, to tap into student account details, as contained in SAP, to facilitate sales of online content, software, and services. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Opening Up Online Learning
October 9, 2006
Coverage of the 'launch' of the Common Cartridge standard (who came up with that name?) at the EDUCAUSE meeting in dallas today. "It is a set of specifications and standards, commonly agreed to by an IMS working group, that would allow digitally produced content âx" supplements to textbooks such as assessments or secondary readings, say, or faculty-produced course add-ons like discussion groups âx" to 'play,' or appear, the same in any course management system." According to the article, "all of them have vowed to begin incorporating the new standard into their products by next spring âx" except Blackboard, which says it will do so eventually, but has not set a timeline for when." Don't expect them to rush, though. "Because Blackboard and Web CT together own in the neighborhood of 75 percent of the course management market, Pearson and other publishers produce virtually all of their materials to work in those proprietary systems." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Books, Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, IMS Project, Assessment]
Eduforge: Eduforge Team Blog
October 9, 2006
Eduforge has created a team blog. "Eduforge is an open access environment designed for the sharing of ideas, research outcomes, open content and open source software for education." Topics covered so far include Open Educational Resources and the Blackboard patent. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Open Content, Blackboard Inc., Research, Web Logs, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Open Access]
Mirapoint and Blackboard Partner
October 10, 2006
Blackboard is continuing to consolidate, signing a deal with the Mirapoint email application, thus supporting single sign-on for LMS and email. This is a good thing. And any email solution that isn't Outlook is a good thing. But Blackboard owning the entire university infrastructure (and suing anybody who dares enter that space)? Not a good thing. Via University Business. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Blackboard Backpack
October 11, 2006
The LMS company has found a way to copy another idea, creating a way to run the system offline. "The next release will be SCORM compliant and will be able to be downloaded to a Flash (USB) drive. At this point, the computer would still need have the Backpack client on it--but in the future--it may be a web-based solution so that a student could use it at a library or other public computing commons." Not too likely on that last bit - because then the content could be used by any system, not just Blackboard - and who wants that? (Still waiting for coverage of the Blackboard Q&Aat EDUCAUSE.) [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: SCORM, Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, Metadata]
Educause Severely Rebukes Blackboard
October 12, 2006
I completely endorse this statement from EDUCAUSE: ""Brian L. Hawkins, president of Educause, said the organization's Board of Directors had voted unanimously on Sunday to encourage Blackboard 'to drop the patent, drop the lawsuit,' and put the technology 'in the public domain.' [He said] 'We think that it is in their best interest and the best interest of the broader higher-education community.'"

More coverage is povided in the Chronicle (this is a temporary link, I think, so view it quickly - my thanks to the Chronicle for making this available). Also provided to me was a first-person account of the EDUCAUSE session; MS Word format. Thanks to Brad Wheeler for your assistance. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard Patent. John Mayer Interviews Various Lawyers With Patent Knowhow
October 18, 2006
Seb Schmoller links to some interviews with lawyers on the Blackboard patent. "The first is with Professor Mary LaFrance who teaches patent law at the Boyd School of Law, part of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. The second, which is a long and intensly relevant to key issues in the Blackboard infringement case against Desire2Learn, is with Professor Vince Chiapetta." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
U.S. Patent Claim Against Waterloo Firm Concerns Researchers
October 18, 2006
Coverage of the Blackboard patent and lawsuit in University Affairs, the major magazine in Canada directed toward university professors and administration. This quote from Michael Geist captures the tenor of the article: "If this is to drag out there will be mounting pressure on many institutions that use Blackboard to consider switching, for the very reason that they are somewhat indirectly supporting the lawsuit." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Canada]
Conversations with Desire2Learn and Blackboard
October 19, 2006
Michael Feldstein briefly summarizes his conversations with Blackboard's Matthew Small and Desire2Learn's CEO John Baker. "I emphasized that, even if I thought that Blackboard's patent were valid, I would still oppose their efforts because of the damage that an environment of patent litigation will have on innovation." He also links to a nice article from Stephen Marshall summarizing the Blackboard Town Hall meeting at EDUCAUSE. "The idea that the creation of software should be a legally bounded and constrained activity is repugnant personally and its sad that increasingly lawyers seem to be controlling innovation in software rather than programmers." And I echo Feldstein: yup. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, Web Logs, Patents, Copyrights]
The NOSE: Information Technology in Higher Education
October 20, 2006
More on the Blackboard patent case. Consider this well: "Can Blackboard sue a user for patent infringement? The answer is yes. According to Professor LaFrance, part of Blackboard's strategy 'probably is to discourage universities from developing their own system...because the threat of litigation could cause some universities to terminate those efforts.'" Essa also talks with John Mayer, Executive Director of CALI (Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) and comments, "The next time Matthew Small, Blackboard's general counsel, says that the patent is 'limited', don't believe him and don't be fooled." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Information, Patents, Copyrights]
Sakai - Blackboard Patent
October 20, 2006
Sakai has commented about the Blackboard patent in its most recent newsletter. "We feel this patent is a hindrance to the free flow of innovation and communication in higher education technology." As well, Sakai Board Chair Joseph Hardin wrote to me in an email October 18, "It is important to note that we are working with the Software Freedom Law Center, along with Moodle and ATutor, and the SFLC is rather well known for upholding the interests of open source and free software developers, supporters and users. We are not interested in any outcome that benefits only the Sakai Community and not the whole open source community." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Newsletters]
Blackboard's Reply in Support of its Motion
October 20, 2006
Blackboard has responded in the patent suit, claiming "D2L has not identified any person who allegedly acted with an intent to deceive the patent office, nor has D2L pled facts to support an inference of fraud" and "D2L has not identified the 'undisclosed e-learning products' with particularity." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Online Learning]
Technorati Announces Support for Open ID
October 20, 2006
This is the tipping point. Expect most major online services to support OpenID (or OpenID 2.0 if people can agree on one) shortly. As Marc Canter opines, by the end of the year. Then look for browser plug-ins to support OpenID, as I have urged. What then? Well, I guess, look for someone to claim to have invented it. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: OpenID, Technorati]
Sloodle - 3D Learning Management System
October 27, 2006
Well I guess it had to happen. Or, at least, to be proposed. This page is the development wiki for Sloodle - 'Second Life With Moodle'. "Imagine a Moodle course that, if you wanted, could turn into a proper 3D interactive classroom with all your Moodle resources available to your students in the virtual world." This is very doable, since you can import external objects (such as videos) into Second Life. To me, the greater challenge will be fusing an open source LMS into a commercial 3D environment. But hey, it might work! Then Blackboard will say it invented it. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Video, Blackboard Inc., Second Life, Open Source]
Blackboard Stuff
October 31, 2006
Just keeping up on the Blackboard patent stuff. In case you missed it, here is the text of the EDUCAUSE letter urging Blackboard to drop its lawsuit. Michael Feldstein looks at the economic impact of the lawsuit - in the short run, things are OK, but in the longer run, things get ugly. So far as I can see, there is no future in the LMS market. To wit: 42 percent of institutions have implemented or chosen open source applications software such as Kuali Project, Sakai CMS , uPortal, Moodle CMS, or Open Office.. Also, Alfred Essa has recorded a podcast about Blackboard at EDUCAUSE. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, Web Logs, Podcasting, Content Management Systems, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights]
SkillSoft to Acquire NETg from Thomson
November 6, 2006
I keep forgetting to mention this. "According to the press release, 'the acquisition supports the company's overall strategy to continually increase the quality and flexibility of learning solutions available to corporate, government, education, and small-to-medium size business customers from SkillSoft.'" Looks to me like a reaction to the Blackboard patent. "NETg customers will see more content, technology and resources available to them. SkillSoft customers will benefit from this availability of the LCMS, LearnFlow and complementary content titles." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Thomson Corporation, Blackboard Inc., Content Management Systems, Patents, Quality, Copyrights]
Software Patent Ignites Firestorm in Higher Education
November 15, 2006
Network World covers the Blackboard patent lawsuit. "It's a case in which the level of vitriol and vilification is making the long-running and now-settled patent battle between Research in Motion and NTP look like high tea at the Ritz. There are claims, counterclaims, a civil suit, an extraordinary demand from a higher education IT group and a mounting torrent of blog postings." Via Alfred Essa.

Also: "The latest legal move occurred Monday when federal District Court Judge Ron Clark, in the Eastern District of Texas, ruled that a Desire2Learn counterclaim could stand. D2L claims 'intentional misconduct' by Blackboard officials for 'failing to notify the Patent Office of prior art' - of ideas and inventions by others that could undermine the patent claims." Geez, no kidding - if you sit on IMS, and fail to mention that in your patent application, then there's room for some questioning, don't you think? [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Patents, Networks, Copyrights]
Webcast Discussion with Stephen Downes and Mike King of IBM
November 27, 2006
I am right now as I post this talking with Mike King, the director of IBM Global Education, on Ed Tech Talk - if you are one of those who reads the newsletter the second it comes in, you can catch the converstaion talking place now. Later on this evening I will be visiting the Ohio Learning Network with Michael feldstein to talk about the Blackboard patent and lawsuit. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Newsletters]
Webcast Discussion with Stephen Downes and Mike King of IBM
November 28, 2006
In the first part of yesterday's doubleheader I spent an engaging hour online with Mike King, Director, IBM Global Education Industry (MP3 Audio). We talked about IBM's approach to open source, its relation to other open source companies, its support for projects such as Sakai and Moodle, and its stance regarding the Blackboard patent. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., Podcasting, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Audio]
EduPatents: The Gathering Storm
November 28, 2006
I had a fascinating (and long - I didn't get out of the office until after 10 last night) discussion with Michael Feldstein and OLN's Cable Green on edupatents and, in particular, the Blackboard patent. In addition to some interesting back and forth between the three of us, we were also visited by Blackboard counsel Matthew Small, who added his own perspective on things near the end of the session. The Elluminate archive may be accessed directly (you'll need to install Elluminate to make it work) and an MP3 recording of the session (for those who cannot or won't install Elluminate) is also available thanks to the novel audio-capture of the Elluminate session effected by Ed Tech Talk (this is a temporary link; I'll be storing it at a permanent location on my site in a day or two). [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Audio Chat and Conferencing, Podcasting, Patents, Copyrights, Audio]
Blackboard Re-invented eLearning 2.0
November 30, 2006
Funny. Blackboard is presenting "e-learning 2.0" at Educa Berlin. "It's not a problem that companies get into this, it's healthy for the community. But re-inventing the tools and indirectly claiming them as their own or otherwise representing them in a light that they are 'eLearning 2.0' or 'social bookmarking' trying to cash in on the hype, is totally ridiculous." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., E-Learning 2.0, Online Learning]
Patent Office Asked to Review and Revoke Blackboard Patent
November 30, 2006
The battle against the Blackboard patent has opened up on a new front as the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) "has filed a formal request with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for re-examination of Blackboard's e-Learning patent." The request was filed on behalf of Sakai, Moodle and ATutor. More coverage from CNet, which notes, "The announcement of the re-examination request comes just two days after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about what makes an invention too "obvious" to warrant protection." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., United States, Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard Patents Challenged
December 1, 2006
More coverage of the action by open source LMS organizations to challenge the Blackboard patent at the the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after attempts to negotiate with the company failed. "Fontana said that it thus became clear that Blackboard couldn't be relied on to respect the open source movement. 'They made it pretty clear that they wanted to hold on to the option of suing open source providers,' he said." Also, from vnunet Yahoo UK and Ireland, "Despite repeated assurances that it won't target the open source projects, Blackboard is now wrongly portrayed as an enemy of open source, [Blackboard counsel Matthew] Small complained... 'This is more of an emotional and religious issue for some people than that it is really a practical concern.'" More coverage: Press Release from the Software Freedom Law Center. Press Release from the Sakai Foundation. My article in Innovate (registration required, sorry) on the Blackboard patent. Articles from Information Week, TechDirt, Personal Computer World, TechWeb, vnunet. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Yahoo!, Great Britain, Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., Information, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Online Learning]
Open Source Projects Threatened by e-learning Patent
December 4, 2006
There has been much more discussion about the Blackboard patent case following the filing of two separate appeals to the U.S. patent board last week - in addition to the one filed by the open source LMS organizations, as Seb Schmoller reports in detail, Desire2Learn files it's own appeal with the U.S. Patent Bureau. Ars Technica focuses on the open source application. Coverage from Inside Higher Education. The Chronicle, meanwhile, remains the one source of coverage you can't read (don't know why they even bother, really). Sakai's statement and FAQ. . Michael Feldstein argues that the challenges have less to dfo with open source than with the fact that it's Blackboard's customers that are taking this action. Feldstein also explains in detail the distinction between ex parte and inter partes patent re-examinations. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, RSS, Online Learning]
Blackboard Financials: Why Are Insiders Still Dumping the Stock?
December 5, 2006
With all the attention being paid to the company as a result of the Blackboard patent, questions are beginning to surface about its long-term viability. Alfred Essa, for example, asks why Blackboard insiders and continuing to dump Blackboard stock. "Even Forbes recently took notice ("five insider selling plays") listing Blackboard as one of the top five companies with significant insider dumping of stocks." Meanwhile, from South Africa, James Kariuki lays it on the line: "like I have said before, online learning is an idea whose time has come, and NO action by the likes of Blackboard would stifle it." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Online Learning, Africa]
The Blackboard Jungle
December 8, 2006
Coverage of discussions - including a face-to-face between Blackboard lawyer Matthew Small and the Software Freedom LawCenter's Eben Mogen - of the Blackboard patent at the Sixth Sakai Conference. taking place in Atlanta. Some great back and forth. More coverage, including The Patent Jungle, Attention Must be Paid and Eban Moglen on Life in the Jungle. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Communities of Practice - The Patent
December 11, 2006
Yes, you read that correctly. I'm sorry. As Scott Wilson observes, "It essentially patents the idea of doing any kind of community-oriented knowledge management involving filesharing and forums involving one or more experts." How long before this becomes a full-blown crisis, and not the absurd annoyance it is now? Or are we at that point now, with absurdities like the Blackboard patent and lawsuit? See also Harold Jarche, who comments, "I remember a sign that was posted in the Officers' Mess in Wainwright, Alberta. It said, 'Let not common sense become so rare that it is mistaken for genius'. Perhaps this sign should be shipped to the USPTO." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Knowledge Management, Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard Patent Celebrity Death Match
December 11, 2006
Michael Feldstein opines about the recent debate between Blackboard's Matthew Small and the Free Software Foundation's Eben Moglen's (see the coverage from Seb Schmoller about the Blackboard patent and lawsuit. Feldstein is unhappy. "Some audience members were offended by Moglen," he writes, "describing him variously as 'a bully', 'a pimple', and 'our side's version of Rush Limbaugh'." Maybe so. But when you launch a war you need to expect to sometimes be attacked. And make no mistake about it, Blackboard launched a war. Mattyhew Small may be good at making people like Michael Feldstein feel sorry for him, but it's all tactic, not reality. The reality is that his company is trying to destroy Desire2Learn and that it is pandering to a court's basest sentiments to do it. As Alfred Essa summarizes, Blackboard is saying in court "We want an injunction (i.e. death) against an illegitimate and criminal foreign competitor." So, why is it we should be polite again? [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Bullying]
Google's Patent Search
December 15, 2006
Google has launched a new patent search tool and of course the first thing everybody in our field has done is to look up learning. Here's a patent for roles-based access control from 1997 - this is one of the things Blackboard claimed in its patent. And 'learning'? A search reveals 1147 patents - and a lot of work for someone, I guess. I think we need to get a handle on this, though I must confess, I preferred my earlier strategy - ignoring the U.S. Patent Office as irrelevant. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Google, Copyrights]
UCLA to Adopt Moodle
December 29, 2006
The headline says it all. Wonder how they're feeling these days in Blackboardland. And they can't even steal RSS! Microsoft has beat them to it. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Microsoft, Blackboard Inc., RSS]
Firefox 3: From HTML Renderer To Information Broker
January 5, 2007
Good article describing the (coming) intersection of the web browser and microformats. I've covered microformats before: these are little snippets of XHTML that define information structures in web pages. "Rather than going to Craigslist, eBay, and other sales services to post something for sale, you'd post the listing to your blog, in hListing format, and Craigslist and other sales services would scrape the Web, find your listing, and include it in their service." Major potential, and a bit easier than developing RSS. So where does the browser come in? "Web browsers are likely going to associate semantically marked up data you encounter on the Web with specific applications, either on your system or online." Hard to say when this would be rolled out; give it a year for Firefox 3 and, what, 6 years for Microsoft? Oh yeah, and in 2010 Blackboard will claim to have invented it. Via elearningpost. See also David Wiley on this. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Microsoft, Open Content, Semantics, Blackboard Inc., Semantic Web, Web Logs, Microformats, Information, RSS, Online Learning]
Predictions for 2007
January 16, 2007
eLearn Magazine's annual prognostication is out with the usual round of suspects. I like the way it begins, with Don Norman: "Finally, something might happen within the educational scene. Why? Because business leaders are now seriously worried." Elliott Masie jumps on next year's HD-TV trend with a meaningless buzzword: "a new model of High Definition Learning." Yeah, maybe when the viewers come down below the thousands of dollars. He also gets Web 3.0 into the same hyndred words. Sheesh. Michael Feldstein sees happy news coming from the Supreme Court (happy, that is, unless you work for Blackboard). Ray Schroeder is big on mobile learning, with a focus on Zune and the iPod. Well, maybe with iPod; Zune is nobody's favorite toy. Saul Carliner says "Experimentation in the design of e-learning programs will be more practical," but I see no good reason to believe that. Allison Rossett says, "Revolution is too strong a word for where we are today. Intimations, hints, glimmers, and possibilities-those words describe it better." Yeah, but hints and glimmers of what? Of... revolution, perhaps? Jay Cross touts the year of pull, the unconference, and cites Moore's Law. Me? "The internet is ripe for something new (and no, that something is not Second Life)." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Apple Inc., Video, Blackboard Inc., Push versus Pull, Second Life, Online Learning, Paradigm Shift]
Blackboard's Social Bookmarking Service
January 16, 2007
"I am sure they will get demonized for this." So opines Scott Leslie as part of his reaction to Blackboard's new Blackboard-only social networking service. Me, I think that if the only people in your circle of friends are Blackboard users, you need to get out more. As Leslie points out, the companies aren't alone in the blame for this sort of thing. "But the customers (that's you, right) have got to demand this, not expect vendors whose whole business model is 'lock in' to simply just provide it." Quite right. And as he says, "for some reason I still can't get a simple OpenID plugin for Wordpress." 2007 is shaping up to be, I think, a pushme-pullyou between open distributed systems and the silos that dominate the corporate and commercial approach to the online world. See also Mark Oehlert, who cites Khoi Vinh: "This fretting about the overhead of social networks seems especially important if, as some suggest, the path to success for these networks will be exclusivity." Yeah. Pushme-Pullyou. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: OpenID, Blackboard Inc., Push versus Pull, Networks]
The New Assessment Market
January 17, 2007
Coverage of Blackboard's move into assessment software and the reactions by the companies that are already in the space: Nuventive, that offers and an assessment program called TracDat; and WEAVEonline, a spinoff from Virginia Commonwealth University. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Assessment]
Patent Office Orders Re-Examination of Blackboard Patent
January 26, 2007
This is the big news for today and all the usual pundits are linking to it. Here's the Press Release from the Software Freedom Foundation. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Linking and Deep Linking]
Are Librarians Totally Obsolete?
February 1, 2007
Another one of those articles that leaps to the defense of librarians. It's just not convincing. Many of the arguments are of the "we won't let you" variety - the author points out that not all books are digitized, that online collections require registration, that Google's book search doesn't work, and the like. These, though, are artificial barriers, created by publishers. Librarians - some, at least - collude with the publishers because they think it will keep libraries relevant. It won't. At the first hint that librarians will no longer provide free labour (indexing, sorting, enforcing accessrestrictions) for publishers, they will be disintermediated. Why do you think Blackboard signs deals with publishers? No, librarians, if they want to remain relevant, need to curate digital archives and manage e-print repositiories. There is the idea of a library as a big collection of books and journals you bought from publishers to make available to your staff and students. Many librarians cling to that idea. They shouldn't. It's over. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Blackboard Inc., Google]
Blackboard Announces Patent Pledge in Support of Open Source Software
February 1, 2007
This is the big news today, of course. "The Blackboard Patent Pledge is a promise by the company to never assert its issued or pending course management system software patents against open source software or home-grown course management systems." That's good, though it's pretty clearly a response to the Free Software Foundation's success in getting the Blackboard patent reviewed. better to cut a deal before you don't have anything to protect, hm? And even then, it's not much of a promise. As the Sakai Foundation notes, in its response, "the Sakai Foundation and EDUCAUSE find it difficult to give the wholehearted endorsement we had hoped might be possible. Some of Sakai's commercial partners and valued members of the open source community will not be protected under this pledge." In particular, Blackboard wanted to reserve the right to take action against colleges and universities, something it needs to do, apparently, because of its current case against the Canadian company Desire2Learn. Bottom line? It's a cynical ploy intended to divide its opponents. The appeal should be carried through. The patent should be invalidated. Blackboard's nonsensical case against Desire2Learn should be crushed. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Canada]
Blackboard Makes a Pledge
February 2, 2007
More on the Blackboard pledge. Inside Higher Ed comes in with comprehensive and well-source coverage showing, I think, that nobody is satisfied with the Blackboard pledge, and more than a few think Blackboard was "misleading" in the way it portrayed, in its press release, support from Sakai and EDUCAUSE. More commentary (all negative) from Barry Dahl, Mark Oehlert, Joseph Hart, Seb Schmoller. meanwhile, we have this very odd report about an email sent to the "Blackboard Community" containing a very very misleading interpretation of the Sakai-EDUCAUSE statement. It also contains some phrasing from the Australasian Council on Open, Distance and E-Learning. I can't verify this statement because no press release has appeared on their web site. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, Web Logs]
Birthplace of Blackboard Comments On Patent Issue
February 7, 2007
The birthplace of Blackboard, Cornell University, is considering its options. "When Blackboard announced their patent it did cause us to begin an assessment of whether we wanted to move away from Blackboard ... It did cause us to rethink whether we wanted to use their product." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Assessment]
Blackboard - Proving That Just Because You Know What a Blog Is, Doesn'T Mean You ‘Get It'
February 12, 2007
Scott Leslie is quite rightly grumpy after receiving being urged by a Blackboard PR Flack to cover its new social networking service. Grumpy, because the flack didn't even both to read his blog, which announced the service several weeks ago (and was widely cited in the blogosphere, including these pages, as having done so). "If you barge in waving your press release about, don't expect me to treat you any different than I would the vacuum cleaner sales guy who rings my doorbell during a dinner party." On the other hand - I don't get anything from Blackboard. So we know they're still capable of being petty. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Networks]
Blackboard Is Coming to Patent You!
February 14, 2007
It bears repeating: "Anybody doing the math and figuring out that while bb weakly pledges that they aren't coming after open source, they are still filing this bucket load of patent apps? These claims above were FILED in 2006..not granted, FILED...that means at the same time that all of this stuff is breaking and bb is getting hit with all the bad pub, they plunge ahead with more and more filings." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Open Source, Copyrights]
Blackboard Announces New 'Institutional Effectiveness Platform'; Patents Pending
February 26, 2007
I guess it shouldn't surprise me that Blackboard's vision of the future of e-learning is exactly the opposite of my own. No loss; it leaves more room at the top for the successful companies. Thomson Learning, meanwhile, traditionally a close Blackboard partner, announces that it is adopting Sakai (though not cutting its connections with other LMS vendors). They write, in their press release, "In addition, Thomson Learning is glad to see one of its key business partners, Blackboard, Inc., making a move in the right direction to engage the open source community." Yeah. A move. One hopes Thomson is urging Blackboard to go further. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Thomson Corporation, Blackboard Inc., Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Online Learning]
Blackboard Inter Partes Determination Published
February 27, 2007
The nice clear version: "The USPTO found 13 of Desire2Learn's 14 claims to raise substantial new questions of patentability." (Aside: it is interesting to note that the use of a tag, in this case 'edupatents', imposes a requirement on the part of the writer - hence Feldstein's note in this post. This is why I use regular expressions rather than tags - a regular expression captures the words that would notmally be used in a post, rather than requiring that the author use a word that doesn't even exist. The Blackboard patent page uses a regular expression, which is why I don't even need to think about it). [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
The Mothership Now Supports OpenID
March 7, 2007
The 'Mothership' in this case being WordPress. Jason Gorman writes, "I guess what this represents to me is an opportunity to adopt cool technologies as they emerge, instead of having to wait for Blackboard to build them into their existing applications." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: OpenID, Blackboard Inc., Cool]
Bfree - Export Courses From Blackboard
April 2, 2007
Scott Leslie points to this product that lets you extract courses from a Blackboard archive file. "It allows you to open a Blackboard course export or archive file, select the files you want and then export these as an independent website." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Disintegrated Thoughts On Content Integration and Remix
April 4, 2007
Brian Lamb, who will be keynoting at this year's this year's Open Education Conference in Utah, ponders the back and forth of whether web deveopers will ever agree on standards. There's the depressing news from the commercial side, as we hear that Blackboard will never support anything like a proper export function, and depressing news from the open source side, as developers hesitate to support proprietary sites like Flickr and YouTube. "I'm dismayed by this stance," he writes, wondering what the online learning video awards would have looked like had clips from YouTube been banned. Well maybe - but let's wait a few years and see how it feels when it transpires that nobody will ever be able to access the actual videos except Google. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Flickr, YouTube, Video, Blackboard Inc., Google, Open Source, Online Learning]
Webby Awards Nominees
April 17, 2007
The 2007 Webby Award nominees have been announced (it's only April! what are they thinking?) and once again I've been overlooked. Well, OK, I guess I'm neither surprised nor disappointed. But something is still amiss when the nominees for 'best political blog' are the Guardian, Mother Jones, Salon and the New York Times. There is no award for 'best educational blog' but given the influence marketing departments have the nominees would probably be Blackboard, Thomson, SAP and Education Week. I am tempted to have my own awards show. I can't give awards to the highest bidder, sorry, so I would have to be random and capricious in my selections. Just like real life.

