Going, Going, Gone Private
Ray HendersonRay Henderson, BlackboardBlackboard, 2011/10/19

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. Today: Total:119 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard + Quality Matters Furthering Excellence in Faculty Development and Course Design
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard, 2011/08/10

"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." Today: Total:153 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard to be Acquired by Providence Equity Partners for $45.00 in Cash or $164 Billion
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard, 2011/07/01

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) Today: Total:138 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard's Open Standards Commitments: Progress Made
Ray HendersonRay Henderson, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:153 [Comment] [Direct Link]

More shoulder to the wheel
Ray HendersonRay Henderson, BlackboardBlackboard,

Blackboard's Ray Henderson commits to standards, especially common cartridge. Rob Abel and Chuck Severence write comments saying how happy they are. Today: Total:145 [Comment] [Direct Link]

On Beginning
Ray HendersonRay Henderson, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:146 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard to Acquire ANGEL Learning, Inc.
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:190 [Comment] [Direct Link]

New Web Site, Evolving Us
Michael ChasenMichael Chasen, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:153 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Watch Videos of the BbWorld Commerce '08 Keynote Addresses
Various AuthorsVarious authors, BlackboardBlackboard,

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...). Today: Total:178 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Community Update On Patent Activity
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:170 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Spring Flings and Facebook Fun
Kerry JoKerry Jo, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:153 [Comment] [Direct Link]

8th Annual Blackboard Durham Users Conference
Jan DayJan Day, BlackboardBlackboard,

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." Today: Total:158 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The New Education Agenda
Gordon FreedmanGordon Freedman, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:151 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Introducing EduGarage!
AnnouncementAnnouncement, BlackboardBlackboard,

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." Today: Total:176 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Putting More Social Into Our Social Software
Greg RitterGreg Ritter, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:180 [Comment] [Direct Link]

BbWorld '07 Presentations Available
UnattributedUnattributed, BlackboardBlackboard,

Presentations delibered at the recent BbWorld conference in Boston are now available online (note: as of this writing the site is throwing a Java error, which I assume will be corrected shortly). Update, the following day: the Java error has been fixed, but the site is now blocking access with an 'Invalid Portfolio share' error. Today: Total:58 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Greenhouse Grant for Virtual Worlds
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:179 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard Unveils Plagiarism Prevention Service
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:208 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard Announces Patent Pledge in Support of Open Source Software
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:201 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard and SAP Announce Global Agreement
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:168 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard Launches New Client Support Site
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard,

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. Today: Total:183 [Comment] [Direct Link]

FAQ on Understanding the Blackboard Patent

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." Today: Total:151 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard Awarded Patent on e-Learning Technology
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard,

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)."

Today: Total:265 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard Unveils Blackboard Beyond Initiative
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard,

Well I guess it's official now - Blackboard has embraced e-learning 2.0. Proposals include "personalizing the e-Learning environment," facilitation of social networking, "Network Learning Environments," and workplace learning. It's pretty clear that I think they are moving in the right direction with this. But it would have been nice to see the support available (for we certainly have the knowledge) to develop this in Canada. Today: Total:125 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard and Microsoft Cooperate to Integrate Administrative and Academic Collaboration Products
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard,

This should be no surprise to Blackboard watchers, but the company's latest announcement of closer integration with Microsoft learning is only the latest snuggle between the two companies. Today: Total:76 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard and WebCT Announce Plans to merge
Press ReleasePress Release, BlackboardBlackboard,

This is obviously huge news. I'll have more coverage and reax tomorrow.

Here is the direct link:
(My site was hit with a DOS last night and again tonight, so there may be a server outage)

Announced at 4pm eastern to (both and are pointing to the same link):

Blackboard and WebCT, leading providers of enterprise software and services to the education industry have announced plans to merge. The announcement was made at October 12th at 4 pm EST in a news release posted on PR News wire.

"I have had experience with both companies and view this merger as combining excellence with excellence to advance the e-Learning industry, I also see this combination as a way to break down barriers across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and to open the door to new opportunities for collaboration among institutions using different e-learning platforms." - Jack Wilson, President of The University of Massachusetts and current WebCT Vista client.

“This merger makes tremendous sense for our clients, shareholders, and employees.” said Michael Chasen, Blackboard President and Chief Executive Officer. “It represents an unparalleled opportunity for two successful, mission-driven organizations to unify in a combined platform singularly focused on being the premier partner for educators on a global basis. Together with our clients, we have one of those rare and special opportunities to truly improve the access, quality and efficiency of education on a global scale.”

“Today is a great day for WebCT’s and Blackboard’s clients, partners, investors and employees,” said Carol Vallone, WebCT President and Chief Executive Officer. “Both companies feel passionately about academic pursuits, institutions of learning and, most importantly, their various constituents, and have shared credit in jointly pioneering the integration of technology and education. We’ve thought a lot about the alignment of cultures, technologies and overall strategies of the companies and these businesses belong together.”

