Blackboard Buys MoodleRooms & Embraces Open

Blackboard announced today that it bough Moodlerooms and its international counterpart NetSpot, hosting solutions for open learning management system Moodle.  It’s an important commitment to open education resources.   Ray Henderson’s announcement blog said “we believe the most important new dimension shaping the LMS market today is the growing acceptance of open source software.”

I found this announcement interesting because just this afternoon I had commented that Blackboard after the acquisition, Edline had become the headline in K-12 marketing with it’s non-threatening communication package.  This announcement suggests that Blackboard is committed to a a full complement of “solutions across the student lifecycle”
A year ago I thought there would soon be three or four dominant learning platforms (e.g, SLI, Pearson, Blackboard) but it now appears that there will be a broader distribution while adaptive engines and the shift to digital content matures.
In addition to Moodlerooms talent, Blackboard picked up Chuck Severance, one of the Sakai founders “to lead our effort to develop a supportive relationship with the Sakai community, define how we can contribute to its future platform development, and assist us in building a services practice that’s well suited to the unique needs of this emerging community.” Dr. Chuck is an interop bad ass.
Ray also added that “we will also deliver ANGEL-inspired features on the Moodle platform as a part of our new product laddering. We’re determined to make sure that our product ladder offers the best range of choice to our ANGEL clients for their future needs.”
To some extent, this is consolidating several lagging products rather than blazing a path in the post-LMS world (as Edmodo’s shift from network to platform and Mike Shumake’s Google doc post described this week).
This announcement will make my OER friends nervous, but I think it has the potential to bring new investment and energy to open platforms.  Ray adds that “The extension of our LMS product ladder allows a larger number of institutions to consider Blackboard as a key partner in reaching their strategic technology vision, whether for traditional learning, hybrid or pure online programs.”
Also see the MarketWatch release.  TechCrunch notes that last year, Blackboard was acquired by Providence Equity Partners for $1.6 billion.  Audrey Watters really hates this deal, calls it ‘open washing’.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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