Anyhow, I'm in the Toronto airport waiting for my flight to Bogota (Colombia - yes, I'm going back for a few days) to board. Not sure what connectivity I'll have, so if you don't hear from me, don't worry, it's only temporary. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Thomson Corporation, Blackboard Inc., Marketing, Web Logs]
ACHUB - Arts, Music and Edu in SecondLife
April 24, 2007
Sometimes when posting a link I'm filled with mixed emotions. On the one hand, setting up a wiki for arts, music and education in Second Life seems like a good idea. On the other hand, many of the pages aren't created. But on the other hand, they post the password to the wiki on the front page, which is cool. But on the other hand, they are advertising conference space on 2L 'for rent'. But on the other hand, they link to this Boycott Blackboard page. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Marketing, Second Life, Cool]
Supreme Court Strikes a Major Blow for Patent Reform
April 30, 2007
This is very good news. In a nutshell, the Supreme Court has ruled that a broad and common-sense reading of the word 'obvious' should be used when considering whether a proposed patent is 'obvious'. This could reverse any number of patents, including the odious Blackboard patents (what could be more obvious than online courses?). More on the Supreme Court Ruling. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Does Pearson'S Purchase of eCollege Give It the Muscle to Compete with Blackboard?
May 22, 2007
Seb Schmoller links to an article by Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed and notes that "The article hints at further rationalisation and consolidation between educational technology and educational content businesses, and sees eCollege, backed by Pearson as much more serious competition for Blackboard." I don't see Blackboard's share price as an indicator of anything other than a tech bubble, personally, and I think that the major story here is that Pearson is entering a space recently vacated by Thomson. That alone gives it a lot of room to grow. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Thomson Corporation, Blackboard Inc.]
May 29, 2007
Very good resource compiling a few dozen essays and reports on patents and patent law. Discussions include, but are not limited to, the Blackboard patent case. Via Lucychili. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard V Desire2Learn - Claim Construction Briefs Filed
June 21, 2007
The next step in the Blackboard Patent lawsuit has been taken, with Blackboard filing a document describing what it is they think the patent covers and Desire2Learn filing a response to that document. The thrust of D2L's response is that "Blackboard has acknowledged that the small innovation it contends the 138 Patent added to the field relates solely to the concept of using 'multiple predetermined user roles' to provide security to the systems" and cites statements from Blackboard to that effect. Blackboard, meanwhile, focuses on the 'roles' aspect of the LMS, but attempts to construe that as widely as possible. It is also worth noting that D2L cites the Wikipedia History of VLEs page in its response. More from Michael Feldstein. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Wikipedia, Security Issues]
Blackboard Unveils Plagiarism Prevention Service
July 16, 2007
Blackboard has launched a plagiarism detection service. It compares submitted work to a database of 2.6 million papers along with articles submitted by institutions and 'voluntarily' by students. The company is also up to its old tricks - despite the longstanding (and controversial) existence of TurnItIn, Blackboard does not even blush when it claims that "SafeAssign is a unique plagiarism prevention service because student and/or faculty papers are included." It's hard not to see the irony in the copying of an anti-plagiarism service. Via Liberal Education Today. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Cheating]
Greenhouse Grant for Virtual Worlds
July 17, 2007
As the PDF says, "Blackboard is funding a single $25,000 (USD) grant for initiatives that promote the integration of virtual worlds into teaching and learning." This of course follows the successful development of Sloodle (PDF White paper) which integrates the open source Moodle LMS with Second Life. See also the Blackboard Connections website. See also this email. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Second Life, Portals, Open Source]
Lessons From Blackboard?
August 6, 2007
Interesting look at Blackboard based on an analysis of the company's second quarter statements. Two major trends are cited - one, the trend to external hosting services, and the second, the trend toward 'sites' of applications, including such services as outcomes management, portfolios and plagiarism detection. Writes Farmer, "This strategy does not place Blackboard in direct competition with Moodle and Sakai learning systems, or publishers." One wonders. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Blackboard Inc., Cheating]
First 35 Claims of Blackboard'S Patent Ruled Invalid
August 6, 2007
This is a huge win for Desire2Learn, as the court has ruled that Blackboard's first substantive claim, that of assigning access according to a role in a course, to be invalid. "Because that phrase is indefinite, all of Claim 1 is rendered invalid because of indefiniteness." Also, the court found for D2L's interpretation of terms in the remainder of the patent. See also Seb Schmoller and Desire2Learn's patent lawsuit blog. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Patents, Copyrights]
Has Blackboard Filed Another Patent Suit?
August 8, 2007
We reported in these pages last July when Blackboard announced its plagiarism detection service. I wrote, "Blackboard does not even blush when it claims that 'SafeAssign is a unique plagiarism prevention service because student and/or faculty papers are included,'" mentioning the oft-cited TurnItIn. Well now the other shoe has dropped. More from Alfred Essa and immagic. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Cheating]
Blackboard Inc. V iParadigms LLC Is a Defensive Reaction
August 9, 2007
More information has come to light. As Michael Feldstein reports, "Apparently, Blackboard is not threatening Turnitin with a patent. Turnitin is threatening Blackboard with their patent. Blackboard is pro-actively filing suit in response to the threat." TurnItIn is, interestingly, a Blackboard partner, and according to Blackboard, part of the agreement stipulates that one party cannot sue the other. Meanwhile, John M. Barrie, the founder CEO of, the company behind TurnItIn, send me a press statement saying, "We were not intending to sue Blackboard. We were surprised by the lawsuit. We generally do not expect such things from our business partners." All I can say is that the patent crisis is in full swing. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Paradigm Shift]
Am I Being Unfair to Blackboard?
August 10, 2007
Alfred Essa questions his stance in the light of developments in the latest Blackboard patent kerfuffle. Because it appears that iParadigms was in the process of asserting rights it did not have (and Essa looks at the contract and says to iParadigms, "What did you think you were signing exactly?" And Michael Feldstein comments, "one central, salient fact is clear: iParadigms was seeking to assert a patent for educational software."). OK, so iParadigms are just as guilty as Blackboard for contributing to the edupatents mess. Meanwhile, I think Essa quite rightly asks, "But if these APIs are truly 'open', why as a developer do I have to give up ANY rights to Blackboard?" Why indeed? Especially when you know that, if you open up to Blackboard, the company may go out, purchase your rival, and assert your business model against yourself - and you will have signed away your right to complain. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard, Competitor Reach Agreement to End Court Fight
August 24, 2007
Blackboard and iParadigms have settled their patent dispute out of court. The dispute arose when Blackboard filed what it called "preventative action" after acquiring the main competitor to iParadigm's plagiarism detection system, TurnItIn. The dispute was exaggerated by an agreement Blackboard and iParadigms had already entered to work together. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Cheating, Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard Releases New NCR Point-of-Sale Registers
September 14, 2007
This is a side of Blackboard we don't hear about a lot, being overshadowed by the LMS business. In addition to the cash registers, Blackboard sells "secure door access to buildings and residence halls, cashless payment on and off-campus, access to laundry services, parking and copy services." Via University Business. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Online-Learning Patent Dispute Heats Up
September 19, 2007
Meandering article that updates readers on recent activity in the Blackboard patent lawsuit and fills in some of the background, including some discussion of the Blackboard lawsuit over TurnItIn and the question of elearning patents generally. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Online Learning]
Putting More Social Into Our Social Software
September 26, 2007
Post outlining the addition of new social software features to Blackboard. Interesting because of the discussion of the terminology. The term 'social software' is apparently new to Blackboard users, but 'resource sharing' is something they can identify with. Meanwhile, on the Desire2Learn front, Barry Dahl has been writing a series on embedding web 2.0 applications inside D2L. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
bFree - Blackboard Course Content Extractor
October 3, 2007
A new version of the bFree Blackboard course extractor is available. David Moffat writes, "The program now extracts Announcements; Discussion Board entries, archives, and attachments; and Digital Drop Box and group File Exchange uploads. It continues to extract wiki entries and attachments, Staff Information and attachments, and Content Area pages, including folders, descriptions, links, and attached files of all kinds. Tests, Gradebook, Surveys, Assignments, and Pools are among the content items not yet supported. bFree will quickly create an independent web site for a course. The site can be placed on a web server or CD, or even loaded into Sakai. The web site mimics the structure of the original Blackboard course." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Information]
Watch Out Blackboard - A New Course Management Site Is in Town
October 3, 2007
The site is called WizIQ, and according to this post, "it looks like a promising addition to the growing number of free educational resources." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Markman Decision Affirmed - Claims 1-35 Gone
October 17, 2007
A second judge has dismissed the first (and largest) set of claims made by Blackboard against Desire2Learn in the ongoing patent case. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Introducing EduGarage!
October 23, 2007
Blackboard has launched something called EduGarage - "the home of the Blackboard Developer Network, a community of more than 2000 developers who create and share tools, applications and services for teaching and learning through Blackboard Building Blocks, Blackboard PowerLinks and Blackboard Language Packs." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Blackboard's Dirty Laundry Comes Out in Patent Trial
October 26, 2007
Kudos to Michael Feldstein, who has been on top of the Blackboard patent case since the beginning, for offering continual and insightful reportage. Today we get news of some of the seamier side of the LMS wars: "Blackboard apparently sponsored a spy to go to the D2L user conference and report back on the events and even had an employee pose as a university employee (with a fake email address) to gain competitive information" and "while the public story around the patent is that they are protecting their intellectual property, the 'real' purpose was to 'contain and control' D2L. So the goal is to distract the #2 vendor in the LMS space with a costly lawsuit." Sad. And tawdry. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Privacy Issues]
Blackboard Is Losing Customers, but What Does It Mean?
November 7, 2007
Blackboard's stock, despite the lawsuit and the bad publicity, has continued to climb historically, probably spurred on by recommendations from industry analysts. Probably they like not only Blackboard's hold on the market - "the high cost of switching to a new system is likely to encourage customers to stay with Blackboard" - but also the company's continuing emphasis on commercial transaction systems, such as today's announcement of support for contactless card technology. Nonetheless, Michael Feldstein notes, the company is continuing to lose customers, the result of major universities moving to Moodle, as Louisiana State did. What's going on? "The big loss appears to be unambiguously in Blackboard Basic licenses... there is no evidence at this time that Blackboard is losing its most lucrative Blackboard Enterprise or Vista customers. And to a certain extent, the loss of the lower-end customers could actually be beneficial to Blackboard's financials." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
The New Education Agenda
January 3, 2008
It's a bit difficult to parse exactly what Gordon Freedman, Blackboard's VP of education strategy, is trying to say here. But I think it's this: worldwide, education is being seen as more vital to national policy goals, especially in countries outside the English speaking world, and as companies (incuding Blackboard) attempt to globalize, it will be important to adapt to this reality. These governments have seen learning technology as playing a central role in this, providing as they do a means of providing access to learning, but also because they can be more cost effective and can shape a consistent K-20 learning environment. All fair enough, though it should be clear that the undertone is that he is telling governments that e-learning technology can be used to support their (political?) economic and social objectives. "A technical infrastructure tuned to the missions of innovative institutions is absolutely necessary to service the new economy, the new labor force, and to help produce the flexibility and adaptability necessary for the 21st century." As discussion of the 'new education agenda' progresses, the question, 'who do we serve?' must surely rise to the forefront. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
8th Annual Blackboard Durham Users Conference
January 9, 2008
Coverage of the Blackboard Durham users' conference. Nothing unusual in that, but the theme of this conference was (wait for it) 'connectivism'. "A core element of Connectivism is the use of a network, its nodes and connections as a metaphor for learning. Additional principles include that nurturing and maintaining connections across the network is crucial to facilitate continual learning." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Connectivism, Blackboard Inc., Networks]
Blackboard and The NTI Group Join Forces
January 15, 2008
Blackboard is moving into the mobile phone notifications business, signing an agreement to acquire The NTI Group, which is involved in the mass alert and notification service industry. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Blackboard Bought Xythos
January 28, 2008
Blackboard continues its acquisition spate, buying Xythos, a content management system. Michael Feldstein comments, "This fits well with the trend we're seeing elsewhere, e.g., Moodle and Sakai both building JSR-170 repositories underneath all of their various LMS tools, ANGEL and D2L both selling some kind of content management add-ons, etc." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Content Management Systems, Learning Object Repositories]
Blackboard Advertises an Open Source LMS
February 4, 2008
As the Blackboard patent case goes to trial in East Texas, we have here a report that the company is using Google Adwords to advertiose themselves as an open source LMS. Michael Feldstein has images as proof, but notes "Blackboard's ad no longer shows up. It looks like they may have pulled it. If so, good for them." Well, maybe, but they should never have run the ads in the first place. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Push versus Pull, Patents, Google, Open Source, Copyrights]
Desire2Learn V Blackboard - Who Wins?
February 8, 2008
The big trial begind monday. Barry Dahl expresses the concern, "This case will be decided by people who have no idea what they are doing." That may be. But considering that the original patents were approved by experts, and that armies of expert lawyers and lawmakers have put us into the situation we find ourselves today and who continue to make bad decisions,, I would hardly say that bad decisions are the exclusive domain of people who have no idea what they're doing. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Kitchener Newspaper Interview
February 11, 2008
The Blackboard Patent trial began today - here's the joint pretrial order (via Seb Schmoller) outlining the issues in 16 crisp pages - and the Kitchener Record, D2L's hometown newspaper, covered the opening by interviewing Bary Dahl. The article states that "Blackboard... wants sales of Desire2Learn's education software banned in the U.S.," which he says was "news" to him. To me, too, frankly, but I can't say I'm surprised. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Follow-Up With Kitchener Reporter
February 12, 2008
Barry Dahl obtains clarification of the Kitchener Record report. "Blackboard's ultimate goal may be to force D2L to take out a license rather than to put D2L out of business. But it hopes to use the threat of an injunction - a ban on D2L sales in the US - to force D2L to do so." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Blackboard's Use and Abuse of Standards Bodies
February 22, 2008
Reporting on the Blackboard patent trial, Alfred Essa writes, "Compare the concepts described in the quotes above with a description of Blackboard's 'purported' invention. I think it's obvious that the IMS specification is describing the very thing that Blackboard claims to have invented, namely the notion of multiple user roles and differential access to resources based on those roles." Meanwhile, as the jury deliberates D2L is pressing its 'inequitable conduct' case against Blackboard. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, IMS Project, Copyrights]
Blackboard Vs Desire2Learn Patent Suit - Update
February 22, 2008
In the Blackboard patent case, "the jury handed down its verdict that the patent is valid and that Blackboard should be awarded damages of approximately $3 million." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Jury Supports Blackboard Patent
February 23, 2008
This is a special issue of OLDaily to wrap up coverage of the Blackboard patent trial jury verdict.

