The Blackboard Patent
Complete coverage of the Blackboard patent grant and lawsuit, from the pages of OLDaily.
July 28, 2006
August 1, 2006
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Learning Administration, Volume 2, Number 2, Summer, 1999, I published this paper based on a presentation I had originally made in 1997.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]
August 1, 2006
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]
August 1, 2006
August 1, 2006
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]
August 2, 2006
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]
August 3, 2006
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]
August 4, 2006
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]
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]
August 7, 2006
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]
August 8, 2006
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 theyÃ¢xTMre 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 BCÃffffÃff,Ãf,Ã,Â¢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]
August 9, 2006
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]
August 10, 2006
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]
August 11, 2006
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]
August 15, 2006
August 17, 2006
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 EUÃfÂ¢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.... IÃfÂ¢xTMm not confident either way whether what weÃfÂ¢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]
August 18, 2006
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]
August 21, 2006
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]
August 22, 2006
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]
August 22, 2006
August 23, 2006
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]
August 25, 2006
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]
August 28, 2006
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]
August 29, 2006
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]
August 30, 2006
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]
August 31, 2006
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 News.com, 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]
September 1, 2006
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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]
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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]
November 27, 2006
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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]
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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).
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]
February 25, 2008
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
September 10, 2008
October 3, 2008
- 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.
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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]
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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]
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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.]
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- "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]
March 20, 2011
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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]
May 20, 2011
- "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]
June 8, 2011
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Other posts by Ian Quillen at Education Week, ... (more to come, no doubt) [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Blackboard Inc., Web Logs]
- 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]
July 12, 2011
- 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]
August 9, 2011
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]
August 9, 2011
"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]
August 9, 2011
"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]
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October 25, 2011
December 30, 2011
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,
- 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]
February 14, 2012
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]
March 27, 2012
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]
March 30, 2012
March 30, 2012
April 23, 2012
- 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]
April 26, 2012
- 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.]
May 2, 2012
June 5, 2012
June 14, 2012
June 29, 2012
June 30, 2012
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]
September 6, 2012
September 14, 2012
October 2, 2012
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November 1, 2012
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November 29, 2012
January 9, 2013
By Hans de Zwart, Technology, , , Innovation, Education, March 4, 2013
- 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)"