Blackboard Inc.: The Rise of the New “Online Learning” and the Race for Profits

Jim Farmer, Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, Aug 20, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Good analysis of the new Blackboard from Jim Farmer, wrapped around the changes to online learning brought about by companies like Coursera. "Adapting current systems to meet the extensive requirements for courses planned for Coursera, Udacity and edX may be feasible [but] A new system may be preferred... Blackboard reduced its software development expenses electing not to integrate their three current learning-management systems into a single system. Speculation suggests alternatively a strategy based on the platforms of Ascend Learning and its acquisitions."

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

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