Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikelesombre/
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last week on Blackboard’s acquisition of Angel. The article’s title: Blackboard Buys Another Rival, to Customers’ Dismay, says it all really. We’re not to worry, however, because Blackboard’s president and chief executive, Michael L. Chasen, said the company had learned from the WebCT acquisition and promised that this time it will be different. Unfortunately, Mr Chasen just doesn’t get it. He and his company continue to misread the zeitgeist, and if ever a business deserves to fall victim to disruptive innovation, it is this one.
Blackboard is widely regarded as the Leviathan of the learning management system (LMS) world, and it is a platform that has come to dominate online delivery of education, particularly in the higher education sphere. Aside from its poor reputation for customer service, this cumbersome monolith does not have the capacity to keep up with the pace of change. The science of online learning continues to evolve at a rapid pace, and as a proprietary, high-cost, and relatively inflexible system, Blackboard can only innovate at the speed of its next service pack. Meanwhile, the open source movement incorporates pedagogical innovation on the run. The end result is that Blackboard is simply ‘uncool’, and it will remain so, long as it continues to tell educators and learners what they can have, rather than give them what they want.
All this will be welcome news for the likes of Moodle, Sakai and Ning, and the smaller proprietary systems that are nimble and versatile enough to ride the social networking wave, and provide the kind of learning environment for students and faculty where they feel they have creative licence and a sense of ownership.