Just the Facts:

Plans for the merger:

» Closing expected in late 2005 or early 2006.

» Company will remain under the Blackboard brand.

» Both Blackboard and WebCT product lines will remain intact and supported.

» Over time, Blackboard will incorporate the best features and usability characteristics from the two product lines into a new standards-based product set.

» Combined company will have more than 3,700 clients.

» Approximately 800 employees.

» 7 offices around the US and abroad.

Today: Total:90 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Various AuthorsVarious authors, BlackboardBlackboard,

Blackboard doesn't have a blog or an RSS feed or any of that other newfangled technology, at least, not that I know of, so I missed this announcement when it came out last week. Eventually it did circulate through University Business, and so, I pass to you the information that Blackboard has a new website. That said, there's a lot there, especially in the community and building blocks sites (though a good amount of it is behind a registration wall - and the 'News and Newsletters' link generates a 'file not found' error). The dynamics on the home page are interesting - academic suite on the left, commerce suite on the right. The future of learning, Blackboard style. Today: Total:74 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard Communities of Practice Forum Live Online

From the press release: "Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB - News) today announces the launch of its new Communities of Practice Initiative(SM) to encourage increased interaction among the ever-growing community of Blackboard users. The initiative centers around a new online forum. Members of the Blackboard community can access this central meeting ground anytime and from any location in order to share e-learning strategies and practices." I think I was the first one in the place - it had that empty-shell kind of feeling. It may develop into something, though. Today: Total:42 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard Inc., Partners with Leading Academic Publishers

Blackboard continues to make news as it announces a deal to integrate various learning applications into the LMS. According to the press release, "The development project, titled 'ChalkBox,' will go beyond simple importation of textbook-related electronic content to accommodate more sophisticated integration between the publishers' hosted instructional applications and Blackboard-powered course web sites at client institutions." Partners in the project include Houghton Mifflin, Pearson Education and Thomson Higher Education. Now I have called on Blackboard to import open educational content but the company's affiliation with commercial publishers seems to close the door on that possibility. While this deal will no doubt improve Blackboard's prospects in its recently announced IPO, one wonders whether signing up for Blackboard also commits one to using nothing but commercial content. Today: Total:47 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard to Launch Learning Content Management and e-Portfolio System for Academic Market

Blackboard will be launching a set of content management applications later this fall, according to a press release. You have to read several paragraphs of absolute fluff (are people paid to write these press releases?) to get to it, but the core of the announcement is this: "four key areas: Learning Content Management – share and reuse individual content assets across courses, organizations and institutions... e-Portfolio Management – assemble, present and share information within online portfolios for student and/or faculty to use... Virtual Hard Drive Management – virtual storage needs... Library Digital Asset Management – create an interactive environment for faculty to search, access and incorporate digital library resources." Of course the cynics out there (including me) will say that this amounts to no more than giving Blackboard LCMS functionality. Where is the network capability? Where is the RSS. Ah, yes... different business model (that would be the one with low const content and simple management). Today: Total:50 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard Building Blocks Developers Workshop
Various AuthorsVarious authors, BlackboardBlackboard,

Via SiT, this page lists presentations from last week's conference. Today: Total:85 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard Announces the Availability of the EasySwitch Conversion Program

This is pretty funny (well, perhaps less so if you work for WebCT): Blackboard has created a proprietary conversion kit and is directing its advertising at WebCT customers (currently themselves reeling from recent price increases). Why is this really funny? Well, of course both Blackboard and WebCT trumpet the fact that they are standards compliant. So why is a conversion kit necessary? And also: jumping from WebCT to Blackboard strikes me as being like jumping from the frying pan to the fire - the very same problems facing WebCT users (locked in proprietary format and price hikes) also face Blackboard users. Oh, the tangled web we weave... Today: Total:50 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Academic Resource Center

Provided by BlackBoard. Searchable directory of academic resources available for use in online courses. I didn't see any commercial products per se as I browsed about, but their affiliation with XanEdu suggests that full commercial learning object support is well on its way for BlackBoard users. Today: Total:42 [Comment] [Direct Link]

White Paper on Building Blocks Initiative

White paper release by Blackboard in December, 2000, describing its proposed Building Blocks system for integrating learning objects into Blackboard courses. By Matthew Pittinsky and Stephen Gilfus. A bit long on rhetoric and short on details, this PDF document at least indicates that Blackboard is going through the right sort of thinking. Today: Total:43 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard CourseInfo

Blackboard CourseInfo in an Instructional Management System (IMS) which provides a tool suite for instructors to build and manage virtual classrooms without programming HTML. Blackboard CourseInfo can be installed at your institution or hosted on Blackboard servers to provide a common platform for supporting Web-based CourseSites across campus. Today: Total:34 [Comment] [Direct Link]


(Still working on this)