The East Texas jury managed to wra up deliberations in an afternoon and get away for the weekend with a judgement of $3.1 million in favour of Blackboard. The reaction across the web was generally one of dismay, though there were some mitigating factors: first, the settlement was much less than Blackboard as wasking, second, the verdict did not include an injunction against sales of Desire2Learn software, and third, the patent is still under review by the U.S. patent office.

Still, Michael Feldstein probably summed up the views of most observers: "I'm speechless." Feldstein provides ongoing coverage of the reaction, including a post linking to Desire2Learn's letter to their customers, coverage of the Campus Technology article on the case, and a summary of the Waterloo Record article.

Feldstein comments, "One thing that is clear, however, is that so far nobody has benefited financially from this. The $3.1 million Bb could receive in settlement probably won't even cover their legal fees. Their stock is at the same level it was when they initiated the lawsuit and down over 40% from its highs. And obviously D2L has not come out richer either. Blackboard has a net loss of customers and has created tremendous negative press for itself while D2L now has at least one major customer who is willing to go on record saying that they are worried."

Others were less restrained in their comments. Donald Clark writes, "The very idea that Blackboard invented multipe user accounts and access to learning resources is nothing short of software fascism."

Grainne Conole writes that she's "shocked" after hearing about the result from Terry Anderson, who (mincing no words) titled his article, "Evil Blackboard legally extorts $3,000,000." He writes, "I hope this action further alienates users from Blackboard and it accelerates the exodus of fair minded educators from the ranks of Blackboard customers."

Leigh Blackall expresses his view visually and links to the Boycott Blackboard page. Barry Dahl writes, "My guess is that they just wanted it over - go ahead and punish the wayward Canadians ... I wonder how hard it is for patriotic American jurors to find in favor of a foreign company over a domestic one. Pretty hard, I bet." (I would call it a RIM special - if you are Canadian and selling in a U.S. market, expect lawsuits. It's what they do to supplement tariffs and trade restrictions).

More coverage:

Liberal Education Today links to The Record. Alfred Essa writes, "Although all is not lost, this is a crushing blow to Desire2Learn, one of the few remaining commercial competitors to Blackboard in the higher education LMS market." Seb Schmoller sums up a series of search links. Michael C. Smith (who covers the East texas court where the case was held) suggests that "Most readers are familiar with the studies that place the cost of litigating a patent case at $3 million per side" and asks "is this a true win for the plaintiff, or a loss because they didn't get a recovery over the cost of bringing the case?" Blackboard, meanwhile, spent the day announcing BlackBoard TV, which is the amazing innovation of creating a YouTube channel (better run down to the Patent Office and file papers on that one!) which is actually kind of nice because, as you know, it includes a discussion forum where you can express your views on the case to Blackboard.

[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: YouTube, Video, Blackboard Inc., Research, United States, Linking and Deep Linking, Patents, Google, Discussion Lists, Copyrights, Visualization, Canada]
Jury Sides With Blackboard in Patent Case
February 25, 2008
Continuing coverage of reactions to the Blackboard patent verdict. The Chronicle quotes a combative John Baker: "They won this round, but the battle is not over by any stretch of the imagination," John Baker, president and chief executive of Desire2Learn, said in an interview Friday. "We'll continue to fight and hopefully remove from the educational community this very dark cloud." The Sakai Foundation also responds in measured tones, "This is certainly not either the end or, frankly, the most important part of the ongoing patent dispute." And Graham Attwell writes, "The Blackboard affair is just another round in this fight. It ultimately represents an attempt to privatise our rights to education and our rights to learning, to turn the means an tools for developing knowledge into a private commodity." Exactly. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Learning Communities, Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, RSS, Online Learning]
A Personal View On the Blackboard-D2L Patent Case Resolution
February 26, 2008
Lanny Arvan expresses his anger at the Blackboard patent case, not from the perspective of technology or prior art or any of that stuff, but collegiality. "The Patent case following the merger and the earlier acquisition and then mothballing of Prometheus makes it pretty clear that Blackboard is pursuing a monopoly strategy and that is more important to them than collegiality with their customers. Having once felt that we mattered to the vendor, it is distasteful to feel otherwise." Worth a read because this typifies what formerly loyal customers are now thinking. Curtis J. Bonk, meanwhile, revives his 'Blackboard the Pirate' ditty. Desire2Learn shares the actual jury instructions (I wonder whether they can crowd-source some grounds for appeal). And Riina Vuorikari gets the European impact spot-on: this is exactly why they don't want software patents. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., European Union, Mergers and Takeovers, Patents, Copyrights, Online Learning]
So Many Reasons to Dislike Blackboard
February 27, 2008
Not to be left out, the people on Slashdot weigh in on Blackboard. The first comment says it all: "why the hell would anybody want to infringe on their patents? It's a really horrible design and interface." Heh. All downhill from there. Note especially the comments from Blackboard system administrators - ouch! [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
An Eye-Witness Account of the Trial
February 28, 2008
people wondering what went wrong in Texas at the Blackboard patent trial will be interested to read this eyewitness account, provided by Jim Farmer. "This was not 'anything goes combat,' but rather two businesses that had a different perspectives of U.S. patent law and it applicability to their business." It probably could not have been anything otherwise in this case, where the judge warned lawyers that "those attorneys (who are 'nasty') lose more trials than those who were more respectful of witnesses."If you were interested in the trial you will want to read this. And note well: "Blackboard's SEC Form 10K filing revealed Blackboard capitalized $6.1 million of the costs of enforcing their patent only through December 31, 2007; the trial expenses could exceed $10 million." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Some Court Documents
March 3, 2008
Some more court documents in the Blackboard patent case appear - along with an odd request (from Blackboard lawyers) to remove a link. As of this writing the link to the source - instructional media + magic - is not functioning either. Also, Feldstein writes, "Recall that D2L had posted a comment (which they later pulled at the request of Blackboard's legal team) to the effect that they had uncovered documents during the discovery phase of the trial showing that the reason Blackboard went after them was that D2L was winning too many deals against them. This list certainly is consistent with that claim." See also this interview by Jim Farmer with Fred Hofstetter, a fact witness at the trial. Also see Alfred Essa, Anatomy of a Bogus Patent. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Push versus Pull, Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard Inc. V. Desire2Learn Inc.: Grey Monday March 10, 2008
March 7, 2008
Ongoing coverage from the Blackboard case (see also Seb Schmoller's list). Blackboard has filed - under seal, so nobody can read it - a request for an injunction to stop Desire2Learn from doing business in the United States. D2L posted most of its response online (coverage from Barry Dahl. Michael Feldstein links to this and also Alfred Essa's assessment of how broad the patent is).

D2L's John Baker, meanwhile, has been making himself available for interviews. Speaking with Barry Dahl, he looks beyond the lawsuit. "Once we get past this issue with Blackboard, I think we're going to be in great shape because we're finally going to get an answer about does our work-around get around the patent or not, and as soon as we have that we're free and clear."

Alfred Essa, meanwhile, points to another bogus educational software patent - "a patent lawsuit against 5 for-profit educational companies: University of Phoenix, Inc, The Apollo Group, Inc., Capella Education Company, Laureate Education, Inc., and Walden University, Inc. The patent was filed guess where? Texas Eastern District Court. The patent at issue is called: 'Computer architecture for managing courseware in a shared use operating environment.'" [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., United States, Patents, Copyrights, Assessment]
Blackboard Lies and Liars
March 10, 2008
Before you call out the lawyers, please note that all my titles are citations from the article I am linking to, and not original assertions being made by me. That said, Barry Dahl doesn't pull any punches while proving the headline true as he compares what Blackboard said to the Department of Justice when asking for approval to merge with WebCT and, um, the truth. Dahl writes, "Blackbeard tells the DoJ that the WebCT merger should be allowed because it has ample competition in the market while specifically mentioning D2L, they don't tell the DoJ about the patent that would severely limit competition." See also Alfred Essa, Blackboard goes for the jugular. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Push versus Pull, Mergers and Takeovers, Linking and Deep Linking, Patents, Copyrights]
Judge Bans Sales of Software Found to Violate Blackboard'S Patent
March 12, 2008
So, the judge in the Blackboard Patent case has awarded Blackboard its injunction against Desire2Learn, prohibiting it from making new sales in the United States, but then stayed that order in order to allow D2L to create a workaround. This all (to me) seems to suggest that the judge is buying into the "it's a very narrow invention" interpretation of the patent. Good coverage in the Chronicle article. Desire2Learn has also posted a statement. Michael Feldstein also links to a Chronicle article covering the other edupatent suit highlighted by Alfred Essa (and covered here) a few days ago. Essa also comments on the injunction. BlackBoard has also posted a community letter on the court case and injunction, soft-pedaling the impact. Not so soft-spoken is Barry Dahl, who slams the injunction and BlackBoard's commentary. Finally, as a weird ironic twist, an article outlining B;ackBoard's plans to enter the video surveillance market. Me, I thought their posting of a photo of what resembles a prison work crew was ironic enough. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Video, Blackboard Inc., United States, Patents, Copyrights]
Seeking Clarity About D2L Work-Around
March 14, 2008
Barry Dahl effectively summarizes the issues in the post-trial period of the Blackboard patent lawsuit. A lot will rest on Desire2Learn's ability to effectively work around Blckboard's patent. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
March 17, 2008
Michael Feldstein summarizes a recent article on the Blackboard Patent case in T.H.E. Journal, which features an interview with Desire2Learn CEO John Baker. The tenor is that D2L will come out of this just fine, especially after having the judge approve their workaround. Baker states that $3.1 million is manageable, given their current cash flow, and that standardizing the clients on the new version will actually save costs in the long run. "Also, they're still cranking out product. Version 8.3 appears to be a fairly robust release with a lot more functionality than just the patent workaround." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Desire2Learn CEO Makes Case Against Blackboard Patent, Court Ruling
March 18, 2008
Another in the round of interviews given by esire2Learn CEO John Baker in the wake of the Blackboard patent court case. This one's quite long, with a lot of detail. "For me it was fairly frustrating because we tending to be focusing on the words that were within the patent," says Baker. "And Blackboard fought against us by using words that weren't in the patent and weren't in the claim construction. They were almost creating smoke and mirrors around the actual, real heart of the matter. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Bad News for Blackboard, Good News for Moodle
March 24, 2008
Blackboard's share of the LMS market continues to fall, with Angel, Desire2Learn, and especially Moodle gaining a greater share. "Moodle doubled its market share in the past 12 months and now has the highest market share after Blackboard/WebCT in this market segment." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Forget E-Mail: New Messaging Service Has Students and Professors Atwitter
March 24, 2008
The Chronicle of Higher Education covers Twitter, a 'new' messaging system. "some professors, librarians, and administrators have begun using Twitter, a service that can blast very short notes (up to 140 characters) to select users' cellphones or computer screens." The story mention that Blackboard will add a Twitter like messaging service to its LMS. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Twitter, Blackboard Inc.]
Official Workaround Announcement
March 27, 2008
John Baker of Desire2Learn has announced the 'official workaround' in the Blackboard patent case. "Our Learning Environment 8.3 underwent external third-party review after we devoted significant resources to ensuring that 8.3 was outside the scope of the method claims of the patent. We are confident that this version does not infringe the asserted claims." Of course, the court will have the final say in whether this is the case. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Spring Flings and Facebook Fun
March 28, 2008
Blackboard has started a Facebook group for its upcoming conference. It's an interesting idea, but the group, which is open now, will not remain open if the company's critics begin to log on and express their opinions. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Blackboard Inc.]
Reexam Update - Patent Rejected
March 28, 2008
I'm more than pleased to introduce today's newsletter with some delicious news: the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected all 44 of Blackboard's patent claims. Now this is a "non-final" report, meaning that both sides can still appeal. But still, this is a serious setback to Blackboard. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Newsletters]
Community Update On Patent Activity
March 28, 2008
Blackboard responds to the announcement today. They write, "This Office Action was expected and is the first step in a reexamination process that often takes years to complete. It has no effect on the validity of the patent, the lawsuit between Blackboard and Desire2Learn or the pending injunction against Desire2Learn." Not everyone, of course, believes this. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Maybe We All Own the MLE After All
March 31, 2008
The invalidation of the Blackboard patent riday caught the attention of numerous writers over the week-end. The Chronicle's coverage, which added no new information, was linked by many. Meanwhile, Michael feldstein catches Blackboard playing fast and loose with statistics. Barry Dahl writes, "Blackbeard is toast – let's watch them sink." Seb Schmoller provides a flowchart of the process and warns it will be a while before this is resolved. Alfred Essa also interjects a note of caution. Blackboard, meanwhile, highlights user centered design on its blog. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard Vows To Press On
April 2, 2008
Longish interview with Blackboard Chief Legal Officer Matthew Small, who doesn't pull any punches. "I think what's happening is there are some people in the e-learning community who quite frankly don't understand patent law," he says. And also: "If the patent were to be invalidated in a reexamination, I think the court ruling would stand. It is done. Those damages still have to be paid." This is in fact what happened to Research in Motion, so he may be right about this. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Learning Communities, Blackboard Inc., Push versus Pull, Online Learning Communities, Patents, Copyrights, Online Learning]
Blackboard 138 Patent Re-Examination
April 8, 2008
Sakai responds to the Patent Office overturning fo the Blackboard Patent, leading Barry Dahl to comment that they're acting as though it's over. "This rejection of the patent is good news for the education community and supports what we have believed all along--that the patent in question should never have been issued in the first place," writes Michael Korcuska. "Because the SFLC request was accepted essentially without modification, their work on the re-examination is essentially complete and this concludes the current relationship between the SFLC and Moodle/ATutor/Sakai." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Online Learning]
What the Sakai Announcement Means
April 9, 2008
Michael Feldstein reinterprets the Sakai announcement on the Blackboard patent. "The Sakai Foundation apparently believes that the odds are against the Blackboard patent surviving the challenge process in any enforceable form. I tend to agree." And "there is always a danger of having too many cooks in the legal kitchen." Fair enough. And I should also underline this as well: "D2L's behavior has been more altruistic than many people realize. A business that fights to invalidate a patent gives its competitors a free ride at considerable expense. Had D2L been less concerned with what's right for higher education in general, they almost certainly would have settled this out of court." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
H1 TCC08: Transitioning From WebCT to Sakai
April 16, 2008
Christy Tucker has been doing all of us a favour by liveblogging the Technology, Colleges, and Community (TCC) conference in Hawaii. One I liked was Applying the Hedgehog Principle in higher education. And this item looks at how to transition from WebCT - the commercial LMS bought out by Blackboard - to Sakai - the open source LMS created by a consortium of universities. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Open Source]
Watch Videos of the BbWorld Commerce '08 Keynote Addresses
April 24, 2008
Videos from the rfecent Blackboard conference: "Mark Milliron of Catalyze Learning, who discussed the newest generation of students and how they prefer to learn... Adrian Sannier from Arizona State University, who discussed the evolution of strategic campus technology alliances." Videos are WMV, but the quality is very good and the streaming works fine. Access them directly from this page. The speakers are both pretty dynamic (I was not familiar with them) but the content is about what you would expect, drawing from the usual sources (Oblinger, Moore's Law, Kurzweil...). [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Video, Blackboard Inc., Quality]
Is Blackboard's Lawyer Calling D2L's Customers?
April 24, 2008
This is just weird. Blackboard's lawyer is calling Desire2Learn customers to get them to switch? Tell me, how much confidence in a company would that inspire in you?? meanwhile, the court has denied D2L's motion to stay based on the Patent Office's non-final rejection of the patents. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Facebook, Meet Blackboard
May 14, 2008
Blackboard has built a Facebook application. The best comment is from Barbara Fister: "So we pour the content of one propriety system into another proprietary system, hoping students will find their way from one to the other?" [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Blackboard Inc.]
Blackboard V. Desire2Learn: The First Final Judgment
May 14, 2008
very good recap of the various rulings and denied appeals that have followed the verdict in the Blackboard patent case. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Notices of Appeal Filed; Blackboard Jumps the Gun
May 15, 2008
Desire2Learn has filed its notice of appeal in the Blackboard patent lawsuit case. Meanwhile, Blackboard has filed a motion in an Ontario court in an effort to enforce the Texas settlement (Blackboard has no patents in Canada). [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Canada]
Blackboard, Inc. Sued for Patent Infringement
May 21, 2008
I want to say something like, "Live by the sword..." or "hoist up your own..." but I'll just leave it for now as a short item, and we'll see where it goes. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
More Tech Radium V. Blackboard, Inc.
May 22, 2008
Feldstein writes, "these are patents about unified messaging to mobile phones and the like." And I agree with this: "This is a critical growth area for educational technology. It is in the interest of higher education to see Blackboard fight this patent, just as it has been in the interest of higher education to see D2L fight the 138 patent." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Dancing with the Devil: a View From Blackboard';S European Conference
May 22, 2008
Niall Sclater, who as Seb Schmoller notes, leads the Open University's VLE Programme and was responsible for the OU's "widely reported and watched implementation of Moodle." He offers what Schmoller describes as an "enthusiastic description of Blackboard's 'Next Generation' learning platform." Mostly, it's a bunch of web 2.0 stuff, such as a dashboard, a course management block that allows you to drag and drop blocks of content, and ways to open itself up. That's probably necessary for its survival (and people building other learning management systems should also take note).

