Blackboard buys Moodlerooms

On 3/26/2012 Blackboard announced that it was acquiring Moodlerooms and NetSpot, both of whom are Moodle hosting partners that provide learning management services (LMS) through the venerable open source software initiative known as Moodle.  Oklahoma Baptist University has partnered with Moodlerooms as our LMS service provider since 2007.  Nevertheless, the majority of OBU faculty (52%) have never used Moodlerooms according to a recent survey.

Blackboard has had an open source initiative for a few years now and has wanted to be more involved in the development of community-sourced software projects, but it remains to be seen how this merger would benefit existing Moodlerooms customers.  Why invest in a service that competes with your own and has a much lower profit margin?  Also a concern for Moodlerooms users is Blackboard’s track record of acquiring competing companies and either assimilating the product into their own (Wimba) or discontinuing it altogether (WebCT).

Brad Wheeler CIO of Indiana University, Bloomington, and one of the forefathers of the open source LMS movement, summarized the concerns in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education.  When asked about the effects of this merger on the open source movement on university campuses he asked; “Does it cause software to mature faster because of Blackboard’s deep pockets,…or at some point and time does a value conflict arise?” Of course Blackboard says that they are dedicated to the support and development of open source software, but the standard disclaimer at the bottom of all of their press releases leaves plenty of wiggle room:

Any statements in this press release about future expectations, plans and prospects for Blackboard represent the Company’s views as of the date of this press release. Actual results may differ materially as a result of various important factors. The Company anticipates that subsequent events and developments will cause the Company’s views to change. However, while the Company may elect to update these statements at some point in the future, the Company specifically disclaims any obligation to do so.

Please comment below if you have an opinion you would like to share about the Moodlerooms/Blackboard partnership, especially if you have used both products either as a student or a teacher.

The etextbook landscape

When Gutenberg’s movable type setting device first started cranking out pages in the 15th century, there was only one book available; the Bible. Nevertheless, many more people could access information that only a privileged few had access to formerly. Ereaders are creating a new and similar kind of knowledge-access revolution. Ebooks are already out of the early-adopter phase: digital book sales surpass print book sales in January, 2011. However, etextbook offerings for higher education are still limited; limited by number of titles and by features. The link below is a table of current etext publishers, their number of titles, and a comparison of features. As you can imagine, these data points are changing constantly…but normally for the better.  That is, as time passes, these publishers add more etext titles and better etext features.