That said, Sclater writes, "So have I gone over to the darkside and am I going to recommend the Open University switches from Moodle to Blackboard? Hmmm... not right now I haven't. For one thing, talking to some of the delegates, they want their hands on this stuff now and are going to have to wait a year or so for some of it. Meanwhile the Moodle community has lots of innovations up its sleeves too." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., European Union]
The Adventures of Bollywood Blackboardwala
May 23, 2008
Too funny. Blackboard meets Bollywood. Note: you'll have to start the videos playing manually by clicking on the small 'play' arrow. Michael Feldstein (who must search for 'Blackboard' daily - or maybe he reads the Chronicle) "didn't see this one coming". Randy Thornton is not just a 'blogger', he's an information professional and college instructor. You can also find anti-Facebook humour on his site. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Video, Blackboard Inc.]
Blackboard Responds to PTO's Rejection
May 28, 2008
D2L links to the Blackboard response. Blackboard keeps claiming originality. No surprises here. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
An Update On Blackboard Calling Desire2Learn Customers
May 30, 2008
Some good hardnosed analysis in this post, which is a summary of the conversations Blackboard counsel Matthew Small has been having with universities. The object of Small's phone calls has been to discuss the legal risks universities using Desire2Learn technology might be facing. This is a questionable sales tactic, and an escalation of Blackboard's campaign against teh Canadian software company. And it's one that might backfire - "an Eleventh Amendment challenge would certainly be a dramatic and fascinating turn of events. Blackboard has worked hard to avoid any direct legal confrontations with universities so far. A Constitutional challenge by a university could open up a substantial new front in their public relations battle." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Canada]
Blackboard's Reversal of Position; Desire2Learn Moves for Stay in the Court of Appeals
May 30, 2008
Blackboard, which last month said it welcomed re-examination of its patent (and which extended the number of claims it wants to make to 57), today filed a request that the Patent Office suspend the re-examination. Also, D2L has filed an emergency motion to stay proceedings pending the re-examination with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., United States, Patents, Copyrights]
Update: Blackboard Defends Patent, Files More Claims
June 3, 2008
Campus technology's coverage of the latest in the Blackboard patent debate. Nothing new, but the coverage is crisp and appears to be accurate. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
June 3, 2008
I liked this post on edupunk, even if the author is a student depicting he adults as somewhat out of their time and place. So punk belongs to youth now, hm? And the 'edupunks' are illegimately leaving students out of the discussion? Of course, there's Serena, who writes, "As a student, I *have* been part of the EDUPUNK discussion since it started." And she interviews six students who also feel involved. Via Sailing by the Sound. Meanwhile, it is "with no small amount of personal embarrassment" that Tuttle SVC addresses the topic. I think his best (and solely rlevant) comment is his last: "The discussions of the musical and political strands of punk has been a pleasant acknowledgment that there were garage bands before GarageBand, folk culture before participatory culture, and revolutionary ideas before 21st Century Skills." Also, I like this line (which is classic edupunk): "It was then that it hit these people. Blackboard was never a learning tool." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Edupunk, Adult Learning, Paradigm Shift]
D2L Resolves Current Patent Burdens
June 13, 2008
Blackboard is moving from the offensive to the defensive. First of all, Desire2Learn managed the lawsuit nicely. "D2L has paid the court judgment plus post-judgment interest in full and has also migrated all customers to version 8.3 of their software, which they claim does not infringe on the patent. There's been some FUD flying around about whether D2L could handle the financial impact of the judgment. Well, they just did handle it. End of discussion." And now Blackboard is facing a lawsuit of its own while, at the same time, its patent is under challenge. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, RSS]
Blackboard Accuses Desire2Learn of Contempt
June 18, 2008
As expected, Blackboard has rejected Desire2Learn's fix of its system to comply with the judge's ruling in the Blackboard patent case, claiming that the fix is just cosmetic and doesn't satisfy the verdict at all. Of course, it would have been nice had Blackboard examined the fix before the expiration of the period for making the change, but they didn't do that. Not that Blackboard is interested in the facts of the matter; they will continue no mater what. "Blackboard's chief legal officer, Matthew Small, said that if the judge doesn't find Desire2Learn in contempt of the injunction, litigation would still continue." Barry Dahl also comments. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
A New Virtual World Winter?
June 23, 2008
I ran across this post at Terra Nova while doing some research for an upcoming debate about the future uses and the usefulness of Second Life and other virtual worlds (VW) in education. Bruce Damer asks "Is interaction in a VW that much more enriching and valuable than the simpler modalities available in other platforms? Will VWs ever really go mainstream? I continuously hear complaints about VWs not being worth the trouble, especially from people much younger and hipper than me (I am 46) who prefer much lighter weight forms of interaction. What does this portend?"

In his eighth point (of 8) he adds, "the "walled gardens" represented by multiple proprietary VW platforms guarantee a certain (high) percentage of failure in the near-term. All industries with a large number of small players using proprietary technologies soon undergo traumatic downsizing or consolidation with a few monopoly players emerging. Think of the telephone system and Ma Bell." You can also think of Blackboard and the other VLEs. Also, can anyone read those sentences without thinking about the VW Beetle first before getting the brain back on track? -BD [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Interaction, Blackboard Inc., Research, Second Life]
Blackboard's Contempt(Ible) Comments
June 24, 2008
Desire2Learn posted their replies to numerous questions that they've received about Blackboard's Motion for Contempt and Blackboard's Chief Legal Officer Matthew Small's public and private comments about the motion. Suffice it to say that this is getting uglier with each passing event/motion/response/etc. -BD [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
New Research Lifts Lid On Highly Misleading USPTO Re-Examination Stats
June 24, 2008
I received a link to this post over a month ago and then promptly forgot about it. While catching up on some reading today I realized that this info is potentially very important regarding the Desire2Learn v. Blackboard debacle currently in progress. "Despite a mandate for "special dispatch", the time required to complete an inter partes re-examination is much longer than commonly believed." There are some pretty sad stats related to Inter Parties reexams at the USPTO, such as "Without appeal, the average pendency period for inter partes re-exam is 43.5 months, much longer than the 28.5 months reported by the USPTO" and "Although no inter partes re-exam has ever been completed after being appealed, the average pendency for appealed inter partes reexams is 78.4 months." Wow, doesn't that just fill you with optimism about the future of the D2L-BB battle? -BD [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
A Bridge Between Blackboard and Open Source?
July 15, 2008
An announcement made Monday at the Blackboard Developers Conference is sure to get some attention over the coming months. Bb and Syracuse University will work together on an integration of proprietary Blackboard with Sakai, one of the primary open-source alternatives. The end result should be a platform that allows users to import Sakai content into Blackboard or vice versa. "There's been some concern in the [open-source] community that this is a giant attempt to suck everything into Blackboard.... It really is done in the spirit of trying to be an open company, [to] really focus on something that will add value to the student experience," according to John Fontaine, Blackboard's senior director of engineering. -BD [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Experience]
Sorry, We're Open
July 17, 2008
Jim Groom responds (along with several commenters) to Tuesday's article referenced in OLDaily about Blackboard and Sakai partnering. Jim is "getting more and more confused with the term "open" when used in the context of educational technology these days." He continues, "Point is that an announcement like this has very little to do with open source innovation, and everything to do with a marketing strategy to linguistically co-opt the term open. The word is used 21 times in this article, and while BlackBoard is working with the IT staff at Syracuse University to create a "dongle" (I refuse to call it a bridge) to connect with Sakai (hardly revolutionary),the actual language in the article is what's important." -BD [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Marketing, Open Source, Paradigm Shift]
Court Denies Blackboard's Motion for Contempt
July 21, 2008
Blackboard's motion for contempt has been denied. That means Desire2Learn 8.3 is immunized from the patent lawsuit. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Get Involved with Transcoder
July 23, 2008
From my email: community input is being sought for the following project: 'CETIS and Knowledge Integration are working together, with community input, to develop a content transcoder service prototype. What is being proposed is a web service which will convert content into a variety of standard packaging formats (e.g. IMS CP & CC and SCORM). The project also plans to look at the most frequently used proprietary formats such as those used by WebCT, Blackboard and Moodle and at significant UK application profiles such as NLN." In particular, "which dialects we actually address is critically dependent on getting realistic sample data so, if you handle content based on IMS Content Packaging, we'd really like you to get involved send us examples." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: SCORM, Great Britain, Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., IMS Project, Web Services]
Starfish Retention Solutions Launches Software
July 26, 2008
I received an email today from David Yaskin, a former VP of Product Strategy for Blackboard, advertising his new startup. The product, Office Hours, "will improve the delivery and assessment of programs which identify at-risk students, promote contact with instructors, deliver tutoring services, provide academic advising, and facilitate relationships with mentors." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Marketing, Mentors and Mentoring, Assessment, Academia]
Why a Blackboard-Sakai Connector?
July 30, 2008
Interresting reading between the lines of this post from a Blackboard author explaining why a Blackboard-Sakai connector was developed. "...institutions want to share data and content between their respective mission-critical Blackboard implementations and their pilot Sakai instances... Blackboard clients want this integration, and this is why we decided to develop it." Um, yeah. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
PTO Denies Blackboard's Suspension Petition
August 26, 2008
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected Blackboard's request to suspend the re-examination of its patents. The Office rejected the claims in a non-final action back in March. This decision signals that the re-examination will proceed. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Appeal Brief Filed
September 8, 2008
Blackboard has filed the papers appealing the verdict in the Blackboard patent case. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard Customers Consider Alternatives
September 9, 2008
This article ends on an upbeat note for Blackboard, but along the way it points top the serious hurdles Blackboard is facing - everything from fears about its pricing strategy to distrust because of the lawsuit to competition from smaller and open source systems. Oh, and from yesterday - it was Desire2Learn, of course, and not Blackboard, that filed the appeal. Sorry for the confusion.

Also: Jared Stein wonders about Blackboard's capacity to innovate. "'At a minimum,' he [Blackboard's Michael Chasen] said, 'we are at least just as innovative as open source.' At least as innovative as open source! With millions in expenditures on hardware and developers Bb is proud of the fact that they are at least as innovative as open source, which runs on the power of volunteers and sheer passion? Chasen's statement can be read both ways, confirming what I've believed for the past two years: that free, oss platforms such as Moodle etc. are now on par with Bb and the other Big Boys." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Open Source]
Blackboard China Is For Sale – Only 1.51 Million Dollars
September 10, 2008
Tim Wang reports, "the Chinese online education service provider – Cerbibo, has recently announced to sell 53% of their shares for the total of 10.3 million Yuan, which is only equivalent to 1.51 million US dollars.... Cerbibo is co-founded by Blackboard." Must be something going on behind the scenes. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., China, Online Learning]
If Facebook Worked Like Blackboard
October 3, 2008
This post shows so clearly the difference between the educational mindset and the open learning mindset (another from David Wiley, who is on a roll): "Imagine if every fifteen weeks Facebook:
  • shut down all the groups you belonged to,
  • deleted all your forum posts,
  • removed all the photos, videos, and other files you had shared, and
  • forgot who your friends were.
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Video, Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Grab Yourself a Cup of Coffee and Get Comfortable - We Have a Story for You!
October 23, 2008
Why would Blackboard request a court to allow them to place a spy into the Desire2Learn Fusion user conference? Why would a court grant such a bizarre request. Strange, strange. As Seb Schmoller says, the other side isn't talking. So we are left to wonder. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Privacy Issues]
BlackBoard Is Such an Open Stud
November 3, 2008
I'll just quote Jim Groom and let you judge for yourself: "This is classic, and it's so bad it's almost good, which is what scares me about it. But the misinformation campaign being run here about openness is dangerous, and the portrayal of Bb NG as "a hip stud" who gets all the hot girls because he is so Web 2.0 just tells you how much Bb mocks you, abuses you, and insults your intelligence." here's the video. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Web 2.0, Project Based Learning, Video]
November 10, 2008
At first I was just disappointed that bavatuesdays was accepting ads. And then I was dismayed to find that they were ads from Blackboard. And then I looked at the ads a little more closely, mousing over them... [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Blackboard User Group Spotlight: CSBUG
November 28, 2008
Link to the Blackboard YouTube channel. "BlackboardTV is a multimedia effort to help e-Learning innovators (designers, instructors, students) visualize online teaching and learning in colleges and universities, K-12 schools, companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, YouTube, Video, Blackboard Inc., Visualization, Teaching Online]
Blackboard Now Suing USPTO
December 1, 2008
Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Blackboard, which successfully sued Desire2Learn for a patent infringement earlier this year, is now suing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in an attempt to force it to abandon its review of the patent enforced in the court case. This creates what is known in logic as the fallacy of petitio principii. The court ruling presumed the correctness of the USPTO. Now the USPTO is being required to presume the correctness of the court ruling. See also Patently-O, from D2L, and the suit itself. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
College 2.0: A Wired Way to Rate Professors-and to Connect Teachers
January 8, 2009
This article in the Chronicle tries to suggest that 'the most wired professor' on campus is the person who has 'the most hits on the campus Blackboard system'. Leaving aside the question of whether the administration should be tracking its professors' activities at that level, we are still left with the reaction: what? Hits on Blackboard makes someone 'wired'? What is this, 1999? The 'most wired' professor on any campus will use a wide variety of applications, some of which (like their Second Life sessions) don't even show up as web 'hits'. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Second Life]
New Web Site, Evolving Us
January 26, 2009
Blackboard has launched a new website and posted a release describing what it calls its evolving mission. Basically, the release depicts Blackboard as having three major units: the learning platform, the transactions platform, and the alert and notification platform. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Advice for Small Schools On the LMS Selection Process
February 16, 2009
This is a very good post with solid suggestions on a very practical matter for small schools. "Lots of schools in your position have managed to migrate to a new LMS," he advises, and such migration, while not pleasant or easy, is inevitable and necessary. But it can be done. And you don't need to agonize unnecessarily. "Any of the major systems available in the US that I have some familiarity with (ANGEL, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle, and Sakai) will provide you with adequate functionality." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Blackboard Inc.]
Desire2Learn Proposes Desire2Learn Million$Mission for Education
March 26, 2009
Instead of spending money on litigation, says Desire2Learn CEO John Baker to Blackboard, why don't we spend it on education? This is in response to yet more legal actions being filed by Blackboard, one, an unsuccessful motion of content based on the previous lawsuit, and the other, a new lawsuit based on a just-announced new Blackboard patent. "Desire2Learn does not infringe, and does not want to infringe, on the latest or any Blackboard software patents," says the desire2Learn Statement. "We are asking Blackboard to make a choice: support education or litigation. By taking this immediate action together we can make a positive and lasting impact on education, while still respecting each other's intellectual property," Baker requested. Baker proposed a $1 million fund be set up to support the education of needy children instead of squandering the same amount on lawsuits. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Online Learning]
Vote for the D2L Million$Mission On Facebook
March 27, 2009
Someone has started a Facebook group to petition in support of Desire2Learn's proposal to spend money on education instead of litigation. No word on whether anyone has started a group to oppose the proposal. Commentary also from Michael Korcuska, who notes that "Blackboard has added the new patent to the list of patents on their patent pledge page, so open source projects like Sakai are protected." Meta-media evokes images of Slumdog Millionaire. Michael feldstein can't read the new patent without endangering his new employer; "Does that make sense to you? No? Well, what did you expect? Like I said, it's patent law." Bavatuesday shouts incoherently, "A plague on both their houses!" Barry Dahl calls the D2L offer "Blackboard's last chance." Blackboard, meanwhile, releases a new iPhone application, though as the Chronicle reports, "Students can't take tests or dig into course content using the iPhone application." What, then, you might wonder, does it do? Notify you of new lawsuits? [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Assessment]
Response to the Desire2Learn Million$Mission for Education has Been Tremendous!
March 31, 2009
From Desire2Learn: "The Desire2Learn Million$Mission for Education, proposed on March 26, 2009, has been a big hit with educators around the world. We are thrilled with the response that has been received from the education community. People have been twittering about the initiative and have established the Facebook group Fans of D2L Million $ Mission for Education. Thank you for your tremendous support! Day 6: No response has yet been received from Michael Chasen or Blackboard." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Blackboard'S Market Share Erosion
April 1, 2009
Michael Feldstein's account of Blackboard's market share is consistent with other reports I've seen over the last few years: they are losing the smaller markets, but focusing and hanging on to the large enterprises, so they can overall. Though, I would say, the fewer clients Blackboard has, even (and perhaps especially) if they're larger clients, the more vulnerable they become to competition. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Here's the Latest
April 2, 2009
A D2L page responds to coverage of the Blackboard in the Chronicle of Higher Education - the Chronicle article is blocked behind a paywall, so most people can't read this, which appears to be Blackboard's only statement on the matter. In an unrelated item, a Blackboard employee appears to undercut faculty motivations. "The taxes of every fast food employee who may never walk on a campus are supporting students who go to schools, colleges and universities around the world... if they value not only their current academic freedom, but their ability to retire in old age, another form of freedom, they should think hard and fast about how they can contribute to the public good." This is known in psychology as 'projection'. And to put the response bluntly: what will Blackboard do for the common good? Because the ongoing legal campaign isn't it. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., Academia]
Blackboard V. Desire2Learn Round Up
April 13, 2009
To nobody's benefit, the lawsuits filed by Blackboard have started up again. In this item, Seb Schmoller summarizes some of the recent developments in the new Blackboard patent case, including Blackboard's apparent rejection of D2L's million$mission proposal. Meanwhile, we have a Sakai statement on 2nd Bb-D2L patent suit. In yet another case, Blackboard spent $17 million on a patent to defend itself in another case, a patent that appears to be useless in that action. As Michael feldstein says, 'Blackboard must have spent something in the neighborhood of $25 million purchasing and litigating patents over the past few years. You have to wonder how they imagine this is going to pay for itself." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard Invented Nothing!
April 17, 2009
I think we all knew this, but now the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is coming to that conclusion as well. As Desire2Learn states in its blog: "all 57 claims of Blackboard's 6,988,138 patent have been rejected - the original 44, plus the ones they attempted to add during the re-examination process." Oh, and a note to bloggers: pasted images of Twitter posts are user-hostile and useless. Don't do it. Use text to represent text. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Twitter, Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Patents, Copyrights]
EduPatent Fight As Complicated As Ever
April 22, 2009
How damaging is Blackboard's decision to go the litigation route instead of innovating? Michael Feldstein's final comments here sketch the story. "Thirty-two million dollars is a lot of money in the educational technology space. It's probably about three times Desire2Learn's annual revenues and about eleven times Blackboard's annual net income. It's enough to build a new LMS from the ground up several times over." What a waste. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Blackboard Files Complaint With U.S. International Trade Commission Seeking to Block Sales of a Competitor's Products
April 24, 2009
Would the last developer to leave Blackboard please turn out the lights? A company that is trying to use trade legislation to block sales from Canada on the basis of invalidated patents is a stretch only an American lawyer (or an East Texas judge) could appreciate. The rest of us, meanwhile, have lost all respect. Michael Feldstein credits (accurately, I think) Jeff Bohrer with the find. Seb Schmoller's coverage is updated, and he notes, first, that "Blackboard's [patent] pledge does not mention its patent applications 11/298,091 (for a 3D learning environment) or 11/145,531 (for a media database)..." [error corrected, see comments] and that "the latter one struck me as very reminiscent of the Stanford University DIVER system, described by Roy Pea and Robb Lindgren." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Video, Blackboard Inc., United States, Patents, Copyrights, Canada]
Blackboard Files Lawsuit Against D2L in Canada
April 29, 2009
This is getting beyond belief. The latest lawsuit is based Canadian patent 2378200: "A system and methods for implementing education online by providing institutions with the means for allowing the creation of courses to be taken by students online..." At least we know it won't be heard in a coutroom in East Texas. This follows a report yesterday that it would pursue its claims here.

I guess if there's any colsolation to be had, it's that Blackboard continues to falter in popularity. "Blackboard's downward trend continues. According to this year's study, Blackboard's market share among ITC's constituents is 59%, down from 77% percent the previous year." The big winner in this, besides the open source platforms, has been Angel. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Open Source, Copyrights, Canada]
Counsel Selected; More Litigation/Reexamination Updates
April 30, 2009
Desire2Learn responds to the latest Blackboard filing. "Blackboard seems to time its filings to coincide with bad news it receives: it filed its March 2009 action within hours of being denied - for a second time - its attempt to hold us in contempt of court. The ITC action and the Canadian action followed within days the powerful USPTO Action Closing Prosecution document, which again rejected all of Blackboard's claims. Both the Canadian action and the ITC action are filed on the basis of those rejected claims." Blackboard, meanwhile, is filing for a delay of the U.S. Patent and Trademark action. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Canada]
Sclipo Mashes Up Informal and Formal Learning to Good Effect!
May 6, 2009
Zaid introduces Sclipo. "Sclipo is a Social Learning Network for continuing education that offers apps for e-Learning (course manager, knowledge manager, webcam-based web classroom for live online teaching, etc.) integrated with social features. At Sclipo, any member can teach and learn, enabling informal or social learning online. Sclipo is for formal & informal teachers that find traditional eLearning (Moodle, Blackboard, etc.) solutions too complex and costly." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Knowledge Management, Teaching Online]
Blackboard to Acquire ANGEL Learning, Inc.
May 6, 2009
Another stunner in the e-learning marketplace. "Under terms of the agreement, Blackboard will acquire ANGEL Learning for approximately $95 million, net of cash acquired and excluding transaction costs. Both companies' boards of directors as well as ANGEL Learning's shareholders have approved the transaction and closing is expected in May 2009." The Angel website simply points to this page on Blackboard. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Blackboard Buys Angel
May 7, 2009
All sorts of reaction to the Blackboard purchase of Angel. Michael Feldstein is fishing for feedback and also links to the #bbplusangel Twitter thread. From Reuters: "Shares of the company fell as much as 10 percent at $29.70 in trading after the bell." Here are links to more coverage, from Inside Higher Ed, Washington Post, Washington Business Journal, Seb Schmoller, Campus Technology, Chronicle of Higher Education, Alex Reid (the digital black angel rises). [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Twitter, Blackboard Inc.]
Error Correction
May 7, 2009
I reported here that "Blackboard's [patent] pledge does not mention its patent applications 11/298,091 (for a 3D learning environment) or 11/145,531 (for a media database)...". This report is in error. Blackboard does not own either of those patent applications. Apologies are offered for the error and any inconvenience it may have caused. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
Blackboard Hearts Angel
May 8, 2009
Barry Dahl channels his mother and comes up with a post that has nothing (directly) negative to say about Blackboard's acquisition of Angel. "What a fabulous move by Blackboard! Once again, the Blackboard suits in the white hats have pulled a marvelous coup in the LMS market. Current Angel clients should embrace the fact that they have now been adopted by the mothership." Funny. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Push versus Pull]
Blackboard and Angel Learning Officials Try to Reassure Skeptical Clients
May 15, 2009
As the title suggests, Angel customers are not all happy about becoming part of the Blackboard hegemony. The most telling bit from this article: "The Chronicle was not allowed to attend the session, but those in the room described it on Twitter, and one attendee streamed live video of the event to a Web site." More coverage from the Chronicle. Related: Three tests for the new 'open' Blackboard. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Twitter, Video, Blackboard Inc., Assessment]
The More Things Change (Bb Buys Another LMS), The More They Stay The Same (Reaction Filled With FUD)
May 19, 2009
This article is worth a look just for the decisive smack-down. The article quotes Blackboard CEO Michael L. Chasen, as saying, "In the end, he said, colleges will choose Blackboard over open-source options because buying software works better for most colleges than being part of a do-it-yourself project." It then links to this chart showing that of the 51 Blackboard hosted sites (where Blackboard Inc. hosts the campus' LMS as a service), "41 instances are running the Blackboard LMS in a Linux/Apache environment, 6 are running on Windows and 4 could not be determined." So maybe then open source does make sense. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Microsoft, Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., Open Source]
BbPlusAngel - Reaction to Blackboard's Acquisition of AngelAngel
May 20, 2009
Hannah Waley weighs in on her new blog with what Seb Schmoller calls a "cogent" contribution. "Maybe they have learnt nothing at all from the WebCT merger, but I don't believe that could be the case. However, learning is not enough alone, and they must act on what they have learnt." Yeah, well, when we see it, we'll post. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs]
U.S. Department of Justice Launched Investigation of Blackboard Acquisition of ANGEL Learning May 14
May 27, 2009
It's not clear how long Blackboard has known about this investigation, but its disclosure should dissuade Matthew Small, Blackboard's chief business officer (and general counsel), from stating, "I don't think that there's any anti-trust concern with this combination." More from Campus Technology and the Chronicle. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Anti-trust: Curiouser and Curiouser
May 29, 2009
Nothing of significance follows from this, so it's odd to see Blackboard being coy about the full details of the request from the Department of Justice following the announcement of its acquisition of Angel. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
A critical examination of Blackboard's e-learning environment
June 1, 2009
Interesting look into the Blackboard LMS. "Although Blackboard kept some of WebCT's features in the development of Blackboard CE 6, the intensely hierarchical nature of Blackboard persists producing a textualized approach to teaching and learning. This hierarchy reflects the power structure embedded in e-learning management systems." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
On Beginning
June 10, 2009
Ray Henderson, formerly of Angel, has started a new blog as the new president of Blackboard learn. And in an email to Blackboard customers (you can see links to his emails in the right-hand column) he stresses five priorities: product support, innovations, openness, transparency and the greater good. he is leaving the comment section in his blog open; it will be interesting to see what transpires there. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs]
More shoulder to the wheel
June 23, 2009
Blackboard's Ray Henderson commits to standards, especially common cartridge. Rob Abel and Chuck Severence write comments saying how happy they are. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Colleges Consider Using Blogs Instead of Blackboard
June 25, 2009
Summary of a Jim Groom talk to CUNY, in the Chronicle's usual restrained style. "The approach can save colleges money, for one thing. And true believers like Mr. Groom argue that by using blogs, professors can open their students' work to the public, not just to those in the class who have a login and password to a campus course-management system." True believers, hm? [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs]
More thinking about blogs rather than Blackboard
July 3, 2009
Not surprisingly, the idea of using blogs instead of Blackboard is gaining traction. "Of course," responds Nancy McKeand, "people like the ease of use with Blackboard, the relatively easy learning curve. Some reported that there isn't time to set up a blog for a course." Meanwhile, Jim Groom responds to issues David Wiley is having setting up a directory structure for open courses in WordPress. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Open Content, Blackboard Inc., Web Logs]
D2L Ltd. et al v. Blackboard, Inc.
July 8, 2009
D2L has sued Blackboard. I have no details because I'm not willing to pay for the information (oh hey, David (Wiley), here is a classic example of how information that is free (the complaint) which is published commercially (here) is available only for a cost. Get it directly from the government? Nope. You get blocked. This is where CC By takes us.) Still waiting for the stuff to be posted on D2L's site. Update: Here's the D2L post (I beat it by one minute - heh). It's a pre-emptive strike: "Plaintiffs request a judicial declaration that they do not infringe any valid and enforceable claim of U.S. Patent No 7,558,853." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Blackboard Inc.]
A Gripe Session at Blackboard
July 16, 2009
You know you have issues when you run out of time in your user complaints session. "College officials expressed frustration with many of the system's fundamental characteristics... Participants' concerns were often greeted with nods of agreement and outright applause from their peers as they spoke of their frustrations with the system." No mention of the session in the conference update from Blackboard Blog. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Deja Vu All Over Again - Blackboard Still Stuck in the Innovator's Dilemma
July 24, 2009
Some frank discussion of Blackboard's innovation challenge from an attendee at Blackboard's annual conference. "While I'm very encouraged by Blackboard's announcement (re-iteration) of it's intent to fully support the Common Cartridge standard and to move toward opening up its database schema for administrators, I'm left wanting much, much more. All of the major announcements–the partnership with Echo360, the acquisition of Terribly Clever, the integration with Wimba (not really new news), the Kindle integration, the focus on closing tickets faster–had little to do with the core concerns about the CMS I have been blogging about for the last year." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schemas, Blackboard Inc., Semantic Web, Web Logs, Content Management Systems]
Federal Circuit Rules in Favor of Desire2Learn Across the Board
July 27, 2009
A huge win for D2L. "We are pleased to announce that the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled on the appeals that resulted from the trial in Texas. The Federal Circuit has ruled in favor of Desire2Learn across the board and confirmed that all 38 patent claims asserted by Blackboard are invalid." Seb Schmoller expresses some doubt, but I read the judgement pretty carefully, and it seems to me that the ruling "AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, and DISMISSED IN PART" means that it agrees with the parts of the ruling where some patents were ruled invalid ("we affirm the district court's decision that claims 1-35 are invalid as indefinite"), disagrees with the courts ruling that some of the patents shoudl be ruled invalid as a matter of law (JMOL) ("we reverse the district court's failure to grant JMOL on that issue") and dismisses the rest as moot ("We also do not address the parties' contentions with respect to infringement of those claims". That's my reading; IANAL and your lawyer's mileage may vary. Reaction coming in as fast as I can post this; Heff Bohrer [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., United States, Patents, Copyrights]
The Financial Impact of the Patent Loss on Blackboard
July 28, 2009
So D2L won and Blackboard lost and the web reactions are coming in thick and fast. In this item, Michael Feldstein observes "If you subtract the $3.3 million in income that [Blackboard] are going to have to return to D2L from the $2.8 million net profit, it appears that Blackboard's business actually lost $500K in 2008." Inside Higher Ed reports that Blackboard "show no signs of retreating in the wake of Monday's stinging defeat." Patently-O notes that "means-plus-function claims require disclosure in the specification even if the means are already well known in the art."

Campus Technology quotes Michael Small saying "the important fact here is that we are asking Dersire2Learn to either pay a reasonable royalty or make a valid workaround rather than using our intellectual property." No, the important fact here is that the court ruled that Blackboard didn't have any intellectual property. Michael Korcuska, from sakai blog, hopes - again - that this "marks the beginning of the end of this unfortunate and distracting chapter in the evolution of learning and collaboration software." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Patents, Copyrights]
A TKO Victory for Desire2Learn against Blackboard
July 29, 2009
Al Essa reacts to the Blackboard verdict. "What began three years ago as a Blitzkrieg offensive by Blackboard is now frozen, dead in its tracks, and confronted with the onslaught of a Canadian counter-attack." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Canada]
The State of the LMS: An Institutional Perspective
August 30, 2009
As summarized by Michael Feldstein: "Virtually all of these LMSs were started at universities. Innovation has all but flatlined (my word, not his) since 2004. At the same time, prices have gone up anywhere from 250% to 1,000% in the last decade." Links to slides and a WebX archive. Related: more updates on Blackboard v. Desire2Learn. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Blackboard Files Yet Another Lawsuit
September 18, 2009
According to an article in the Washington Business Journal, Blackboard bought a patent, used it to sue a company, settled with the company and licensed the patent to them, then tried to renegotiate the price at which they bought the patent originally, and have now launched a pre-emptive lawsuit against the people it bought the patent from. Well, like they say, be wary who you sign business deals with. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
NBC + Blackboard makes me want to hurl
October 8, 2009
"Oh, please make it stop," writes Mike Caulfield. "Blackboard is primarily an access control company. But not content to be in the lucrative business of dining hall management, video surveillance, and door access control, Blackboard's real endgame is to aid those who want to lock up culture. The last gasp of the LMS will be to convince schools that a contract with Blackboard (or Epsilen, a NYT LMS offering) allows their students to use work they are legally entitled to use anyway. I can't really think of anything more disturbing, or more telling." Couldn't agree more. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Video, Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Court of Appeals Denies Blackboard's Rehearing & En Banc Petitions
October 16, 2009
It looks like it's the end of the line for Blackboard in its much-publicized lawsuit against D2L. The court has throuwn out the last of the motions, leaving Desire2Learn as the complete victor. As they write: "The effect? All positive for Desire2Learn:
1. We expect that Judge Clark will dissolve the injunction (he's already suspended it)
2. We'll be receiving repayment of the judgment we paid to Blackboard - plus interest - plus costs associated with the action
3. We're delighted to put this chapter behind us, once and for all!" [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
The Cost of the Blackboard Patent Suit (and Who Pays It)
October 27, 2009
Well, I think we know who pays it. It's interesting, though, to see qwho benefitted. "The amount [that Blackboard will have to pay Desire2Learn, including the original award plus interest] will probably be over $3.8M USD from my rough estimates which is higher than the expected writedown Blackboard took. ... What's also interesting is that Blackboard's top execs made record bonuses before this writedown." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
E-Learning's 'Third Phase'
October 27, 2009
Competition from enterprise software vendors is heating up in the LMS market, according to this report. "Meanwhile, data from other Campus Computing Project surveys indicate that Blackboard has seen its market share fall from 80 percent following its acquisition of WebCT in 2005 to 56 percent last year." Finally, open source is cutting into the market from the other direction. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Open Source, Enterprise Software]
Blackboard's Response to Open Source: Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt
October 30, 2009
Michael Feldstein analyzes a letter circulated by Blackboard responding to an evaluation of open source competitors (specifically, Moodle and Sakai) being considered by the University of North Carolina. The Blackboard response is arguably pernicious (in a way people who have read their legal filings can attest) and highly misrepresentative of open source software, as Feldstein demonstrates: "Blackboard is making demonstrably false and/or irrelevant arguments against open source, even as they tout their 'openness' and promote their open source Blackboard add-on community." Ironically, Blackboard is just fine with open source when it suits their purposes. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Open Source]
Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts
October 30, 2009
Readers are beginning to wonder whether they are seeing the beginning of a longer term trend (my take: they are). "I wonder if this is the start of some sort of trend where content providers of all types, including the traditional library database producers, will seek partnerships with Blackboard and other courseware vendors to integrate their content directly into the product." This is exactly what's happening, and why (in my view) Blackboard has sought so hard to lock the LMS market - not because they want to sell LMSs (though they'll do that as long as they can) but because they want to lock up a closed market for (100 percent commercial) educational content. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Blackboard Inc.Q3 2009 Earnings Call Transcript
November 4, 2009
Fascinating reading. The earning reported represent a substantial increase across the board over last year. "Revenue grew by 18% to $98.4 million... This over performance was driven largely by strong professional service and continued strengthen demand for managed hosting." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Blackboard/Moodle/Sakai Session Recording Now Available
November 5, 2009
By far the most popular session at EDUCAUSE (at least so far) this discussion on the relative merits of two open source and one commercial learning management system (LMS) is a great listen, especially as they begin to talk about the future, the claim that "the LMS is dead" (or so it has been reported in some of the blogs), personal learning environments and the increasing demand of colleges to focus on outcomes and competencies. Also interesting: "We (Sakai) don't have a financial incentive to own large swaths of the higher education infrastructure." The recording, with slides and video, loads instantly and is beautifully presented. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Video, Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, Web Logs, Open Source]
Blackboard, Desire2Learn Announce Patent Cross License Agreement and Settlement of Litigation
December 15, 2009
Huge news: Blackboard and D2L cross-license patents and settle litigation. "We are pleased to have resolved our differences with Desire2Learn," said Michael Chasen, President and CEO of Blackboard. "Bringing this matter to resolution is in the best interests of both of our organizations, our respective clients and the broader education community." And: "We're pleased to enter this agreement, and believe it is in the best interests of the educational community," said John Baker, President and CEO of Desire2Learn. "We will continue to focus our attention on our clients, as well as the development of our products and services." Additional details of the settlement were not disclosed. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Learning Communities, Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights, Online Learning]
Clean Slate
December 16, 2009
Coverage of the settlement between Blackboard and Dersire2Learn. D2L head John Baker expands on his blog, "this is in the best interest of our clients, the educational community and ourselves as we continue to serve you." Blackboard president Ray Henderson comments about the ongoing case, saying "this dialog has distracted attention from the many positive contributions to the industry that Blackboard has made and can continue to make." Seb Schmoller offers a long list of his own links on the case. The Chronicle comments over the confidential nature of the deal, "So a vocal and divisive fight has ended in silence." Michael Feldstein notes, "Left unresolved is the larger question of the role of patents in higher education." Barry Dahl also grumbles about the unresolved issues. "Doesn't this move by D2L signal the possibility that there is some validity in Blackboard's lousy 'Alcorn' patent?" he also notes that most of the D2L Blackboard patent case page has disappeared. And if you want the complete story, have a look at my full Blackboard Patent page, which covers everything from the original patent grant to the final settlement. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Learning Communities, Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Patents, Copyrights, Online Learning]
A New Diigo Vision and Call for Advice: On Students Teaching China to the West
December 24, 2009
Clay Burell described how he changed his technology - and his approach - in his Chinese history course this year. He changed his textbook, replaced Blackboard with Ning, and, well, still got stuck in the "one fact after another" trap, something that's easy to do when covering one dynasty after another for a 4,000 year time span. I like the post because of the concreteness of the example (and because I studied Chinese history as an elective in high school). [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Blackboard Inc., China]
Response to George on Openness
December 30, 2009
David Wiley responds to George Siemens's post (see below) calling for more radicalism for open education. It's a moderate response, reminding people to heed to the goals of education, and not the means. In this I agree - open education is not an end in itself, but part of the means by which we reach our goals of an education for all in a just and sharing society. And he argues that, therefore, "the ideal [of openness] needs to mean specific things in specific contexts in order for it to be applied usefully in those contexts." This is true as well - at the margins. But the examples cited by Siemens - Twitter, Blackboard, Facebook - aren't marginal cases, and claims that they are somehow 'open' in a way that is conducive to a free education in a just and sharing society somehow ring hollow. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Connectivism, Twitter, Books, Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Blackboard's Open Standards Commitments: Progress Made
February 10, 2010
Ray Henderson reports on Blackboards progress toward open standards. Most of the work is toward IMS Global's Common Cartridge (CC) and Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) specifications, previously reported by me here and here. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Open Standards, Interoperability, IMS Project]
Edufountain: Virtual and Personal Learning Environments My Thoughts
March 8, 2010
With all the talk of the "death of the VLE" one might wonder what Blackboard thinks about it. Wonder no more, as Blackboard's platform evangelist delivers a long and wide-ranging post defending the VLE in general and the company in particular. The post deserves more attention than I can give it in this short space. John Fontaine talks about the drivers for change - what features should count as core, the need for lower-cost systems, the desire to leverage emergent knowledge in a network. He responds to criticisms about the VLE's inflexibility and hegemony. Drawing on research into ten years of the VLE, he argues, "I do not see students requesting that instructors use Blackboard less, and even cites a student newspaper article arguing that the use of Blackboard should be mandatory. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Research, Networks, Personal Learning Environment]
Moodle: Frankenstein or Franken-steen?
March 11, 2010
Antonio (no last name on this blog) offers a responds and reframing of recent criticisms of Moodle. He's concerned abut the critics implicitly helping competitors, like Blackboard. And the criticisms, he says, miss the point. "It's not Moodle which cost 6 million British Pounds. Moodle was free, had they deemed to stick just with it. Then, I have no clear info that the OU has repented its decision." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Great Britain, Blackboard Inc., Web Logs]
Educause 2010
March 17, 2010
Case study - in a nice Prezi presentation - of WordPres MU implementation at Bowling Green. The BGSU Blogs site is used not just by students but a wide variety of campus services, such as Blackboard tutorials and one of the featured case studies, the Worlf Viewing Centre for videos. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Video, Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE]
Blackboard's Patent is Down to its Last 30 Days
March 18, 2010
There's still life in the old Blackboard "138" patent - even if it is on life support. There's a final appeal that is possible, and I hope someone is on this to make sure an appeal is opposed, now that the Desire2Learn involvement in the case has essentially ended. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
The iPad and the LMS
March 19, 2010
In a breathless endorsement of the iPad for learning Joshua Kim looks at how LMSs will adapt. The take-off point is Blackboard's purchase of TerriblyClever, an e-learning app company, for the surprisingly low price of $4 million. "I'm betting that we will quickly see amazing LMS apps for the iPad," writes Kim. "Our rate limiting step will not be the companies that produce the LMS platforms, or Apple and their control over the app store and the device, but rather the content polices of higher ed." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Apple Inc., Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Blackboard Bets on Mobile Future, but No iPad App Yet
March 22, 2010
Blackboard publicists sent notifications across the blogosphere about their new mobile initiative today. The publicity resulted in a handful of posts and this Chronicle article noting the absence of an iPad application. naturally there are special deals involved. "The company has cut a deal with Sprint to allow colleges to offer the service free of charge to students and professors who use phones on Sprint's network." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Networks]
The Human Element
March 29, 2010
Inside Higher Ed is writing up Douglas E. Hersh's use of video Skype within Moodle. The real story, of course, is that he had to convince his institution to abandon Blackboard in order to do it. "The [Moodle] interface is designed so that professors can deliver lessons and messages using videos recorded with a Webcam. It also shows students who among their instructors or classmates are logged into Skype, the video-chat service, in case they want to have a live, face-to-face conversation." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Video, Blackboard Inc., Audio Chat and Conferencing]
Blackboard To Buy Elluminate, Wimba For $116 Mln
July 7, 2010
Blackboard is buying Elluminate and Wimba, two popular online conferencing systems, for a total of $116 million in cash. The purchase was reported in the Wall Street Journal (from press releases) as well as in press releases on the Blackboard site as well as Elluminate and Wimba. In his blog Blackboard Learn president Ray Henderson writes, "For much of the past decade we've seen synchronous education platforms emerging in education. They've always represented the needs of an important niche in education delivery, and are a strong compliment to the asynchronous platforms like Blackboard." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Conferencing, Blackboard Inc., Audio Chat and Conferencing, Web Logs]
First Reactions to Blackboard Buying Wimba and Elluminate
July 8, 2010
Reactions to the Blackboard acquisition of Wimba and Elluminate. Joshua Kim says this is very smart for Blackboard, but customers should be worried about lock-in. Steve Kolowich surveys Twitter reaction. Barry Dahl says "Blackborg rides again." George Siemens comments (accurately) that the messaging from Blackboard on this is meaningless. Nothing like starting a new product line with a misrepresentation. He nonetheless has a well played compliment to give the company. Matt Crosslin says "the point of education is to collaborate and learn, not just buy everyone." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Connectivism, Twitter, Blackboard Inc., Audio Chat and Conferencing]
Knee Jerk Reactions
July 12, 2010
Raj Boora asks, "is the edtech-sphere disliking the BB Collaborate announcement because of some real concerns with regards to BB and how they do things to those systems that they acquire, or is it something more 'religious'?" Given the mistrust Blackboard has generated over the last few years, it's not surprising to see disappointment over the latest announcement. And in Canada, as Tony Bates notes, it's disappointing to see yet more of our innovative technology sold south of the border. But overall, with a "well played" from Siemens and acceptance that it was a smart move by Blackboard, the edublogosphere has been remarkably moderate in its response, and not really knee-jerk at all. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Connectivism, Blackboard Inc., Canada]
The LIS Standard Moves Forward
July 14, 2010
With Blackboard supporting the IMS Learning Information Services (LIS), writes Michael Feldstein, things look good for the specification. "By the time Blackboard finishes their implementation, we'll have the first tier of LMS applications all standards-compliant and will be hopefully filling out the ecosystem with up-and-coming LMSs and some non-LMS systems that could benefit from the same type of integration." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Information, IMS Project]
Interview With Desire2Learn CEO John Baker
July 20, 2010
Michael Feldstein interviews Desire2Learn's CEO John Baker. Feldstein writes, "I do see a vision for the future of the LMS emerging from D2L's development work (although it's hard to convey a clear sense of it in the interview format). It's a vision that is significantly different in some ways from Sakai's, Moodle's, or Instructure's. My sense is that it's also different than Blackboard's... Desire2Learn is headed straight into the thicket of some thorny cultural change management problems at the university. Adopting and sharing learning objectives, sharing learning content, taking a systemic approach to ePorfolios, discovering metrics in student activity and performance data." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Learning Objects]
Global Education Conference
November 15, 2010
Starting today and running for five days is the Global Education Conference. Steve Hargadon writes, "We currently have 397 sessions from 62 countries scheduled, as well as 63 keynote speakers--an amazing lineup" (leading me to think that the organizers don't quite understand the concept of the 'keynote'). It's still a pretty impressive showing. "There is no formal registration required for the conference, as all the sessions will be open and public, broadcast live using the Elluminate platform, and available in recorded formats afterwards." For those using Twitter, the hashtag is #globaled10. See also Lucy Gray, Esther Wojcicki, Rajeev Arora. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Twitter, Audio Chat and Conferencing]
Blackboard 138 Patent in the Ether?
November 17, 2010
Barry Dahl notices that the infamous Blackboard '138 patent is no longer listed on the company's patent page, and ponders the implications of this. My take: it means "case closed" and I can go back to thinking of Blackboard as just another technology company. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Patents, Copyrights]
The Evolving LMS Market, Part I
December 21, 2010
Distractingly interesting analysis of the LMS market trends in the U.S. post-secondary education market space. This market, of course, is divided neatly into two parts: Blackboard, at roughly 70 percent, and everything else. The everything else divides mostly int Moodle and Sakai, the open source alternatives, and Desire2Learn, the major commercial alternative. Feldstein looks at migration factors and gives us a projection shoing non-Blackboard alternatives reaching 60 percent by 2014. Bad news for Blackboard, if nothing changes - but there is every reason to expect significant change between now and then, including Pearson's Frontier or Instructure's Canvas LMS. And the LMS market as a whole could be shaken by out-of-market developments. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., Open Source]
The Evolving LMS Market, Part II
December 22, 2010
Part 2 of Michael Feldstein's analysis of the LMS market begins with the observation that "there are roughly 875 WebCT and ANGEL customers who will have to migrate to a new LMS in the next few years, in an environment of strong budget pressures." There are some significant anecdotal results suggesting that many large Blackboard clients are about to walk away. Not enough data to establish a trend. The expiry dates of the WebCT and ANGEL contracts suggest "the LMS versions that are available in calendar year 2011 are the ones that they will be evaluating, by and large," says Feldstein, but beyond that, "by 2014 we may see it beginning to change the whole picture for educational technology infrastructure in some fundamental ways." Which sounds exactly right to me, from my perspective. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
SumTotal Systems Acquires GeoLearning
January 5, 2011
SumTotal has just announced that it has acquired GeoLearning. "This - acquisition expands on the company's - growth and - market - position by adding - capabilities in mid-market, government, and extended enterprise market segments" (quote edited to remove ridiculous adjectives). See also Josh bersin coverage. "SumTotal had 9% total market share in the LMS market, and now with this acquisition grows its market share to 12.5%. This makes SumTotal approximately 50% larger than the #2 LMS player (Saba)... The only major players left in the enterprise LMS market are Plateau, Saba, Oracle, SAP, CornerstoneOnDemand, Taleo/, and Blackboard." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
LMS Vendor/Textbook Publisher Partnerships
February 7, 2011
So I suppose it was inevitable that we'd see an open-source/closed-content combination. That is what appears to be happening as MoodleRooms has signed a deal with Cambridge Global Grid for Learning. Michael Feldstein explains, "as far as I can tell, this partnership is roughly similar to ones that Blackboard has previously announced with McGraw Hill and NBC." It's good for MoodleRooms, it's good for the publisher. The ones who pay, of course, are the students. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Blackboard Inc.]
Another New Blackboard Competitor Arrives: Coursekit
March 17, 2011
I've browsed around a bit in CourseKit, a learning management system coded by three students who were so fed up with Blackboard they decided to create their own, and I like what I see. A lot. They write, "We forgot everything we knew about what's out there to really bring the best solution to the classroom." The system looks it. It's not a traditional instructor-focused LMS. It's designed with the students' experience in mind. Some highlights:
- "Social is a big focus for us. Education benefits from discussion. Up until now, however, student interaction only happens within lectures, if even. We want to extend the class experience beyond lecture time."
- "Our calendar is robust but still simple. Each calendar item - lectures, exams, assignments - has content inside. There's a description of the item, relevant files, and comments, all in one calendar item."
- "We rethought what a syllabus looks like. It's ridiculous that most classes still have paper syllabi made in Microsoft Word. So we elegantly display all syllabus content with a quick way to jump from section to section. "
CourseKit is elegant and intelligently designed. It will probably stay that way until marketing, focus group facilitators and 'stakeholder meetings' have a crack at it. Tom Werner comments, "When college students design a site to support their learning, they make it like Facebook." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Microsoft, Interaction, Blackboard Inc., Marketing, Experience, Assessment, Online Learning]
BlackBoard to Moodle Project Plan
March 20, 2011
Should you even need it (and who doesn't?) here's a Blackboard-to-Moodle migration plan. "We not only converted from BB to Moodle, but also from our homegrown Lotus Notes-based SemesterBook (SB) system to Moodle. We had conversion tools for both, which we have shared with other universities." The brief kit includes a detailed timeline and project summary. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc.]
Chatting with John Baker about the future of D2L
March 29, 2011
In this article on the future of Drsire2Learn, an interesting bit about Blackboard: "Since Feb. 2010, the [number] of shares sold short has increased rather steadily from 7.67 million to the current level of 13.48 million, which represents 45% of the float in Blackboard. Ouch. You've gotta wonder what that feels like to have so many people betting against you." I wonder what the stock analysts are seeing that I'm not. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Online Learning in Australia - Connections, Partnerships and Successes
April 8, 2011
Comprehensive report on the state of e-learning in Australia, authored from an outsider's perspective. Well-written and clear, this excellent report should not be missed. The report is structured around two case studies: distance learning for universities in Australia through Open Universities Australia; and distance learning support for colleges and training institutes through eWorks. Open Universities Australia (OUA) is a $70 million for-profit consortium that offers a single point of access to university courses offered by consortium members via Blackboard or some other LMS. The consortium also maintains a Centre for Online Learning Excellence. eWorks, meanwhile, is composed of 140 partner organizations comprise and supports the Learning Object Repository Network (LORN). "The success of LORN relies on standards compliance by every state and territory. Every collection must comprise 40% free content. "e-Standards for Training" sets out agreed standards in design, development, packaging and downloading." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Australia, Online Learning]
Looking for Opportunities or Sponsorship
April 13, 2011
Steve Hargadon has been a fantastic ambassador for Elluminate over the last couple of years, and is Blackboard is pushing him away from Elluminate, so much the worse for Blackboard. And now he's looking to branch out. He writes, "I hope you'll visit to give me feedback or to reach out and partner in some way. You can also learn more about what I do at" [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Audio Chat and Conferencing]
Henrico 21 Lesson Videos
April 15, 2011
I played this video on Ed Radio this morning. It's a quick summary of media creation lessons and evaluation. The page includes a nifty stop-motion animation created by students for a local restaurant. Maybe this is a new way to fund education - have students create advertising material for local businesses. Also played on Ed Radio: Rob Reynolds, Nathan Eagle, Cory Doctorow on privacy, Blackboard's Ray Henderson, Jennifer Indovina, Angelica, ds106, gbwhitby, Dean Shareski, Kain from Korea, Joan Rivers head, 21st century learning matters from the Library of Congress, Eat, Drink and be Thrifty, Ken Robinson, sound effects, and of course Rebecca Black. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Open Content, Video, Blackboard Inc., Marketing, Networks, Privacy Issues]
The Evolution of Classroom Technology
April 18, 2011
Fun timeline looking at different educational technologies used over the years, from the incredibly useful (the blackboard, the pencil) to the useless (the reading accelerator). Don't miss the video featuring the Skinner teaching machine! [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Video]
QuickWire: Blackboard Is Considering Takeover Proposals
April 19, 2011
Interesting: "Blackboard Inc., the course-management software company, announced on Tuesday that it was considering proposals to acquire the company. It did not disclose the source of the proposals. Blackboard's stock jumped by nearly 30 percent early on Tuesday afternoon to its highest point since 2007." Any bets on possible suitors? [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Blackboard Inc., Google]
YouTube Founders Acquire Delicious From Yahoo
April 27, 2011
Interesting. From Mashable: "The future of social bookmarking tool Delicious is no longer in doubt. Yahoo has sold the site to YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, where it will become part of a new company the pair has created called AVOS. According to an FAQ about the deal, Delicious makes it clear that user data will be preserved and that the new team will 'add new features and grow the service overall.'"

More acquisitions: VMWare has for some reason acquired SlideRocket. Also, Desire2Learn has acquired Captual. Pearson has acquired Schoolnet. And speculation continues about potential purchasers of Blackboard. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Yahoo!, YouTube, Video, Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges: 2010 Distance Education Survey Results
May 20, 2011
Tony Bates points to this report describing online and distance education trends in the U.S. and offers a short, crisp good summary. Basically, distance and online enrollments are up about 9 percent, the use of Blackboard is down, most institutions are capping enrollment in online classes (at about 30), development is mostly in-house but servers are outsourced (which is smart), demand for online learning is greater than supply, and U.S. law continues to hamper online learning. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Publishers Criticize Federal Investment in Open Educational Resources
May 30, 2011
Should government produce open educational resources? The Chronicle quotes publishers with out all the cliches in this troll:
- "I think it's very dangerous for them to be in the product business," said Bill Hughes, vice president of business development and innovation at Pearson Education.
- "There's no free lunch," said James Kourmadas, vice president of strategic marketing at McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
- "I fear when big bucks from government is put into certain places, it actually stops pushing people to innovate," said Kevin Wiggen, chief technology officer of Blackboard Xythos.
The responses in the comments are much better than the 'published' piece. Cable Green also offers a formal response from Creative Commons. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Blackboard Inc., Marketing, Web Logs]
Wednesday, June 08, 2011 Students Rank Lecture Capture 'Most Important' Blended Learning Resource
June 8, 2011
Here's a dilemma for you. If you are one of those many people - legions, actually - who believe the lecture is a poor pedagogy, especially in the online learning environment, then what do you do when your end users - students - declare lecture capture to be the most important technology of the day. After all, we are supposed to be driven by end-user needs, aren't we? So should we put down our social networking and interaction tools and go out there and start coding (or acquiring, depending on whether you're Desire2Learn or Blackboard) lecture capture tools? [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Accessibility, Interaction, Blackboard Inc., Networks, Online Learning]
Blackboard to be Acquired by Providence Equity Partners for $45.00 in Cash or $164 Billion
July 1, 2011
Blackboard has been sold to an investor group led by affiliates of Providence Equity Partners ("Providence") in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $1.64 billion, plus the assumption of approximately $130 million in net debt. Blackboard Learn president Ray Henderson writes in a blog post that while the company had to be more prudent while it was publicly held, private ownership will enable it to be "more agile" and focus on the long term.

Other posts by Ian Quillen at Education Week, ... (more to come, no doubt) [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs]
Investment Bankers and Blackboard’s Future, Part One: If …
July 4, 2011
Today's first ongoing story - the Blackboard sale:
- Jim Farmer's analysis, part one - the acquisition could provoke a change of management
- Ted Curran - What does it mean for schools?
- Elliott Masie - watch for 2 or 3 more major deals in the coming months
- e_shool News - coverage
- Chronicle - coverage
- Inside Higher Ed - yet more coverage
- Alfred Essa - summary of coverage
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Blackboard Acquisition Opens Door for Multiple Changes
July 12, 2011
Gartner group analysis of the recent Blackboard sale. "As a result of this agreement, Gartner anticipates a number of changes, including:
- A push to strengthen Blackboard Student Services, such as financial aid, registration and technical support
- A more rapid business analytics development within Blackboard's products, very likely including the assessment and diagnostic areas
- A faster track for Blackboard CourseSites, for a major introduction of a true cloud/software-as-a-service offering of the Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate platforms
- An increased marketing presence in countries and regions outside North America."
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Marketing, Assessment]
Emerging Trends in LMS / Ed Tech Market
August 9, 2011
“. . . [Blackboard’s] position of being a safe bet is now gone, they are picking up only a handful of new LMS clients, while they are losing hundreds of LMS clients per year. The theme behind these observations is that Blackboard’s future prospects ‘are having and will have a major impact on the overall LMS and educational technology market, affecting educational customers as well as technology vendors and their investors. If you misread Blackboard’s strategic direction, you might misread the upcoming changes in the educational technology market.’ ”

Put another way, as Lou Pugliese commented in a post by Michael Feldstein on the LMS Market – ‘Typical disruptive markets (Clay Christiansen) are repeatable events exist where (a) over-served customers consume a product or service but don’t need all its features or functionality (b) there is broad based industry concern about the effective use of overly complex, expensive products and services (c) features that are not valued and therefore are not used and (d) decreasing price premiums for innovations that historically created value but in the current market are now irrelevant. The street will eventually see it this way no matter how you NPV a business’s customer base. . . . I would argue that there is an exact parallel here and the education market is not immune to the same disruption experienced in other markets.’ “

“What I believe we are seeing in 2011 is a transition to a market no longer dominated by Blackboard and other players’ reactions to Blackboard. This new market that is emerging will look quite different from the market we have seen for the past 6 – 8 years, and we should no longer view this as an evolving market, but instead view it as a market being disrupted, with new competitors and new dynamics.” . . . [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Experience, Online Learning]
Standards for Online Course Design Adopted by Blackboard
August 9, 2011
"The Quality Matters Program is proud to announce that Blackboard Inc. has become QM's first learning management system subscriber. Under this agreement, Blackboard will adopt QM standards internally and recommend the QM standards for course design to its thousands of client institutions. As a result of the partnership between Blackboard and QM, Blackboard professional staff will be trained by QM to deliver the Applying the QM Rubric training and QM Program Overview to Blackboard ConsultingSM clients. Blackboard client institutions who choose to include course design consultation in their engagements with Blackboard will become QM subscribers. The terms for the new subscribers will be equivalent to institutions that subscribe through statewide agreements."

"The partnership with Blackboard does not affect QM's educational non-profit status. QM will continue to serve institutions using other commercial, proprietary and home grown learning management system platforms. QM standards will remain platform neutral. This agreement will increase QM's visibility and broader adoption among Blackboard's clients. The agreement moves QM closer to its goal of becoming the consensus national standard for online course design in education, and it supports QM's mission to foster the integration of best practice standards to improve the quality of online education." . . . [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Blackboard Inc., Quality, Online Learning]
Blackboard + Quality Matters Furthering Excellence in Faculty Development and Course Design
August 9, 2011
"Blackboard Inc. today announced a partnership with The Quality Matters(TM) Program (QM), an independent not-for-profit organization focused on identifying and promoting core principles and effective practices for quality online education. Recognized as a leading provider of online education quality assurance and evaluation, QM develops research-supported standards, evaluation tools and procedures. Together, Blackboard and QM will work to arm institutions and educators with resources, tools and best practices for online instruction, course design, assessment, student engagement and accessibility. The new offerings are available today and include the QM Program Overview and Applying the QM Rubric training." . . .

"Under terms of the deal, Blackboard Consulting(SM) staff will be trained by QM and will offer support in faculty development and course design, specifically structured to help institutions implement sustainable, scalable programs grounded in QM's effective practices and core principles. Through the exclusive partnership, the resources of the leading provider of learning management systems and the leading provider of design standards for distance learning courses will offer clients a complete solution to their consulting needs for quality online courses to improve the online education experience." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Accessibility, Traditional and Online Courses, Blackboard Inc., Research, Quality, Experience, Assessment, Online Learning]
Emerging Trends in LMS / Ed Tech Market
August 25, 2011
This post is a bit late in getting to you (blame my camping vacation) but I certainly wouldn't want to pass it over entirely, as Phil Hill offers this good overview of the LMS market (I did link to one pot that summarized some aspects of this discussion). In particular, Blackboard's " picking up only a handful of new LMS clients, while they are losing hundreds of LMS clients per year." Today, "The market is more competitive, with more options, than it has been for years (but) it is also interesting in what is not being seen as a strategic blurring of lines – between LMS and student information systems." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: none]
Blackboard: A Tale Of 2 Companies
September 2, 2011
A scathing post from market consultants Seeking Alpha. The 'two companies' described are, first, the one that is presented as an aggressive, dynamic and profitable software company, and the other that is force by competition and attrition to offer deep pricing discounts and survives only because of its military contracts. "Michael Chasen doesn’t talk about this company on conference calls and its cadre of enthusiastic (.pdf) analysts never got around to going behind the numbers, where a declining competitive position, baffling acquisition binge and weakening financial state all merited research. Revealed in obscure footnotes and buried documents, Blackboard would just as soon it stay buried." Ah, but it would just be words were it not for the actual documents linked liberally through this report. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Research, Attrition]
A Black Eye for Blackboard Over Its Response to Major Security Flaws
September 19, 2011
I saw this is a couple of places. I am a but hesitant to comment, because it's not like I write lock-down secure software myself. But then again, I don't sell my stuff for hundreds of thousands of dollars. "The Australian university that requested the initial security investigation into Blackboard says that it has been trying to get the LMS to address the issues for months, but with no response. Blackboard refutes those claims." Watters should maybe say 'rebuts', rather than 'refutes', because the LMS company's response is by no means a QED. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Australia, Security Issues]
The Closing of
September 23, 2011
Blackboard - which has been getting some bad publicity lately (here and here) - has announced that it's shutting down the LearnCentral community. Steve Hargadon, a stalwart with the community, reports, "As you can imagine, this is a tough day for all of us who've been involved with LearnCentral.... As we all know, not every Web project succeeds, but you helped to explore the exciting combination of what we liked to call the "LC3:" a social network for educators, a personalized repository for collecting and sharing educational resources, and synchronous meeting capability." He says it was "the right decision" though I have to wonder. And what does Blackboard mean when it says "we will be focusing our community networking efforts on established and dedicated sites geared towards educators, such as, Classroom 2.0, EdWeb, etc."? [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Personalization, Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc., Networks, Learning Object Repositories]
Blackboard Absorbs Edline, Keeps Product Line Intact
October 6, 2011
Blackboard, which has just completed its acquisition by Providence Equity, has merged with Edline, which sells a "learning community management system," which combines learning management functions with notification capabilities within a school or district Web site. So reports THE Journal. Michael Feldstein comments, "it may suggest that Providence believes the K12 market is ready to experience a growth spurt." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Learning Communities, Schools, Blackboard Inc., Online Learning Communities, Experience]
The Teacher’s Guide To Using Posterous Spaces
October 10, 2011
Nice quick guide to the use of Posterous Spaces (to put into context, in the #change11 MOOC, after Blogger and WordPress, which numbered one and two, the next most popular participant contributions were on Posterous and Tumblr, a trend that seems to be accelerating; Posterous is a lot like Google+, but without all the constraints and limitations). "It’s simple to use and provides an elegant way to present information in a blog-like way with minimal effort." See also Trent Kays, Rebelling Against Blackboard with Posterous and TinyChat via Laura Gibbs on G+. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Web Logs, Google, Blogger]
Going, Going, Gone Private
October 16, 2011
Blackboard exec Ray Henderson blogs briefly about the impact of the company returning to private hands, a transaction that has just now completed. What caught my eye in this post were some words about becomig more open: "I’ll provide an update about how our vision about openness is evolving, and announce some new contributions to educators coming from Blackboard." So that's from his talk on Wednesday at EDUCAUSE. Being in Spain, I won't be listening to the talk. But I'm certainly interested. I'm of a mind these days to work with anyone who is interested in openness, no matter who they are. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE, Web Logs]
In Victory for Open-Education Movement, Blackboard Embraces Sharing
October 19, 2011
Two comments: it's about time, and welcome to the party. Blackboard has "announced plans to add a 'Share' button that will let professors make those learning materials free and open online." What's significant is that institutions will be able to share access without cost to themselves. "In the old contract, colleges could have been charged extra for every additional person who viewed course materials placed on the Blackboard software platform... [now] any outsiders who are invited to look in will not bring extra charges to a college, says Mr. Henderson. 'If it’s non-revenue for you, we understand it’s going to be non-revenue for us,' he says." See also Inside Higher Ed on the same story. Here's the Blackboard press release. See also this Audrey Watters article and her Google+ discussion. Also, a short notice on the Creative Commons blog. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
DIY U at Educause
October 25, 2011
Anya Kamenetz says some good things at the Educause conference along the lines of "the word 'open' does not mean what you seem to think it means." As she notes, "Pearson is launching something called OpenClass... Blackboard announced that it’s becoming Open-Educational-Resource-friendly... Cable Green from Creative Commons asked what I thought about this in the Q&A, and I brought up David Wiley’s concept of 'openwashing.'" Yes, good points. If she keeps up like that, though, the publishers will never let her publish another book. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Open Content, Books, Blackboard Inc., EDUCAUSE]
Blackboard Makes Major Investment to Support Online Learning in China
December 1, 2011
Blackboard is expanding into China "by acquiring full ownership of CerBibo, a company that has brought its online learning solution to hundreds of institutions in China." This is a move that makes a lot of sense for the company, since it has the cash, and can offset declining market share in more advanced markets. Via. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., China, Online Learning]
The Downes Prize 2011
December 30, 2011
This is the second year I've awarded the Downes Prize. There's no money attached to it, no recognition, no formal banquet at the Grand Hotel, not even a certificate. Maybe one day; in the meantime, we'll start small.

Last year, the prize was awarded to Effective Assessment in a Digital Age, published by JISC. A number of excellent resources made the shortlist.

This year was a stellar year in the world of online learning, with some worthwhile contenders for the prize. Some notables include (in no particular order):
- Open Educational Resources in Brazil, UNESCO
- MITx: The Next Chapter for University Credentialing? Audrey Watters
- Using WordPress as a Syllabus Database, Alexandre Enkerli
- BlackBoard to Moodle Project Plan, Robin R Ethridge
- A TAACCCTful mandate? OER, SCORM and the $2bn grant, Lorna Campbell
- Rushkoff to Google: Don't Give Up on the Humans, Douglas Rushkoff
- Building Personal Learning Environments by using and mixing ICT tools in a professional way, Linda Castañeda and Javier Soto
- A Network Theory of Power,
Manuel Castells
- Freeing the LMS, Steve Kolowich
- Future Work Skills 2020, The University of Phoenix Research Institute

Any of these would make an excellent selection. Each combines some basic elements: it's a well-written piece, it touches on a significant event of 2011, and it was widely regarded by the community.

But it's not just up to me. I select the items that go into OLDaily, some 2900 for the year 2011. But after that, it's up to you, the readers. You create the top links through your actions. It's not a perfect system - it under-reports the actual traffic, and it confuses popular search result traffic with real news. Sometimes the link is to things that don't yet exist, like MITx or the Pearson Open LMS. Sometimes people try to run up traffic for themselves and campaign for awards like this. These false positives need to be eliminated. So there's some interpretation. But the winner must be unambiguously a top link from this list. As is this year's link.

So, without further ado, the Downes Prize goes to:

Acceptable Use Policies in Web 2.0 & Mobile Era
Consortium for School Networking, June 1, 2011.
The Consortium for School Networking has posted a web 2.0 and mobile acceptable use policy (AUP) guide (PDF download). Though brief, the resource outlines AUP policy formation and, most significantly, lists relevant laws for a couple dozen U.S. states. The guide also links to sample policies and additional resources. Via Fred Delventhal on Diigo.

Congratulations to the Consortium for School Networking">Consortium for School Networking for a job well done. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Open Educational Resources, SCORM, Web 2.0, Books, UNESCO, Google, Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), Metadata, Online Learning, Personal Learning Environment]
Understanding eLearning in Maritime Job Training and Familiarization
February 14, 2012
So what's Murray Goldberg up to these days? Goldberg was the founder of the wildly successful WebCT learning management system, which was eventually sold to Blackboard, then the founder of the less visibly successful Silicon Chalk. For a while he headed up AssoiCom, a private social network technology for associations. Now, he writes, he is building Marine Learning Systems, "the world's first Learning Management System for the administration, tracking, delivery and maintenance of training and familiarization operations in the Marine Industry.

If you're wondering what's special about marine learning, he outlines it all in this five-part series of articles. "Part 1 of this series introduced eLearning, talking about what it is, and why it is important that anyone involved in maritime training should do their utmost to understand its strengths and limitations. Part 2 of the series discussed what research has shown us about the strengths of eLearning. Part 3 and part 4 of this series covered some of the practical strengths of eLearning." And Part 5 discusses the limitations of e-learning in a maritime context. Taken as a whole, the series is a comprehensive outline of e-learning by a master of the field. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Research, Networks, Online Learning]
Blackboard's Open-Source Pivot
March 27, 2012
Well this is interesting. "Blackboard on Monday announced that it has acquired two companies that provide support to Moodle, the leading open-source alternative to Blackboard’s proprietary online learning platform." The companies purchased are MoodleRooms and NetSpot. "Blackboard also announced an “Open Services Support Group” aimed at selling support services to colleges that use free, open-source learning management systems (LMS)." Here's Ray Henderson's announcement.

Rob Reynolds notes "Blackboard makes a services play and people watching the learning content market should pay attention." George Siemens writes, "This is what I imagine the experience would be like if one dropped hallucinogenics and browsed the web – a feeling of incredulity and weird confusion that can only come from time and reality being featured in a will it blend video." Audrey Watters writes, "You can acquire open source companies but you can't buy open source community." Jeffrey R. Young writes, "Blackboard has purchased so many commercial competitors over the years that college officials have long joked that it would next buy open source, too." More first reactions from Joshua Kim. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Is the cloud hastening the demise of the LMS?
March 30, 2012
With the recent acquisition by Blackboard of some LMS support companies it may be premature to talk of the demiose of the LMS. But there is no doubt that the cloud (aka, the internet) has hads an impact. As Sarah Danzl says, "Access to learning tools like collaboration spaces, wikis, discussions, and blogs was only available if you created proprietary packages and used the native LMS capabilities.`And she suggests that the completion of IMS LIT (Learning Technologies Interoperability) actually spelled the end of the LMS. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, IMS Project]
The New LMS Product: You
March 30, 2012
I guess it's a short jump from the idea that 'you are the product' of a social network to 'you are the product' of an LMS. And so it seems Blackboard has made the leap, suggests Audrey Watters. "Blackboard already has an Analytics platform which it launched last year. Its focus isn't on just "learning management" as the LMS has narrowly defined it in the past... Blackboard could have a big head-start on a lot of other newcomers to the learning analytics market. This head-start comes, in no small part, from the data the company already has/has access to." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Networks, Online Learning]
Coursera Adds Humanities Courses, Raises $16 Million, Strikes Deal with 3 Universities
April 23, 2012
So how long before Blackboard buys Coursera (and then claims it invented the MOOC)? Coursera "has added humanities courses to its upcoming fall curriculum — a departure from the MOOC norm of only offering courses in computer science & engineering. Courses include:
- A History of the World since 1300 (Princeton)
- Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World (Michigan)
- Greek and Roman Mythology (Penn)
- Listening to World Music (Penn)
- Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (Penn) [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., United States]
4 Reasons Why the Bonk MOOC is So Interesting
April 26, 2012
Curt Bonk is offering a MOOC starting in just a few days and has managed to attract the attention of Inside Higher Ed just before it launches. You can find it here (be prepared for a surprise). Here are the 'four reasons':

  • it was designed and is taught by a specialist in course design and how people learn
  • the subject matter matches the delivery method
  • the people who sign up for the course are also those who work in the area
  • the course shows off Blackboard at its best

Sheesh, until the fourth point, I would have thought the author was describing CCK02 from four years ago. I guess Curt Bonk has better connections with Inside Higher Ed than George Siemens or myself. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Connectivism, Traditional and Online Courses, Blackboard Inc.]

A Day in the Life of K-12 Blackboard Users
May 2, 2012
Advertising campaign for Blackboard clearly aimed at soccern moms for some reason. Sent by email from SmartBrief on EdTech. Maybe they have different versions for other demographics, but I went through every slide from the four shows and couldn't get past the fact that every person in this campaign is lily white. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Video Intro for Upcoming MOOC and IU Press on the Event
May 2, 2012
Intro video for Curt Bonk's 'Blackboard MOOC' (I wonder how much Blackboard itself is putting into this project). The level of support from his home institution makes me envious: "IU has been highly supportive. Last week, there is a university press release as well as an article in the student newspaper. And my instructional systems technology (IST) department had a short online news story as well." Not everybody is enthused, though. A comment to the Inside Higher Edarticle points to "a long list of serious problems with Blackboard Course Sites that render it unusable for a MOOC" - there's no blog subscription options, no profile pages for participants, and no blog comment notifications. As Nancy White says, "the design issue here is designing for a networked experience, not a group experience (which is foundational in a lot of Dr. Bonk's work with a focus on community, etc.) Bb is not network centric." See also Sail's Pedagogy, "blogging within an LMS is just wrong." And Lisa Lane writes, in "Leaving an open online class," that "it's the same old Blackboard, with more white space, nicer fonts and some cool icons." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Project Based Learning, Video, Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Subscription Services, Networks, Experience]
Google Plus Hangouts on Air feature now available to all users
May 8, 2012
By far and away the best thing about Google+ is the Hangout feature, essentially a way to have a videoconferencew with ten of your friends. This latest upgrade allows you to broadcast your Hangouts to as large an audience as you want. "With Hangouts on Air, you will be able to broadcast yourself publicly to the entire world, see how many viewers you have, and even record and reshare your broadcast. The public recording will be uploaded to your YouTube channel and to your original Google+ post." Too awesome. For my money, this becomes an immediate replacement for Elluminate (aka Blackboard Collaborate) in many open online classes (because, it's not like we can afford Blackboard's prices anyhow). Sadly, it's not available for everybody just yet - it's not enabled in my own account, for example - but is being rolled out gradually. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: YouTube, Video, Conferencing, Blackboard Inc., Audio Chat and Conferencing, Google]
June 5, 2012
Brand new website dedicated to MOOCs. Sponsored by Blackboard. " lists your already-created MOOC, or help you create and then list one if you need help. This is a service of Classroom 2.0 and Web 2.0 Labs." In other words it duplicates exactly the function of (which, I confess, I have been lacking in managing). [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Web 2.0, Blackboard Inc.]
Using Blackboard Collaborate 11 to deliver a global online conference
June 12, 2012
I took part in this conference as a commentator and found it to be well-organized. This post outlines the use of Blackboard's Collaborate synchronous conferencing environment to host the event. There's some good behind-the-scenes discussion about collecting registration forms in Google Spreadhseet and uploading into Collaborate's Session Administration System (SAS). [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Conferencing, Blackboard Inc., Google]
Social Learning Glue
June 14, 2012
This is still way too diffocult. Facebook is still a data sink, and Blackboard is a black box. But this slide show gets at some of the mechanics of creating a real course web (and for those of you who love definitions and laws, here's Downes's law of MOOCS: if it isn't a course web, it isn't a MOOC). RSS is of course central, and this presentation uses the way I use IFTTT. Matthew Leingang's presentation is on a post from Graham Attwell. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Blackboard Inc., RSS]
Jarl Jonas Director of CourseSites by Blackboard reflects on first MOOC
June 18, 2012
Interview of Jarl Jonas from Blackboard.  Best quote: "We didn’t aim to mimic the MOOCs provided to date, but wanted to create an open opportunity for individuals to learn how they want (i.e., readings vs. live class), interact with whom they want, and choose the tools with which they were most comfortable (i.e., blogs/wikis/discussions.)" Aka: "We didn't aim to mimic the MOOCs provided to date, but to create something just like them." See also the Google+ discussion on the article. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs, Google]
Unabridged Interview on MOOC for Chronicle of Higher Education
June 19, 2012
I don't like Blackboard jumping all over the MOOC meme, but I like Curt Bonk, so it all evens out, I guess. Here is the full uncut interview he gave the Chronicle's Jeffrey R. Young (thinking back - did the Chronicle ever interview us during the five or six MOOCs we did before Curt's?) with candid thoughts about “my typical MOOC day” and other Bonkian insights. Bonk's experience - and his MOOC has endured its share of criticisms - shows just how hard it is to run a good MOOC. It's one thing to run a bunch of videos for an intro course, and quite another to offer what is more like "a summer workshop experience for college instructors." See also his 20 thoughts on types, targets and intents of MOOCs. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Video, Blackboard Inc., Experience]
Welcome to The New Udemy!
June 29, 2012
Udemy has released an upgrade, it's first major release since launching. It has many more courses - it says its library is going by 100 courses a month - and so is also offering "personalized course discovery". It also has progress tracking and "full screen UI...easy transitions between lectures, a powerful Quora style question & answer feature, an extras section with additional lecture materials, time tagged note taking, and a course dashboard with all details to capture your experience." I see Udemy as discoverying what a lot of the early LMSs discovered, and as time goes by it looks more and more like (say) the original hosted version of Blackboard. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Personalization, Blackboard Inc., Experience]
Teach the world online at Learn It Live
June 30, 2012
I received an email today encouraging me to become an instructor at LearnItLive. "Learn It Live provides the platform, tools, and support that make online learning as flexible and impactful as in-person learning." Specifically, it provides some marketing and enrollment management and an interface to a Blackboard Collaborate environment. It's well done, most of the courses are free, and there's a revenue-sharing plan should you decide to charge for access to your courses. There are also tools, which I haven't examined, to track learner engagement and to manage certification. For my money, free access to a relaible Collaborate site is itself worth the time to look into this some more. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Blackboard Inc., Marketing, Online Learning]
Blackboard and Pearson Launch Integration for MyLab / Mastering and Blackboard Learn
July 3, 2012
Blackboard is creating a clased marketplace for learning materials. "Blackboard Inc. and Pearson today announced a new integration for using Pearson's leading learning solution - MyLab / Mastering...  Web services that enable instructors to find and access MyLab / Mastering - including personalized study paths, customizable content, responsive learning tools and real-time evaluation and diagnostics - directly in Blackboard Learn." There has been a lot of activity of this type in the marketplace. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Personalization, Blackboard Inc., Customization, Online Learning]
Reforming Ed Reform Panel with Downes, Gardner, Kohn, and Stager
August 8, 2012
Here's the stuff on the education frteform panel I was on today with Howard Gardner, Alfie Kohn and Gary Stager, hosted by Steve Hargadon:The full Blackboard Collaborate recording is as and a portable .mp3 audio recording is at the Mightybell Discussion and Resource Space. I think that the difference between me an some others on the ed reform panel is that they still view ed reform as a political issue. I think the way to achieve education reform is to go beyond politics & focus on empowering and provision rather than policy and prescription. I wish, though, I had explained that better. Politics is the art of persuading everyone else to think like you. But education ought to be about thinking for yourself. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Podcasting, Online Learning, Audio]
Blackboard Inc.: The Rise of the New “Online Learning” and the Race for Profits
August 20, 2012
Good analysis of the new Blackboard from Jim Farmer, wrapped around the changes to online learning brought about by companies like Coursera. "Adapting current systems to meet the extensive requirements for courses planned for Coursera, Udacity and edX may be feasible [but] A new system may be preferred... Blackboard reduced its software development expenses electing not to integrate their three current learning-management systems into a single system. Speculation suggests alternatively a strategy based on the platforms of Ascend Learning and its acquisitions."

Michael Feldstein explands on the platform strategy. On the surface, he says, it looks like yet another learning object repository. But "something has changed... One clear driving factor is the shift of educational publishers to digital." There has been, he notes, a lot of talk about integrating with publisher offerings. "Of course, the publishers are very aware of the iTunes model as well and may be leery of letting an LMS vendor control their sales channel." Blackboard is also banking on improvements in tagging and metadata, as well as the "amturity" on IMS learning object standards. And finally, "they’re taking advantage of the cloud to build something that encourages cross-institutional sharing... to peel off pieces of what have traditionally been considered core LMS functions and offer them as separate SaaS offerings." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Blackboard Inc., IMS Project, Learning Objects, Learning Object Repositories, Metadata, Online Learning]

Aggregation Without Attribution
September 6, 2012
"Huzzah!" wrote Brian Lamb, "My anti-corporate ravings re-published without attribution by the 'founder of Blackboard'" - the 'founder' in question is Stephen Gilfus, who has launched Gilfus Education group, "the world's leading independent strategy, research, and advisory firm for education and training organizations (Higher Ed, K12, Corporate), education and training businesses, and industry investors). What happened was the site set up an aggregator that harvested RSS feeds, including mine, retrieved the articles, and posted them without attribution on the site. Audrey Watters has a nice use of Storify on her site documenting the outrage that followed. The Gilfus service has since been shut down. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Blackboard Inc., Research, RSS]
Designing an Exemplary Online Course: Blackboard Announces Open Online Course to be Offered
September 14, 2012
As reported by Jason Rhode, "Blackboard has announced a new open online course “Designing an Exemplary Course,” as part of the CourseSites Open Course Series. The course will run from September 26th – October 17th, 2012. Registration is free and opens Wednesday, September 19th." This is Blackboard's latest effort to host a MOOC. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Blackboard Inc., RSS]
Library 2.012 Starts Tomorrow
October 2, 2012
I haven't a hope of being able to cover this event, but if you're interested in libraries and the future, your time is now: "Library 2.012, the "Future of Libraries" conference, starts tomorrow, Wednesday, October 3rd, at 6:30 am US-Pacific Daylight Time and continues for 40 straight hours. The conference is free to attend, and is held virtually in Blackboard Collaborate. We have 150 presentation sessions and 11 keynote addresses from all over the world this year." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Ontologies]
Left Shocked, Amazed, Wondering, & Hopeful By Blackboard, Inc.
October 15, 2012
Michael Chasen is stepping down as CEO of Blackboard and will be replaced by Jay Bhatt, president and chief executive officer of Progress Software who has a background as a former Chief Financial Officer and M&A specialist. This post has good coverage and links to a number of additional resources, including commentary by Henderson, Chasen, and others. Also, from Gilfus: "With turmoil at Sakai,  continued scaling concerns with Moodle, and challenges with Instructure’s Canvas data security and FERPA compliancy, whats next for academic software systems??? Can new open source plays like Adrenna leveraging drupal play a role in the next steps for the industry?" [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Online Learning]
Free Cloud LMS: Opportunity, Threat or Irrelevance?
November 1, 2012
Goof ov erview of two cloud-based LMSs, Coursekit (recently renamed ‘Lore’) and Instructure Canvas, launched in 2011. "According to at least one blog article written at the time both were in some way created as a reaction to a distinct student dislike of using Blackboard. You only need to check the comments on these articles for confirmation that this dislike is still fairly commonplace." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc.]
Learning Management Systems and MOOCs
November 1, 2012
George Siemens points to a couple of developments underlining the provision of MOOCs in the cloud. 1. Instructure launches Canvas Network (see also) (and also) (and also). And 2. Blackboard is having early success in getting universities to adopt its CourseSites service. Desire2Learn, meanwhile, launched a new version today "with rich media content creation, personalized learning and advanced assessment." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Connectivism, Personalization, Blackboard Inc., Networks, Assessment]
Drupal LMS to replace Moodle – Sakai – Instructure – Blackboard
November 8, 2012
According to Gilfus, "A Georgia-based company today announced at Educause 2012 the availability of an enterprise extensible LMS built fully on Drupal technology. The company expects to take Moodle, Instructure and Blackboard head on by leveraging one of the world’s largest open source communities to deploy an enterprise open source learning management system... This new Drupal learning management system for education (K12 and Higher Ed) is called Adrenna Academic." Could Drupal serve as an LMS? Well, sure. But I've used Drupal a lot over the years and I always come away frustrated and disappointed. I think you'd be better off with a purpose-build LMS than one built as layers on top of Drupal (which is itself layers on layers), both for reasons of speed (unless you really know how to optimize Drupal) and reasons of simplicity. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Drupal, EDUCAUSE, Content Management Systems, Open Source, Online Learning, Academia]
Is the LMS Market Going To Slow Down Anytime Soon?
November 29, 2012
Brief overview, with some links, about where the LMS market is headed. "here are still many players that are just getting started (like Google). There are others (like Pearson) that have been around a bit but are really still just getting warmed up. Even Blackboard has pulled out some big surprises recently that makes people second guess where they think they are going." This accords with my own observations. See also: Phil Hill, Project Blue Sky: Big Boost to OER From . . . Pearson? In a nutshell, Pearson is creating a marketplace that offers both free and commercial resources in the same space. Read more. (Image: Pearson) [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Push versus Pull, Google]
Blackboard Users Conference #durbbu: The Learning Ecology
January 9, 2013
Notes from the UK Blackboard Users Conference. The first post outlines the 'Make Do or Spend' theme looking at how colleges and universities are responding to funding pressures, and in particular, an overview of Alison Littlejohn's talk 'The learning ecology: why the promise of an economy of scale has not been achieved.' Notes Littlejohn, "To move forward we need to do some 'unlearning'." The second post outlines Director of Product Management with Blackboard LearnGreg Ritter's perspective, and in particular, "Blackboard Analytics [which] extract student data, from both Blackboard and Institution student-records systems, for use in reporting to different stakeholders." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Great Britain, Blackboard Inc., Online Learning, Student Record Systems]
Reading McLuhan’s Understanding Media: Join Me! (#umrg)
By Hans de Zwart, Technology, , , Innovation, Education, March 4, 2013
I like this kind of project. I don't know if I can participate (and if it doesn't come in the form of email reminders I most likely won't) but it's definitely worth sharing. "We will read Understanding Media in 10 weeks (from March 18th till May 27th, less than 50 pages a week). Every week will have the same rhythm:

  • We read a specific part of the book for that week
  • Two people will write a summary for that part and will ask a set of questions about the text (every Friday)
  • We have a virtual event (using Blackboard Collaborate) to discuss the questions (every Monday)"
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Project Based Learning, Blackboard Inc.]
Blackboard’s New Early Warning Analytics Product
By Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, March 20, 2013
Michael Feldstein summarizes Blackboard's new "early warning system." As Blackboard CEO Ray Henderson writes, the system "gives critical insight on learning and activity gaps to instructors, within the LMS, that helps them quickly diagnose students that are falling behind. Pre-configured and automatic so they don’t have to hunt for it. No set-up: it automatically calls out students that are at risk while instructors still have time and space to do something about it." Basically the system measures logins, course activity, grades and missed deadlines. No doubt this information is useful, but that seems to be a pretty low bar to be called 'analytics'. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Assessment]